How Brands Can Use Apple Business Connect to Reach Local Customers
Apple recently announced the launch of Apple Business Connect, a revised and updated platform for the management of business listings on Apple Maps. The new release represents a significant milestone in the ground-up rebuild of Apple Maps that began in 2018. Since that time, Apple has deployed a fleet of camera-equipped vehicles to capture a detailed photographic record of towns and cities across the globe, in an effort to establish a base data layer similar to Google’s Street View. The Apple Maps team has worked to advance the app’s navigation feature set with a focus on usability and advanced features such as Live View. Arguably, Apple now offers a user experience for mobile navigation that can compete successfully with any alternative on the market.
Having improved the accuracy of the map and navigation layers of the app, Apple is now deploying Apple Business Connect to address the point of interest (POI) layer by providing a more direct and timely process for businesses to claim and update their profiles, which Apple calls place cards. Select partners — such as my company, SOCi — have been granted access to a new Business Connect API that makes submission of data to Apple scalable and efficient. Businesses can update their contact information, hours of operation, and other profile details as well as some special features I’ll discuss below.
The Business Connect API is designed for the use of brands with multiple locations and negates the need for such businesses to work manually to make bulk or individual updates. Instead, multi-location brands supply updates to Apple partners who have integrated the Business Connect API, and thereby synchronize up-to-date data with Apple automatically. Such listing management platforms typically offer tools that make it possible for multi-location brands to efficiently manage hundreds or thousands of store or office locations on Apple and other important local search publishers.
Apple has, unsurprisingly, put its own spin on the feature set available to help businesses engage with consumers on Apple Maps. In order to connect its UX with the broader iOS ecosystem, Apple Maps offers deep linking with complementary apps such as Apple Pay, Instacart, Booking.com, and OpenTable. Businesses can leverage these integrations so that customers who find them on Apple Maps can quickly access the relevant app to place an order, book a room, reserve a table, buy tickets, or pay for products and services.
In addition, Apple has launched a feature called Showcases that lets businesses highlight events, offers, and promotions, or call attention to a particular product or service offering. Similar to Google Posts, Showcases can include a title, description, photo, and call to action (Apple calls them Actions) such as Add to Favorites, Call Now, Get Directions, or More Info. If a brand has a mobile app, a link can also be configured that launches the app directly from Apple Maps, for instance to place an order.
The Business Connect API makes these features especially useful for multi-location brands, who can quickly publish app integrations and Showcases across multiple place cards. Brands can also elect to differentiate their offerings by region, and can update Showcases at any time. Apple currently allows one Showcase to be displayed at a time for each business location.
In another important development, Business Connect offers Apple Maps performance metrics to businesses for the first time. The feature set for the new Apple Maps Insights includes the following, with monthly and weekly breakdowns and some data going back as much as 13 months:
- Number of taps on your place card after searching
- Breakdown of searches by category, business or brand name, or other
- “Spatial insights” in both heat map and list form, showing where users were located when they searched for your business or requested directions
- Total views of your place card
- Total actions taken by users including:
- Directions requests
- Website clicks
- Phone calls
- Taps on Action buttons (reserve, order, view menu, etc.)
- Taps on Showcase, if present
With access to Apple Maps Insights, multi-location brands should have a much better sense of which locations are performing well, which ones need attention, and how performance is trending over time. So too, for the first time businesses will be able to track traffic and conversion metrics for Apple in comparison to other platforms.
Small business owners can utilize the same updated feature set as multi-location brands by claiming and managing their place cards in the online Business Connect dashboard.
Apple Maps business data is accessible to users not only through the app itself but also via Siri, Wallet, and Messages. In response to voice queries, Siri can pull up Maps place cards and initiate actions such as placing a call to a business. Place cards can also be shared with other users via Messages. Apple claims in the post announcing Business Connect that more than one billion users access place information through this family of services.
Apple does not generally share usage stats for its apps, but maps analyst Justin O’Beirne recently estimated the global Apple Maps user base at 200 to 600 million users. “More than one billion” is a significantly greater number, suggesting that we may have undervalued the benefit of Apple Maps as a channel. Business Connect should be a boon to brand marketers who are looking to attract more customers to local stores.