May 23, 2017

How Location Marketing Supports the Red Wing Shoes Marketing Stack

By Jay Hawkinson

Location marketing works best when it’s part of a larger ecosystem to support a brand. That’s one lesson learned from Red Wing Shoes winning a Stackie award from Third Door Media, publisher of sites such as Marketing Land and Search Engine Land.

The Stackie Awards are given to companies that create the most effective visual depictions of their marketing technology stacks (or the technologies that companies use to support their marketing). Red Wing Shoes, a SIM Partners client, was one of six winners among the 57 entrants for the following depiction:

red wing marketing stack

The Red Wing martech stack shows how the footwear retailer harnesses and automates data to drive customer personalization through the right channel, with the right message, to the right person, at the right time. And the SIM Partners Velocity platform is an important part of that stack, as you can see in the Web/Content section of the graphic.

For the past few years, SIM Partners has been working with Red Wing Shoes to turn consumers’ “near me” searches into in-store purchases. Red Wing Shoes maximizes visibility for its hundreds of stores by relying on the SIM Partners Velocity to optimize content and data for its location pages. As we announced in 2016,

Velocity Location Data Management manages, distributes and monitors Red Wing’s store location data (including name, address, phone, store hours, and other key attributes) to ensure store locations are visible when and where consumers are looking for footwear or workwear. With Velocity Publishing, store locations are able to create contextually relevant content and experiences to convert searches into store customers. One-to-many publishing enables store managers to update their pages, including localized content on services provided and brands carried, while custom workflows and moderation ensures content and messaging stays on-brand.

Through our relationship, we help Red Wing make its brand more relevant and personal especially to mobile shoppers, who use their mobile devices to find the right location at the right time when shoppers need to replace their footwear. In turn, Red Wing Shoes relies on myriad technologies to manage the marketing automation, sales enablement, and analytics required to plan inventory, fulfill orders, and manage a host of other functions.

SIM Partners is proud to support Red Wing Shoes as the company builds a powerful brand based on data, insight, and great products. For more information about how your company can enhance their marketing stack with Velocity, contact us

May 22, 2017

Embrace Visual Storytelling Now 

By Adam Dorfman

Search Engine Land Recap

What’s your visual storytelling strategy? Do you have one? In my recently published Search Engine Land column, I discuss why businesses need to embrace visual storytelling more seriously to build their brands locally. Chances are that your customers communicate with you and each other using GIFs, emoji, video, and pictures. Granted, some customer segments are more visually oriented than others. But images have become as much as part of our common communication vocabulary as the written word. The question for businesses with brick-and-mortar locations is not whether they will employ visual storytelling tactics but how. My new column, “Why location marketers need to embrace whimsical, visual storytelling,” provides more insight into how businesses are successfully adding spark and excitement to their brands through visual storytelling. Check it out and contact us to talk more about how to attract and retain customers with location-based marketing.

May 18, 2017

Google Home Gets Proactive and Visual

By Adam Dorfman

Google Assistant

One of the more interesting developments coming out of Google I/O 2017 is the way Google is improving its Google Home voice-activated speaker, which is powered by Google Assistant.  Like every other player in the market for voice assistants, Google is chasing after Amazon, which dominates the market with Echo. Google’s strategy is to make Google Home as smarter and more versatile, especially with these features announced May 17:

  • Proactive Assistance: with Proactive Assistance, Google Home updates you without your prompting. Here’s how it works: let’s say you have an appointment to get a car stereo installed at your local Best Buy, or you have tickets to see Father John Misty at the Chicago Theater. Google Home can alert you with reminders that your appointment or concert are coming up soon. Because Google Home is a smart device, it can also tell you about traffic conditions or changes in the weather that might affect the timing of your trip to Best Buy or the Chicago Theater.
  • Visual Responses: through Visual Responses, Google Home allows you to integrate visual content along with voice. So perhaps you might want Google Home to display the route you’re going to take to Best Buy or the set list from Father John Misty’s most recent concert before you leave home or while you’re on the go. Visual Responses allows Google Home to perform those tasks by displaying the content on your phone or TV. The idea behind Visual Responses is to give you an alternative to managing information that is either too complicated for voice or is just better expressed visually.

Google is enhancing Google Home and Google Assistant in many other ways, as reported on Google’s blog. Essentially Google wants to broaden its reach across the omnichannel discovery ecosystem by building off its legacy understanding of search to create more ambient discovery experiences. Whether Google (or other tech giants like Apple) can catch up to Amazon remains to be seen, but the voice assistant arms race will make omnichannel discovery more useful to both consumers and businesses.

Businesses can thrive in this increasingly omnichannel world in a number of ways. As I have written in Search Engine Land, smart brands like Domino’s Pizza have been responding by making themselves more visible and useful regardless of what device or method that people use to find what they need.  You can order a Domino’s pizza with voice commands, tweets, and a number of other ways.

Businesses also have an opportunity to get out in front of proactive discovery by figuring out how to be part of the conversation occurring on devices such as Google Home. Conceivably Best Buy could provide updates to its customers in the example I cited and provide other useful information, such as the availability of products in the store tailored to your purchase history.

As I wrote in Search Engine Land, “The next frontier of omnichannel discovery for businesses will involve using advanced analytics and consumer measurement tools to anticipate consumer discovery and either positioning themselves with the right solution before a search begins or pre-empting the search completely.”

The major data publishers such as Google are pushing us into a more proactive, multichannel experience. It’s up to you to keep up. If you would like to learn more, please contact us.

May 17, 2017

Instagram Bets on Location, its “Hidden Gem”

By Adam Dorfman

Chicago Instagram 2017-05-16

The war between Instagram and Snapchat is intensifying around location.

Josh Constine of TechCrunch has reported that Instagram is testing a feature known as Location Stories, which collects and shares public Instagram Stories content from Instagram’s 700 million users. As Constine writes, “Users can then visit that business, landmark or place’s Instagram page and watch a slideshow Story of posts from there shared by strangers they don’t follow.”

The testing of Location Stories builds upon features that Snapchat had introduced. For instance, in December, Instagram launched stickers that emulate Snapchat geofilters by making it possible for users to spice up their Instagram posts with content such as emoji and location names. Those stickers are crucial: Instagram is using the stickers as tags to create Location Stories. In doing so, Instagram has one-upped Snapchat. As Constine reports,

The closest thing Snapchat has is the new Stories Search feature it’s testing. But it relies on metadata, machine vision object recognition and the free-form text people add to Snaps to surface content. Instagram’s standardized location database that powers location stickers will make it easier to both add to a unified Location Story and watch them, too.

At the 2017 TechCrunch Disrupt NY event, Instagram’s head of product talked about Instagram’s heightened interest in location-based content. He described location pages as a “hidden gem” of Instagram. He said, “I think that over time, as people are tagging their Stories proactively, there’s an opportunity to aggregate content and find out what’s happening right now at the Eiffel Tower, what’s happening right now at your favorite restaurant.”

Instagram could monetize Location Stories in a number of ways. For instance, Instagram could allow businesses to place ads in Location Stories feeds just as they do already with Instagram Stories. Or Instagram could aggregate the images from Location Stories as data to give businesses (for a fee) better insight into customer behavior (similar to how Foursquare sells data to advertisers based on users’ foot traffic).

In any event, the news is another reminder to brick-and-mortar businesses to use visual storytelling more thoughtfully as a competitive asset. Businesses should treat their Instagram accounts as opportunities to create foot traffic and potential customers, not just places to build their visibility (although doing so is important). Instagram is but one platform for creating organic and paid content. Instagram Location Stories will help 700 million users do a better job drawing attention to their location and sharing cool things to do and see. Brands need to participate, too.

May 12, 2017

Google Makes “Events Near Me” Easier to Find

By Adam Dorfman

Google Events Near Me

For the past few years, Google has urged businesses to respond to the rise of micro-moments, or instances when people use their mobile phones to find things to do and buy nearby. Google says the number of “near me” searches increased 34 times from 2011 to 2015 (when Google started discussing micro-moments). People who use their mobile devices to find things to do and buy nearby demonstrate strong purchase intent.

But ironically, it hasn’t always been easy to use Google on mobile devices to find events nearby. People looking for concerts, games, and other events are more likely to use Facebook or a ticket-selling site such as Ticketmaster. Google seeks to change that behavior by becoming the preferred tool to find events. On May 10, Google announced that it is updating its app to make it easier to find events nearby. Google has aggregated event data from event sites to present a clear view of nearby events for people doing queries for activities near them.

As Google Product Manager Nishant Ranka explained on Google’s Keyword blog, “[T]ype in a quick search like, ‘jazz concerts in Austin,’ or ‘art events this weekend’ on your phone. With a single tap, you’ll see at-a-glance details about various options, like the event title, date and time, and location. You can tap ‘more events’ to see additional options. Once you find one that’s up your alley, tap it to find more details or buy tickets directly from the website.”

The expanded functionality should certainly make it easier to find special events, but I suspect Google will pull from a wider range of sources than ticketing sites and dedicated event venues to return useful results. Someone looking for “music nearby” will likely turn up expensive or sold-out options for same-day events with especially popular musicians on Live Nation and Stub Hub.

If you operate a brick-and-mortar location that offers special events to attract customers, it behooves you to manage event-based attributes carefully by ensuring their accuracy and optimizing the information for search. Examples include:

  • A restaurant that occasionally features music for special events such as Mother’s Day.
  • A retailer that features in-store appearances, such as book stores that sponsor signings with famous authors or apparel stores that occasionally host appearances by fashion experts.

As I noted in a Search Engine Land column, Google increasingly returns search results by mining attributes. Attributes consist of descriptive content such as the services a business provides, payment methods accepted or the availability of free parking — details that may not apply to all businesses. Attributes are important because they can influence someone’s decision to visit you. A special event is an example.

I believe Google will mine more event-based attributes from locations that don’t always offer events. Doing so will give Google more sources to draw from and make its mobile app more useful for people looking for things to do nearby. To learn more about how to build your business with location marketing, contact us.

May 9, 2017

How to Win in a Mobile-First World

By Adam Dorfman

mobile first shopping

Mobile has reached a new milestone.

In 2016, mobile ad spend soared 77 percent, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Even more significantly, mobile spend accounts for more than half of all digital ad spend.


The most popular ad formats in Q42016 were, in order of popularity, search, banner, and video:


Randall, Rothenberg, president and CEO of the IAB, said, “Mobile fueled the internet economy in 2016, with advertisers showing their confidence in digital to achieve their marketing goals. This increasing commitment is a reflection of brands’ ongoing marketing shift from ‘mobile-first’ to ‘mobile-only’ in order to keep pace with today’s on-the-go consumers.”

This news underscores what we’ve known for some time: if you aren’t mobile, you don’t exist.

Consider some important realities as reported in analyst Mary Meeker’s most recent Internet Trends Report:

  • Americans spend 87 hours a month browsing on their smartphones, compared to 34 hours on their desktops.
  • Mobile accounts for 51 percent of the time we spend consuming digital media, compared to 42 percent for the desktop. In 2008, mobile accounted for 12 percent versus 80 percent for desktops.

Now consider purchase-related statistics courtesy of Google:

Businesses with multiple locations should understand that mobile advertising statistics are a reflection of consumer behavior. Even if you don’t advertise, look at the implications of the big picture and:

  • Understand how your customer uses mobile in context of a broader omnichannel experience and ensure your content, data, and experiences create engagement at different points in the journey. A mobile experience with a brand on Facebook and a mobile experience with a brand on Snapchat are not necessarily the same.
  • Create content that encourages next moments, or the action that occurs after someone finds you in a search. For instance, mobile wallet offers encourage consumers to come to your store as they’re on the go looking for things to do and buy.
  • Share your data with the publishers and aggregators that distribute your information across the digital world where people conduct mobile searches. We call these companies “data amplifiers” because they are crucial to making your mobile identity visible.

What are you doing to win in a mobile-first world?

May 4, 2017

How Businesses Are Using Augmented Reality for Location-Based Experiences

By Jay Hawkinson


Facebook’s 2017 F8 conference got the technology industry buzzing about everything from virtual reality to messenger business bots. But as I discussed last week on our blog, the biggest news from F8 was Facebook’s embrace of augmented reality. Facebook vowed to make the camera the first AR platform and launched a platform for developers to create AR content, thus accelerating the process of making AR an everyday experience. Of course, an announcement from Facebook affects everyone, including the local search industry. Practitioners and brands are taking a renewed interest in understanding how to apply AR to attract and retain customers locally. As it turns out, a number of businesses already are using AR locally. Here are a few examples:

Wayfinding at Lowe’s

Lowe’s consistently looks for ways to innovate with its customer experience, which is helping the leading home goods retailer grow amid a retailing downturn. The company recently disclosed that it is using AR to help customers navigate its cavernous stores. Lowe’s says that its Lowe’s Vision: In-Store Navigation app is “the first retail application of indoor mapping using augmented reality.” In two pilot stores, customers using the Google AR Tango technology on their smartphones find products and learn about them at the same time. The app overlays directions on their phones (akin to arrows painted on highway pavement) along with information about products, creating an easier, smarter navigation:

The navigation app is one of many Lowe’s innovations that improve the customer experience. For instance, customers can also use the Lowe’s Vision app to visualize how products look in their homes. Clearly, Lowe’s understands the power of an experience.

Augmented Reality in the Fashion Industry

Not surprisingly, clothing retailers have been taking the lead in applying AR, especially to help customers visualize how clothing will look without having to actually endure the hassle of trying on multiple sets of clothing. To give you some perspective on how long AR has been supporting location-based experiences: a store in Moscow, Topshot, made news for launching an AR fitting room experience back in 2011. Using Microsoft Kinect, Topshot shoppers could see themselves on a screen with 3D copies of clothing they are interested in buying:

Other fashion retailers have developed their own similar AR experiences, such as Uniqlo Magic Mirror, which also uses a full-length mirror to help shoppers visualize how clothing looks on them. I actually tried that at Uniqlo San Francisco when it launched. Here again, such applications have been around for years. But it won’t be long before Amazon catches up with its own AR magic mirror. What will fashion retailers do next?

Fun and Games

Pokémon GO is everyone’s favorite story of gamifying AR, and indeed AR naturally lends itself to playful experiences. The NBA Cleveland Cavaliers recently activated an AR game that encourages fans to compete against each other in a virtual pop-a-shot inside the Quicken Loans Arena. Using their mobile devices, fans square off against each other by trying to shoot virtual baskets on the stadium’s giant electronic board. As reported in SportTechie:

Fans are split into different sections to compete against each other to win prizes depending on their scores and shooting streaks. The Cavaliers then capture the images in real time and display them on the jumbotron for everyone to see.

If a fan nets 10 shots in a row, he or she automatically qualifies for a prize to redeem in the arena’s Social Zone for unlocking a specific achievement.

What I like about the Cleveland Cavaliers experience is that it’s a social experience, involving a number of fans in a live setting. I can easily see more businesses applying this idea, such as at music events.

If you are thinking of applying AR to create a better local experience, the time to change from thinking to doing may very well be here. You might be in an industry such as retail that faces multiple threats, in which case I’ll bet you are taking action already. Challenges have a way of inspiring action. If you feature AR already, one question to ask yourself is how well you are making it easy for people to find your AR experience in your store. After Facebook F8, searches for augmented reality spiked on Google, and although those searches have tailed off, there remains a healthy interest in the topic. If you offer AR, make sure that your location pages prominently mention and showcase this capability. Don’t hold back. AR may very well be your most popular competitive advantage for location-based experiences.

April 19, 2017

Facebook Creates an Augmented Reality Future

By Jay Hawkinson

f8 Facebook

The big news coming out of the annual Facebook F8 developers conference was Mark Zuckerberg’s big bet on augmented reality. Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is launching a new Camera Effects platform that will make it possible for users of its in-app camera to create augmented reality experiences. As Facebook announced, “Now you can create effects for the Facebook camera, from the simplest frame to the most stunning augmented reality experiences.” And those experiences include location-based ones. Welcome to an augmented reality future.

At the F8 conference, Zuckerberg identified a number of uses of Camera Effects that are location-based. According to Josh Constine of TechCruch, “Zuckerberg imagines AR experiences breaking down into three major categories: augmenting objects in the physical world with additional information like putting directions atop the street or a restaurant’s reviews on their storefront, layering new virtual objects onto reality like a chess board or working television and enhancing objects that are already there with extra effects, like giving you a glitter beard or adding a castle turret to your apartment building.”

For instance, as Zuckerberg pointed out, restaurant diners could use their Facebook cameras to leave virtual messages for each other on the walls and tables, such as comments on their favorite dishes. Or diners could turn their tables into a blank canvass to create augmented reality doodles.

Facebook will launch the platform in beta. To accelerate the launch, Facebook is opening up Camera Effects to developers to “build engaging, interactive and personalized camera experiences with code-driven animations, touch interaction, and in-scene data from mobile apps or web services.” Clearly, Facebook has learned from Apple: if you want a platform to succeed, be open.

My take: the pundits say that Facebook is learning from and copying Snapchat by injecting augmented reality into its app, which is partly true. However, I think Facebook is also borrowing a page from Niantic, responsible for the Pokémon GO craze that showcased the power of augmented reality for location-based experiences. Hey it’s fun to catch a Pokémon in an appropriate or sometimes unusual location and capture that moment. Zuckerberg intends for Camera Effects to create more engagement with Facebook users by giving them another reason to stay on Facebook through their mobile devices. He’s betting on AR to create that engagement.

Brands should watch very closely what Facebook is doing and be prepared to weave AR into their location-based experiences just as smart businesses did when Pokémon GO took flight. Businesses already use video projection technology to emulate an AR experience, an example being the Frida Kahlo Restaurante in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, which uses a process known as gastro mapping to turn tables and walls into immersive visuals that represent the work and life of the Frida Kahlo.

Consider Facebook F8 2017 to be a sign of things to come: customers who adopt AR won’t be distracted texting and talking on their mobile devices when they visit your brick-and-mortar location. They’ll use mobile to bring experiences to your brick-and-mortar location. Be ready to respond with your own. Contact SIM Partners to understand how to connect experiences, content, and data effectively at the local level.

April 13, 2017

What Amazon Can Learn from Healthcare

By Jon Schepke

What Amazon Can Learn from Healthcare

Personalized service. A visionary of application of artificial intelligence. Digital savvy. Sounds like I am describing Amazon, right? Wrong. Those are the characteristics of leading healthcare organizations. Healthcare systems all over the United States are improving patient care both inside and outside the four walls of the organization by making some bold bets on digital. In my new Street Fight column, “3 Location Marketing Lessons That Healthcare Brands Can Teach Other Industries,” I provide examples of how healthcare is setting an example for innovation. Often, challenging times inspire innovation out of necessity, which is happening in healthcare. I encourage you to read my column and contact us to discuss how we can help your healthcare system embrace location marketing to innovate and win.  

April 4, 2017

Are you ready for Mobilegeddon 2017

By Jay Hawkinson

Mobilegeddon 2.0

Google is rolling out a mobile-first index quaintly referred to as Mobilegeddon 2017 (following the Mobilegeddon’s of 2015 and 2016, respectively). The name “Mobilegeddon” refers to Google’s launch of the Mobilegeddon algorithm change of 2015, in which Google assigned preferential search results for mobile sites. As was the case with the first Mobilegeddon, your site effectiveness and search results will be affected unless you are prepared.

Here’s what you need to know right now:

Mobilegeddon 2017 refers to a new mobile-first index that Google is rolling out. Google will create and rank its search listings based on the mobile version of content — even for listings that are shown to desktop users. No longer will a user get served up two different experiences.

Why does Mobilegeddon 2017 matter?

If you don’t optimize your website for the mobile experience, your visitors and patients won’t find what they need from you unless they stay on their mobile devices. The organic traffic on your website will nosedive. Your site will not show up in search results as well as those and healthcare system sites that are optimized for mobile.

What should you do?

You can do a quick test offered by Google to get a sense of how well your site is optimized for mobile: Mobile Website Speed Testing Tool

Getting your site optimized for mobile is no slam dunk. Most businesses will outsource this task because it does require the proper knowledge and skillset. Even if you have an internal team managing the website, optimizing for mobile takes some coordinated effort to do correctly.

Because SIM Partners understand how to make data, content, and user experiences mobile friendly, we were able to help many enterprise brands and healthcare systems update their sites for mobile back when Google rolled out the original Mobilegeddon in 2015.

When should I act?

Even though Google has not officially announced a date, you need to act on this now. Based on Google’s history of launching major algorithm updates indicates, Google often will not provide much time to prepare. If you have concerns or would like help with getting ready for Mobilegeddon 2017, please contact us today.