Apple Maps today is gaining a new tool that will allow the decade-plus-old service to better compete with Google: it will now allow business owners to update and manage their own information on the platform, including key details like business hours and location, photos, logos, special offers and promotions, and more. To do so, the company is launching a new web portal called Apple Business Connect, which lets businesses manage their presence across Apple’s 1.5 billion devices from a single dashboard.
The service is a long time coming for Apple Maps. Although first launched in 2012, the mapping platform for years had relied on a simplified system, Apple Business Register, to update Maps listings with corrected information. And it leveraged third-party data from partners like Foursquare, Yelp, and Tripadvisor, to provide users with other business information, ratings, and reviews. For comparison, Google has allowed business owners to manage their listings since 2005 — though its product, now called Google Business Profiles, has gone through numerous name changes since then.
Apple says it won’t remove its integrations with Yelp as Apple Business Connect launches. Customers will see be able to see Yelp photos and reviews in the business place cards and will be able to choose Yelp as their provider for things like placing an order or viewing a restaurant’s menu, for example. However, the new system will allow business owners to now augment their listings with the important details they may lack, resulting in richer, more detailed, and more up-to-date listings.
After going through a verification process, business owners will be able to update their business place card with basic information like the business hours, phone numbers, address and more, including an “about” page, as well as with their business logo and photos. For the first time, they can also update the business’s category and even add subcategories to help Maps users find their business when searching. And they can customize the information that appears in the “Good to Know” section of their listing, which includes helpful info like whether a place is “good for kids,” has “free Wi-Fi,” offers “free delivery,” is “wheelchair accessible,” and the like.
If the location on the listing is wrong, the owner can move the pin on the map to a more precise location, as well.
In addition, some business listings on Apple Maps feature an “Action” button that allows a customer to take some sort of action, like booking a hotel room with Booking.com, ordering groceries with Instacart, or, as of recently, finding a parking spot with SpotHero. With Apple Business Connect, the business owner will now be able to add custom actions like these for themselves.
The listings can also for the first time be customized to display time-limited special offers and incentives, like food deals or tickets to a show. These updates, or “showcases,” can include some explanatory text, a photo, and even a custom action for the customers to take. They are free to use.
Apple will be working with partners, including Walmart, to enhance their business place cards in new ways, as well. For example, customers who visit the Walmart place card will be able to go to a “text to shop” feature by tapping on a “message us” button in the app. They’ll then be able to start typing in Messages for Business, the service that allows customers to connect with a business via iMessage.
After verification, business owners will also be able to designate other members of the team who are allowed to update their information and can configure their account to update multiple locations, if needed.
As owners use Apple Business Connect to make the updates, they’ll see a live preview on the screen so they know how their listing will look before it’s published.
While keeping the business information current is the primary reason to interact with the product, Business Connect will also offer insights that allow them to learn how their place card is performing over time. These can be viewed in an insight dashboard where they can learn how customers find their business and how they interact with the place card.
While many Apple device owners still prefer using Google Maps over Apple Maps for a number of reasons, Apple points out that the updated place cards won’t only live in the Maps app itself. These updates will flow across Apple’s ecosystem, to enhance business listings in other places like Siri Spotlight, Apple Wallet, Safari, and more.
While Apple says today it has no immediate plans to monetize this system to allow owners to elevate their listings in some way, like ads, the Business Connect platform seems to be setting the stage for some sort of future endeavor in that area. Apple in recent years has shown an increased interest in the digital advertising market and disrupting the Facebook-Google duopoly. Elsewhere on mobile, Apple’s privacy changes have helped to boost its own ads business, reports found. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Apple now considering an angle into the search ads market, too — particularly if it could leverage its iOS platform and various features, like Siri Spotlight, to help it along the way.
Apple Business Connect is launching to countries around the world as of Wednesday, initially in the following languages: English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.