Author(s): Peter Bryer
For anyone who enjoys a game of connect the dots, recent high- and low-profile signals from Apple form an interesting picture of the company's local strategy. Apple's location ambitions are expanding, and could begin to challenge Google, Nokia, Yelp and other local players.
CCS Insight has long believed that location-based services would become part of Apple's engagement strategy, and that the company would make the appropriate investments in mapping and proximity technologies. This week, Apple introduced Maps Connect, a self-help tool allowing local business to add and edit detailed company information to Apple Maps. Business owners log in using an Apple ID and can add their address, opening hours, phone numbers and links to social media and review sites. The data is apparently processed by human eyes to check for fraudulent entries, but should appear on Apple's maps within a week or so.
Apple will query store owners about potential installations of iBeacon, its indoor proximity system used to track customers' movements by following their iPhones using Bluetooth low energy. The beacons can be used to inform shoppers about nearby items and serve contextual ads that notify about store specials. Such local advertising behaviour tracking has enormous potential, and engaged iOS users are the initial audience for making this mainstream.
Maps Connect was introduced at the same time that Apple Pay went live. Apple's joining a number of other map providers in crowd-sourcing its data collection, but is doing so on several levels. It's working with local businesses to gather information on the where and the what, and could develop a fantastically comprehensive consumer behaviour database that rivals Amazon, Google and Facebook. Apple can use Apple Maps, iBeacon and Apple Pay to help shoppers search for and physically find shops, assist them in-store and help them to make purchases. Shopping could become an Apple-everywhere experience.
Apple still has a long way to go to catch Nokia and Google in digital map data — just this week Nokia announced that it has rolled out a version of Here Maps to a wide variety of Android devices. However, there's little doubt that Apple's very interested in geography. The company stumbled in maps, but has been working on quality assurance and data accuracy. A potential mapvertising business model could drive new profit for Apple. Everything points to Apple's interest in a local move.
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