Technology

With Business Connect, Apple escalates its competition with Google Maps

SMB-friendly —

Businesses can now customize the place cards seen in Maps and search results.


  • The Apple Business Connect web portal.


    Apple

  • Here are the slightly redesigned place cards.


    Apple

  • Businesses can update their “about” text for the first time.


    Apple

Today, Apple introduced a new feature called Business Connect that’s primarily aimed at brick-and-mortar businesses like restaurants or retail stores. With it, businesses can access and update their information in the cards that represent them in apps like Apple Maps.

They’ll do that through a new web portal at businessconnect.apple.com. After creating an Apple ID or logging in with an existing one, they can search through Apple’s database of locations and claim theirs or create a new one from scratch.

From there, they’ll update details like hours, address, search categories and subcategories, “about” text, and so on. They can even adjust the exact position of the pin on the map to reflect the location of their entrance.

Alongside that existing information, Business Connect offers a way to upload photos and set cover images and branding on location pages. Additionally, the specific available “Actions” on the card can be customized—for example, a grocery store can add an “Action” to order from the location on Instacart, or a venue can include an Action for reserving a parking spot on SpotHero.

Finally, a section of the card called “Showcases” can be a catchall for highlighted or featured actions or information, like time-limited specials or incentives, or special announcements.

In recent years, Apple has expanded the places where a card or information from it appear. In addition to Maps, the cards appear in Wallet, Messages, and in search results via Siri or Spotlight. The updates business owners make to their cards will propagate to all these places, not just Maps.

Apple’s focus continues to expand

Historically, Apple has pulled in some of this data from Yelp, and that partnership continues; Yelp data will still populate many cards, and Yelp user reviews and photos will continue to appear in them.

This move nonetheless puts Apple in direct competition with Yelp and Google, splitting small business owners’ and marketers’ time and energy. To incentivize businesses, Apple also offers an insights page with metrics like “tap on this location in search results” or access to specific search queries that led users to discover the business. Apple hopes businesses that sign up will be surprised by how many referrals they get from these sources and, thus, find updating and maintaining the cards worth their time.

For large businesses with many locations, Apple will introduce a Business Connect API—this API will also be available to listing agencies.

At least for now, Apple isn’t charging businesses to use any of these features, but they’re part of a larger shift in the company to focus more on data, search, and services in addition to product experiences. The initial benefit for Apple is likely improved quality and trust for Siri and Maps search results in one of the most common uses for both, as well as greater perceived utility for both relative to offerings from Google and others.

Listing image by Apple

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