February 4, 2016

Location Marketing Wins at Super Bowl 50

By Jon Schepke

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 11.16.53 AM

Image Credit: Levi Stadium

Super Bowl 50 is just days away, and Levi’s Stadium is Santa Clara, California, is hosting the techiest Super Bowl ever. The $1.2 billion stadium is also a location marketing powerhouse.

Levi’s Stadium has technology that will enhance the way attendees experience the game, ranging from the use of their phones as tickets to ordering concessions from their seats — and the experience is centered on mobile.

In my latest AdvertisingAge columnI discuss how Levi’s Stadium is a great example of combining data and experience to master location marketing.

What are your favorite examples of great location marketing that incorporates mobile? Connect with me — I’d love to discuss.

February 1, 2016

Facebook Amplifies Location Data to Fuel Local Search

By Jon Schepke

As we have noted on our blog, Facebook is quietly expanding into local search by rolling out a tool that makes it possible for Facebook members to find local businesses and their ratings/reviews. The feature (not officially branded yet) takes you to a Facebook page that permits you to find ratings for nearby businesses by typing the name of a business category in a search field. Facebook returns results based on your location. I think Facebook’s move into local search highlights the importance of a location data management strategy that focuses on distribution to key “data amplifiers” that influence location marketing.


Image Credit: Facebook

Data amplifiers consist of data aggregators such as Neustar Localeze and publishers such as Facebook and Google that share a business’s location data to all the places where “near me” moments of interest occur among consumers. I’ve always urged our clients to focus their energies on forming relationships with top-tier amplifiers (and a few select publishers in their verticals) instead of pursuing a paid-inclusion approach with tier-two publishers.  

As SIM Partners discusses in The CMO’s Guide to Location Data Management, data amplifiers wield considerable clout in location marketing. When you share your location data with them, they create a network effect, spreading accurate information about you where people search for things to do and places to go. Data amplifiers make your locations visible in the moments that matter.

Data aggregators such as Factual are important because they share your data with the essential publishers such as Facebook and Apple. For instance, as Michael Solms of Go Local Interactive noted, Facebook gets its location data from Factual. Facebook, in turn, uses an enterprise’s location data for everything from Facebook Business Pages to Place Tips.

SIM Partners maintains relationships with all the data amplifiers — including aggregators such as Factual, Neustar Localeze, and InfoGroup. We also have direct API connections with key publishers such as Google My Business and Foursquare to support real-time updates. Our relationships ensure that our Velocity product unleashes and constantly updates our client’s location data everywhere local searches are conducted.  When it comes to location data, you need tools and technology to manage, distribute, and monitor results to drive tangible ROI on an ongoing basis.  

Contact us to learn how to thrive in a world of increasingly powerful data amplifiers.

January 27, 2016

The 2016 Holiday Shopping Season Starts Now

By David Deal


Image Credit: ABC News

It’s time for retailers to start planning for the 2016 holiday shopping season.

You might not know yet what kind of merchandise is going to be hot come December, nor do you need to. But what’s clear from retailers’ experiences in 2015 is that the holiday season is extending its reach well beyond Black Friday, compelling retailers to plan ahead sooner. So I’m not surprised when I see marketing experts suggesting that retailers test their holiday marketing campaigns several weeks ahead of Thanksgiving.

Now is the time to lay the groundwork for the holiday season by mastering some habits that will serve you well when the results of the 2016 holiday season are tallied up. If you want to create in-store foot traffic and convert store visitors to customers, here are some a few important practices you need to own:

Turn Moments of Interest into Moments of Conversion

During the 2015 holiday season, Americans spent $12.7 billion online via mobile devices, up 59 percent year over year. Yes, the $12.7 billion is a small fraction of the $626 billion that we spent during the holiday season, but undeniably, mobile is shaping the holiday experience even when — actually, especially when — consumers use their devices to research a product they buy offline. When consumers use their devices to do initial product research, they’re experiencing a moment of interest. Retailers need to turn mobile moments of interest into moments of conversion by:

  • Being visible everywhere moments of interest occur. Google refers to moments of interest as micro-moments, or times when people are considering where to go, what to do, or what to buy. Businesses need to share contextual information and experiences, supported by accurate location data, everywhere your shoppers experience moments of interest. We usually think of mobile moments of interest occurring in context of a shopper Googling “stores near me” or “Star Wars toys near me” on a mobile device, and this scenario certainly applies. In addition, a lesson from the 2015 season is that mobile moments of interest are occurring everywhere, including mobile apps and social spaces. Target capitalized on these “everywhere moments of interest” by conducting a holiday campaign that engaged consumers on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, including suggesting holiday gift ideas and creating playful experiences. Thriving in moments of interest means sharing contextual content as Target did — supported by accurate store location data so that when shoppers want to jump off Facebook and come to your store, they’ll find an accurate address, contact information, and store hours updated for the holidays. If the location data is wrong, a moment of interest will quickly become a moment of frustration.

Succeeding with moments of interest and next moments comes down to consumer intent to buy: encouraging it and creating it.

Offer an Experience

What can offline retailers provide that Amazon can’t? A special experience. Shoppers can’t enjoy a department store’s window displays or take their kids to see Santa on Amazon.

Surprise and delight is a key element of a local experience. For example, just as Starbucks created an unusual gift card offer, the coffee chain provided a special in-store experience during the holidays, offering limited edition mugs and gifts with gold and crystal trim, thus adding some holiday bling to your Starbucks visit.

Offering a good experience also means harnessing the power of technology at or near stores — for instance, using GPS and beacon technology to offer shoppers loyalty points if they’ll try on clothing while they’re in the store, as American Eagle does, or making it possible for shoppers to organize and find merchandise, as Target does. The Skip phone app, being piloted by Gerrity’s in Pennsylvania, allows shoppers to bypass the check-out line and scan purchases as they shop, then pay for them on their phones. Gerrity’s, a grocery store, is on to an idea that retailers might want to apply to create a better experience.

Get Ready

Creating a holiday game plan goes well beyond mastering moments and a great experience. The SIM Partners Holiday Retail Guide, published in 2015, contains more insight and best practices. Consider next moments and experiences to be the cornerstone of your approach, though. And why not start learning how? The year provides plenty of milestones for you to get better at next moments and creating local experiences, including Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, and events specific to a region.

Don’t wait until the fall to figure out the holiday season. Start now. Borrow and adapt ideas liberally from the online world.  Consumer shopping intent is always in season.  Contact us to talk more.

January 22, 2016

How Snapchat Can Help Brands Connect with Their Customers

By Jay Hawkinson

Crowned Adweek’s hottest digital brand for 2015, Snapchat has proven that it’s only going to have a bigger impact on all forms of marketing, including location marketing. Initially I was reluctant to jump on the Snapchat bandwagon however with so many of my friends and colleagues using the app it was hard to resist. Once I learned the ins and outs of Snapchat, it quickly became apparent that this could be an exciting new channel for marketers.

In my latest AdWeek SocialTimes byline, I share how brands are using Snapchat to connect with consumers during the micro-moments of discovery, and how brands that deliver the right content at the right time will ultimately win. How are you using Snapchat to attract customers to your locations? Contact us to talk more.

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 9.40.38 AM

Image Credit: The Daily Dot 

January 21, 2016

Webinar: How Healthcare Systems Can Master Reviews/Ratings

By Amanda Bury

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 10.21.01 AM

Patients are looking for affordability and transparency in healthcare — and they increasingly have access to tools such as online ratings/reviews to find out what they need to know about physicians in order to make informed choices.  To be more relevant to patients who demand transparency, healthcare systems need to seize the opportunity to manage, collect, and analyze ratings and reviews that help patients make informed choices. On February 4 at 2:00 p.m. Central Standard Time, please join me and Emily Carl of ReviewTrackers for a webinar that discusses why healthcare systems can master reviews/ratings. Please register here.

During the webinar, we will explore just how important reviews and ratings have become and why healthcare systems need to be more responsive in the era of the empowered consumer. For instance, did you know that one in three consumers say that looking at online reviews is their first step when searching for a new doctor? Or that nearly half of all consumers look at online reviews before scheduling an appointment?

Consumers are reviewing your services with or without your participation. They’re to sites such as Yelp, which has become a popular and trusted review site for patients looking for a provider. As we will discuss during the webinar, SIM Partners recommends that healthcare systems manage reviews/ratings and location data in tandem. On the one hand, healthcare systems should manage reviews/ratings by taking steps such as surveying your own patients and share their ratings on your physician pages. But healthcare systems also must make sure your location data is accurate and visible where “near me” searches for provider care occur in order for potential patients to see your reviews. For instance, healthcare systems need to claim and manage accurate location data about your physicians on your local listings and ratings/reviews sites.
By attending our webinar February 4, healthcare systems will be equipped with the tools you need to start taking ownership of reviews/ratings in an era of transparency. Register to join us and contact SIM Partners to discuss how you can build a stronger brand through reviews/ratings.

January 14, 2016

Announcing “The Healthcare Marketer’s Guide to Location Data Management”

By Amanda Bury


HealthcareGLD-fb (2)


Recently I urged healthcare systems to unleash their location data to connect with patients conducting “near me” searches for medical care. Today SIM Partners published a guide to help healthcare systems master location data. The Healthcare Marketer’s Guide to Location Data Management gives healthcare systems the tools they need to be responsive in mobile age. As we mention in the guide, patients are acting like informed consumers, making healthcare look more like retail. To succeed with mobile consumers, healthcare systems need to treat location data as a competitive advantage.

Accurate location data — such as the name, address, and phone number of a healthcare organization — makes a healthcare system findable during near me moments of search. For physicians, it’s also essential to include specialty information such as accreditation, insurance accepted, and clinical areas of care. Location data paired with compelling content converts these near me searches into “next moments” of forming patient relationships.

But healthcare systems face special challenges in being present through accurate location data. Large healthcare organizations that operate through campus environments have to manage a morass of different services and multiple physicians spread out across multiple locations, each with their own names, locations, phone numbers, and hours of operation.

And healthcare businesses need to ensure that their complex networks of individual physician pages are findable and accurate, accounting for the reality that physicians operate out of different locations throughout the week.

The answer is for healthcare systems to manage location data as a precious asset, kept accurate and scalable across the mobile ecosystem where empowered patients create near me moments.

The Healthcare Marketer’s Guide to Location Data Management, newly published by SIM Partners, will show you how to thrive with location data. Check it out, and contact us to discuss how we can help you.

January 13, 2016

Are Your Store Hours Accurate?

By Gib Olander

The last time you were looking for a store, I’ll bet you looked up its hours of operation to decide whether to make the trip. But it’s not always easy for enterprises to give you that information: seasonal hours, special events, and the existence of specialty businesses within stores are among the factors complicating the answer. In order to succeed with potential consumers searching for you, your business needs to manage store hours as an important location data asset. In my latest Street Fight byline, I discuss steps businesses should take to ensure store hours are a priority in order to turn searchers into customers. Check out my post and contact us to talk more.


Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 12.53.06 PM

The Next Frontier of Location Marketing: Your Car

By David Deal

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.20.48 AM

Image Credit: Google 

Self-driving cars are rock stars, and they’ve been owning some pretty big stages lately. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) January 6-9 was a coming-out party for self-driving cars, and they have been all over the news at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), occurring January 11-24 in Detroit. Self-driving cars may be coming sooner than you think, and they promise to make location marketing a more contextual, on-demand experience.

Big Announcements

CES hadn’t even officially launched, and self-driving cars were the talk of the event, especially when General Motors and Lyft announced a partnership that includes the development of a self-driving car service. More major announcements followed, among them: Volvo said it is developing high-bandwidth streaming capabilities for self-driving cars, and technology company Nvidia announced a new computer to power self-driving cars.

At the NAIAS, developments included Mercedes-Benz announcing the 2017 E-class sedan, which features autonomous driving (although not fully self-driving — yet) capabilities. Ford said it is the first automaker to test self-driving cars in snowy conditions (Google had already done so). John Krafcik, president of the Google self-driving car project, spoke of Google’s intent to accelerate the development of the autonomous vehicle by forming more partnerships with the auto industry.

It’s already clear that automobiles are becoming more sophisticated search engines as voice-activated capabilities such as Android Auto and CarPlay gain more acceptance among car manufacturers. In addition, the news coming out of CES and NAIAS points to the automobile as a future battleground for more contextual, on-demand location marketing.

Contextual Experiences

It’s not just the advent of self-driving cars that has captured the imagination, and earned the investment, of the world’s biggest brands — it’s the development of connected, self-driving cars that could change the way people live and interact with businesses.

We’re already living in an era of the car as entertainment machine, thanks to partnerships between automakers and businesses such as Pandora. At CES, Apple, Google and Microsoft were among the technology players sharing how they are collaborating with automakers to turn cars into connected mobile devices with which you can stream content and navigate the world with your voice. The transformation of autos into connected devices, coupled with advances in self-driving technology, are nudging the auto transportation one step closer to the experience of settling into your seat, kicking back, and entertaining yourself with rich content while your car drives you where you want to go.

As Adweek recently discussed, the promise of increasingly connected cars with the added twist of autonomy has many implications for marketers, such as the possibility of delivering more immersive content while people are on the go. With connected, self-driving cars, brands need not worry about the obvious problem of distracting drivers with content. Automobiles may become traveling content machines.

This opportunity applies to location marketing in a big way. We often think of state-of-the-art location marketing in terms of businesses sharing mobile-wallet offers as a consumer is nearby or in a location. With connected, self-driving automobiles, enterprises can share contextual experiences through bigger screens and with high-definition sound to more engaged automobile passengers. For example:

  • A new restaurant attempting to gain a following could go beyond an offer and provide a video tour of the dining room or give you an opportunity talk with the chef while you decide whether you want to visit.
  • A clothing retailer might provide an immersive look at its new Versace or Dolce and Gabbana collection.

The key to success will be, as always, being relevant and engaging. Whether consumers are in their cars, on airplane, or hanging out at home, the same reality applies: people will block annoying ads. But they will welcome an engaging experience that happens to be an ad.

At Your Service

GM and Lyft are not the only companies figuring out how to create on-demand self-driving cars. Google, Tesla, and Uber are among the other heavy hitters researching on-demand, self-driving cars.

It’s easy to foresee a day when multi-location businesses will use on-demand, autonomous vehicles to perform a wide variety of services, including delivering products to your door, picking up products that need returning, and driving people to and from their homes to complete tasks such as shopping. Imagine Nordstrom rewarding its repeat customers by managing the transportation to/from a local store with self-driving vehicles, pre-programed with a customer’s favorite music and entertainment stations, and waiting while the customer shops: no fuss, no need to make multiple orders for return service, along with a more personal, customized experience on the way.

We’re already seeing businesses ranging from Amazon to Taco Bell launch same-day delivery services as businesses shift to the realities of an Uber-like on-demand world. High-tech self-driving vehicles open up more possibilities beyond the use of drones or on-demand services that require human intervention.

The On-Demand World Is Here

Frankly, it’s a lot of fun to picture an incredibly engaging, efficient future in which people and brands combine the immersive qualities of technology with the warmth of in-person customer experiences on their best days. The future is a lot messier, fraught with regulatory debates, obvious issues of consumer safety, and development costs, just to cite the baggage associated with driverless vehicles.

But the future of the car as autonomous experience is coming, and automakers know it. Witness the way legacy brands like GM, and challengers such as Tesla, are embracing the autonomous future rather than fighting it. Various pundits predict self-driving cars becoming more common by 2020. On-demand location marketing is already here. The two worlds are converging in some intriguing ways — and rapidly.

Contact us to discuss the future of location marketing.

January 11, 2016

How to Get Payback from Your 2016 Local Marketing Spend

By Tari Haro

The numbers are in: local marketing is a big priority for enterprises in 2016. According to research firm BIA/Kelsey, U.S. businesses will spend $146.6 billion on local advertising, up from $141.3 billion in 2015. Local search advertising will climb from $7.8 billion in 2015 to $8.2 billion in 2016. To maximize their local marketing spend, enterprises need to think mobile, data, and conversions. Here are three essential areas of focus based on the client work we’re doing:


  • Focus on the mobile consumer. And we’re not talking about simply spending money on mobile advertising but rather orienting your entire local experience for those “near me” moments when mobile consumers are deciding what to do, what to buy, and where to go. As Google reported earlier in 2015, near me searches have increased 34 times since 2011, and 80 percent of those searches come from mobile devices. Your brand needs to be present in those near me moments with compelling content and accurate location data so that consumers can find you. How present are you for the mobile consumer? If you don’t optimize your local listings for the mobile experience, your mobile advertising spend will go to waste.
  • Treat location data as a scalable asset. Location data is the foundation of your local marketing. Location data does more than protect a brand. Location data helps a business create customers. In fact, according to SIM Partners proprietary research, enterprises that improved the accuracy and reach of their location data by just 20 percent saw traffic to their location pages by 450 percent and on-page action conversion rates by 216 percent. Scaling your location data means making it accurate and sharing your data with the most powerful data aggregators (such as Factual and Localeze) and publishers (such as Foursquare and Google) that share your data where consumers live in the digital world beyond your locations pages. Do you have a location data plan that builds your brand?
  • Create next moments, or actions that inspire searchers to become customers after they find your brand. For instance, a next moment can be a mobile offer shared with a consumer near or inside your store. According to mobile technology provider Vibes, more than half of consumers would like to receive mobile wallet content on a weekly basis, and 70 percent of consumers will save an offer to their mobile wallet when presented with the option. How are you integrating mobile wallet offers into your local marketing strategy? Are you investing in compelling content that will convert visitors into customers?

Mobile consumers, local data, and next moments: they’re all the elements of a local marketing approach that creates visibility — and customer conversions. Contact us to discuss how SIM Partners can help you maximize your 2016 investment.

January 6, 2016

SIM Partners Predicts What’s Next for 2016

By Julie Piatek

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 11.01.50 AM

Image Credit:

At SIM Partners we believe the local search industry is about to explode as businesses see increased returns on their investments into location marketing. In 2015 alone, we saw the change of Google’s seven-listing pack to the three-pack, the launch of the Apple Watch, and the testing of Facebook Beacons, to name a few.

According to research firm BIA/Kelsey, U.S. businesses will spend $146.6 billion on local advertising, up from $141.3 billion in 2015. Local search advertising will climb from $7.8 billion in 2015 to $8.2 billion in 2016. The numbers reported by BIA/Kelsey definitely show growth, but major changes in the way enterprises and influencers deploy local marketing will create more momentum as the year progresses.

Read on to see some of SIM Partners’ predictions for 2016, from mobile wallet content attracting consumers to stores, to Apple Maps becoming a stronger player:

Location Data Management

Location data will become a foundation for all local marketing as enterprises figure out how to deploy location data as a scalable asset distributed where “near me” searches occur, and as businesses treat location data as a platform for contextual content  — Tari Haro, CMO

As consumers become more reliant on their mobile devices, location data will become more valuable for brands as a way to engage in a meaningful way with consumers. Companies with a wealth of location data information, such as Foursquare, will become valuable sources for insights and for creating contextual messages. — Emily Helander, senior product marketing manager

With automated cars taking hold in coming years, NAP data and local search will become more important in the near term as forward-thinking brands anticipate the need for automated cars to have the highest quality of data to operate efficiently and “literally” drive consumers to businesses. — J.D. Blue, paid media account manager


Mobile wallet offerings will become imperative and more prevalent for enterprise brands to compete effectively. The impact of using location data to influence consumers to buy will be stronger than ever. — Brandon Kololms, inside sales manager

Mobile wallet and mobile payment systems will become much more mainstream, with a larger majority of consumers paying via mobile as a default payment method. — Ben Otfinoski, inside sales associate

Apple and Google Maps

2016 is the year that Google Maps becomes a monetized area of the search engine results page (SERP). The introduction of fees will be subtle (sponsored suggestions, vanity URLs, review manipulation) and will not affect ranking quite yet, but the introduction of fees will pave the way for larger changes in 2017 and beyond. — Bob Franke, director of development and communications

Developments such as the uptake of Apple’s iOS 9 and CarPlay will make Apple Maps a stronger alternative to Google Maps. For instance, consumers will increasingly rely on iOS 9 to conduct near me searches, which default to Apple Maps. — Molly Geraghty, client success analyst


Google, Yahoo, and Bing will all continue to look for ways for searchers to complete their desired action directly from the search engine results page (think Google Hotel Finder). The efforts of Google, Yahoo, and Bing will make it all the more important for brands to make sure their location data is correctly represented, distributed to, and optimized for search engines. — Emily Helander, senior product marketing manager

Google will get more ingrained in the call-tracking space, which is great for advertisers looking for free call tracking on a granular level. — Mike Fruland, director of paid media

Advances in the Internet of Things and increased adoption of automated cars, smartphones, and in-home devices (like Nest), coupled with advances in cross-device tracking, will allow Google to build a more in-depth profile about a consumer, limit the number of ads, and make ads more relevant to a point that most people will abandon ad blocking software — J.D. Blue, paid media account manager


Google is going to make strides to accurately display local healthcare and physician information. Users will be able to provide more specific details about a location on the location’s Google My Business page, and more categories will be added to better display accurate results in search. — Charley Vail, client success manager

Healthcare patients will start to demand more transparency in pricing as hospitals compete with retail clinics such as CVS. — Amanda Bury, managing director, healthcare

Social Media

Foursquare will surpass Yelp as the primary platform for local business information and reviews. — Dan Sucher, inside sales associate

Real-time updates will continue to increase. Periscope will be the go-to platform for streaming events, and Facebook’s Instant Articles will give Twitter a run for its money. — Julie Piatek, marketing associate

Snapchat will evolve into an app that brands utilize to showcase their new products and offer deals as incentives to bring their potential customers in-stores. — Julie Piatek, marketing associate


Ad blocking software will continue to disrupt the industry, which will result in search engines working to stop ad blocking software and offer ad-free search engine results pages for an annual/monthly subscription. As a result, ad blocking software will cause companies to invest more of their budgets into other advertising methods to reach consumers — ultimately increasing the importance of local search marketing/local SEO. — J.D. Blue, paid media account manager

Tablet usage will continue to grow and will slowly begin to replace laptops. You’ll begin to see more people working on their iPads in coffee shops with the keyboard attachment. — Emily Helander, senior product marketing manager

2016 will see the rise of bluetooth/wireless headphones. As Apple and Samsung update the plugs/ports on their phones, consumers won’t be happy buying new headphones with a different cord, so I anticipate a large jump in the use of wireless headphone devices. — Andrew Shulman, client success manager

I believe that LinkNYC, a New York City program that replaces phone booths with connectivity kiosks, will be a great success. These new kiosks allow all people to access free high-speed Internet, navigate the city, place phone calls, and charge devices. The adoption of LinkNYC will be a major factor in how the citizens of New York locate the products or services they are searching for on the go. I believe this practice will eventually spread to other major cities nationwide. — Kyle Murray, client success analyst

The “sharing economy” will continue to grow with affordable luxury and convenience driving behavior. — Amanda Bury, managing director, healthcare

Content and experiences will become more immersive thanks to virtual reality. Technologies like Google Cardboard will make virtual reality accessible to both brands and consumers alike. — Dom Catanzaro, inside sales associate

What are some of your predictions for this year? Connect with us — we’d love to hear what’s on your mind.