Why 2016 Will Be a Big Year for iOS 9

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Several months have gone by since Apple unleashed iOS 9, but if you do a Google search for it, you’ll continue to find a steady stream of news about Apple’s software. The software permeates our everyday lives, existing on two out of every three iOS devices.

iOS 9 usage will only grow in 2016 as consumers and brands slowly discover that Apple has established a new standard for conducting “nearby” searches, thanks to an enhancement to the Apple Spotlight search functionality. Moreover, the surging popularity of Apple Maps — logging more than five billion requests each week — will fuel iOS 9 usage, as the mapping software is inextricably linked to iOS.

Apple also becomes a stronger alternative to Google Now for predictive search (although Google Now still holds an advantage in being able to provide a richer vein of predictive results based on an Android user’s search history). The strength of Apple’s brand and adoption of iOS 9 likely will pressure Google to up the game for Google Now with new features in areas such as voice search, for example, the ability to read your last five texts based on voice commands.

With Spotlight search becoming more ubiquitous, steps enterprises with multiple locations can take include:

  • Making sure they distribute accurate location data — especially latitude/longitude data — to Apple Maps in addition to Google Maps (something they should have doing already).

Here’s how search has changed for Apple users: In a post-iOS 9 world, a simple swipe of your iPhone’s home screen results in Spotlight proactively suggesting search results based on time and location. In other words, nearby results change depending on where and when you do your search throughout the day. Selecting one of these nearby categories deep-links to Apple Maps on iOS devices with nearby businesses in these categories.

The iOS 9 rollout comes at a time when mobile consumers are collapsing the sales funnel. Empowered with smartphones, consumers are moving faster from search to purchase. Nearly half of consumers trying to decide on a restaurant do their local search within an hour of actually going, according to Google. iOS 9 accelerates the search process and moves the consumer down the path to purchase in a few significant ways:

Proactive local search content. With iOS 9, a consumer finds suggestions for nearby content before conducting a search. When you open the Spotlight search menu, Apple reveals icons that represent nearby points of interest for popularly used search categories as “Breakfast,” “Coffee,” “Convenience,” and “Gas.” If you touch one of the icons, you are taken to the Apple Maps app, which reveals specific locations for each category.

For instance, as I leave the office for lunch, if I tap on the Nearby Lunch icon, my iPhone displays the closest relevant businesses in Apple Maps, seemingly prioritized by proximity. The results also use hours of operation to identify which is open for business. Tapping on these listings in the maps results tells me how long it will take to walk to the location, and tapping on the business name in the map brings me to a detailed location listing with contact information, website, directions prices, and reviews.

Results that change with your day. What makes iOS 9 especially significant and distinct from Google Now is the changing nature of your results based on time of day. The categories that Apple suggests to you will change like so:

  • Morning — Breakfast, Coffee, Convenience, Gas
  • Midday — Lunch, Coffee, Shopping, Gas
  • Evening — Dinner, Bars, Shopping, Gas
  • Late Night — Restaurants, Bars, Convenience, Nightlife

In other words, based on where you are and the time of day, Apple suggests completely different location-based content.

What Brands Need to Do

In an iOS 9 world, enterprises with multiple locations need to manage their location data to:

  • Be findable. Near me searches start with the Apple Maps database. If your business is not present in the Apple Maps database, or if your information is inaccurate, your brand might as well not exist. Providing accurate business location data to Apple Maps has never been more important as its popularity grows. And distributing precise proximity (latitude/longitude) data will greatly increase your likelihood to show up for these nearby searches in Apple Maps.
  • Support the next moment with location data. Your brand needs to go beyond being found. You need to encourage consumers to actually visit your brick-and-mortar location and become customers by making sure that Apple can find compelling content about your business (such as rich content and mobile wallet offers). Making sure your location data is shared consistently across the digital ecosystem will make it easier for Apple to find that content and surface it to users.

Enterprises, particularly those with multiple locations, now have more ways to ensure that they are findable in the moment. In addition to maximizing the value of Google Now, brands need to take advantage of iOS 9’s popularity by making sure Apple amplifies their location data accurately.

Gib OlanderGib Olander is vice president of product at Chicago-based SIM Partners.