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July 22, 2016

The Special Challenge “Container Stores” Face with Location Data

By Gib Olander

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Super retailers such as Target and Walmart face an interesting challenge managing their location data. Usually these “container stores” include specialty services such as coffee shops, pharmacies, and restaurants operating under different names. Your local Target, for instance, might include a CVS pharmacy, Freshii restaurant, and Starbucks coffee shop, among other businesses. The location data for all those brands must be organized, kept correct, and shared across the digital ecosystem along with the data for the main branch of the Target store. This process can be complicated, and if the super retailer doesn’t get it right, customers will be unable to find specialty services or face disappointment when critical information such as a pharmacy’s operating hours are incorrect. In my recently published Street Fight column, “Super Retailers Face Super Location Data Problems,” I describe in more detail the challenge of managing location data for multiple businesses operating under one roof, as well as how container stores can succeed by managing location data as a competitive asset. Read my column for more insight, and contact us to discuss how we can help you.

July 21, 2016

This Is Not Your Father’s Healthcare SaaS

By Amanda Bury

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“Software as a service” no longer means what it used to in healthcare — which is a change for the better. Healthcare systems used to think of software platforms as tools for managing data, and that role still holds true today. But SaaS providers — good ones, anyway — are now helping healthcare systems build their brands through functions such as patient acquisition. We are partners for growth.

How did this change happen? The answer is simple: the patient journey has changed. As I have noted in blog posts, columns, and speaking engagements, the age of empowerment has arrived in healthcare. Medical patients are now acting like informed customers. They’re using digital and mobile technology to research doctors and become more informed of healthcare choices. They expect healthcare systems to make it easy to learn about their credentials, read patient reviews, and book appointments online.

And, thanks to the influence of on-demand businesses such as Uber, patients expect transparency and immediacy.

These changes have created enormous challenges for healthcare systems. For example, healthcare providers must:

  • Treat data as a competitive asset, more proactively sharing information about physicians where and when patients want that information.
  • Turn their physician directories into digital front doors that combine data, content, and elegant user experience to be visible, contextual, and actionable.
  • Ensure that they provide a mobile-friendly experience.

Amid this far-reaching change, effective SaaS providers have emerged as go-to partners to attract and convert patients because we gather and analyze the data that gives healthcare systems insights into how their customers are looking for them and how to respond effectively. For instance, at SIM Partners, our Velocity Health solution makes it possible for a healthcare system to acquire more patients by combining data, content, and experience — data that we know about providers and their customers, content that we can analyze and improve to attract more patients, and an understanding of how to make a search experience quick and painless in the digital world.

The market moved in our direction, but we also sensed and responded to this need by building products such as Velocity Health. Consequently, at SIM Partners, we’ve progressed from the “manage my technology” vendor to a partner counseling our clients on how to respond to the Uber effect in healthcare.

Managing and scaling data is at the heart of succeeding in the age of empowerment — but the data needs to be managed as the foundation of healthcare marketing focused on patient acquisition to be strategic.

How have you sensed and responded to change in the marketplace?

July 19, 2016

Google Plans for a Mobile-First Holiday Shopping Season

By Tari Haro

 

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The 2016 holiday shopping season is coming sooner than you think — and it’s going to be defined by mobile.

On July 12, Google announced tools designed to help retailers and consumers prepare for a mobile-first holiday shopping season. Noting that more than 40 percent of shopping-related searches on Google are for broad terms such as “women’s athletic clothing” or “living room furniture,” Google introduced Showcase Shopping ads. This format allows retailers to serve up a broad array of images to appear in search results based on search queries, however broadly defined they are. Google is also experimenting with a premium version through which retailers can customize how their brand and products appear. According to Google, 44 percent of shoppers say they use images to find ideas for things to buy. Showcase Shopping is clearly designed to appeal to a more visual experience, customized for mobile devices.

Google also announced updates to its TrueView ads on YouTube. TrueView makes it easier for consumers to click on and buy products on retailers’ ads in YouTube. Google announced that TrueView will soon include a new interactive banner appearing next to video content, which allows viewers to scroll through products while the video is playing next to it. And a new Product Picker will let advertisers prioritize more easily which products they want to be featured as cards in a TrueView. According to Google, the number of advertisers using TrueView is up 50 percent since January.
The announcements were made in context of a number of enhancements to both the retail and travel experience, which Google said were enacted in time to help the retailing and travel industries prepare for the holidays. As Jonathan Alferness, vice president of product management, wrote in a blog post, “October through December are traditionally the biggest months for both travel and shopping, and this year we expect mobile to play its biggest role ever. In fact, mobile and travel and shopping searches are already up nearly 30% year-over-year.”

These developments demonstrate why brands preparing for the holiday shopping season should plan for mobile-first experiences and for more complex, open ended, visually oriented searches. As SIM Partners noted in our 2015 Holiday Retail Guide, mobile is the battleground to win customers during the holiday shopping season. During the 2015 holiday season, Americans spent $12.7 billion online via mobile devices, up 59 percent year over year. Google understands this reality and continues to move the market in the direction of mobile-first experiences. Optimizing your content and location pages for mobile is no longer optional — doing so is table stakes.

But retailers also need to optimize their content for broader, less defined searches. Optimizing your merchandise for specific keywords is not enough. Retailers also need to ensure that their content is optimized for the more broadly defined discovery search that Google is gearing up for — searches that will occur, increasingly, via voice, as indicated by Google’s rollout of the smarter, voice-activated Google Assistant earlier this year.

Finally, retailers should create next moments with visual content. SIM Partners defines a next moment as the action that occurs after someone finds your brand via a search. We often think of next moments in terms of text-based content, such as mobile wallet offers and inventory finder tools that encourage consumers to visit your store to buy what they’re looking for. But at a time when consumers upload more than 1.8 billion images a day, next moments can and should include strong, compelling visuals that encourage purchase.

What does your next moment strategy look like for the 2016 holiday season? Contact us. We’d love to talk.

 

July 18, 2016

5 Ways Local Businesses Can Capitalize on the Pokémon Go Craze

By Adam Dorfman

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Pokémon Go is not only a cultural phenomenon; it’s also a location-marketing bonanza. The most popular mobile game in U.S. history, which challenges players to find, train, and do battle with Pokémon that appear in our real-world environments, will soon become bigger when the game’s creator, Niantic, rolls out an advertising model. But businesses that operate brick-and-mortar storefronts, especially retailers and restaurants, need not wait for Niantic to launch the model. Many brick-and-mortar businesses are increasing foot traffic and sales by creating their own location marketing Pokémon Go hacks — and so should you. This post offers five tips.

First off, a PSA: before you attempt jump on to the Pokémon Go location-marketing craze, do your homework. Download the app and play the game. (Chances are, someone at your location already is.) Get immersed. Appreciate the experience from the standpoint of the players. Understand how the game’s mechanics are intertwined with location.

For instance, playing the game means getting outside your home and work space and using your smartphone to join teams and find Pokémon that pop up in real-world locations (through the power of augmented reality). Those locations can and do include commercial establishments, which, naturally, draw players. If your location has been lucky enough to be designated a PokéStop or a gym by the game designers, players will visit you to collect special rewards, train their Pokémon, and do battle. By paying a modest fee, you can use a Lure to draw more Pokémon to your location, where players are bound to gather and play.

But you won’t know any of this important information unless you play the game. Fortunately, doing so is easy and fun — which is exactly why Pokémon Go became a global phenomenon within hours of its general release July 6.

Once you do your homework, it’s time to start capitalizing on the game. Here are some ideas:

1. Get into the Game

If your business is lucky enough to be a PokéStop or gym, you absolutely need to capitalize on your good fortune. You will gain natural foot traffic from people playing the game nearby (trust me — once they’re in your neighborhood, they’ll discover that you are a PokéStop or gym). But, better yet, you can draw foot traffic from far and wide by advertising your coveted designation, as the Sacramento Zoo does by using social media to notify players that they’ll find nine PokéStops and gyms inside the zoo. If you have a strong Facebook presence, try geo-targeted advertising on Facebook.
As noted, for a modest fee, you can also use a Lure module to attract Pokémon to your location (if you happen to be a PokéStop) for 30 minutes. Lure modules not only attract players, they also build goodwill because players know you were kind enough to set a Lure. Consider also offering a deal to anyone who visits your store to set a Lure. One New York pizzeria saw business increase 75 percent after its manager spent $10 to drop a dozen Lures.

2. Host an Event

Pokémon Go is a social game. Businesses can tap into the game’s social spirit and celebrate the players by hosting an event. For instance, restaurants should consider advertising Pokémon meet-ups with free or discounted food and beverages to attract players and teams (even if they’re on opposing teams). In Chicago, Japanese street food spot/ramen house Yusho is doing just that. The restaurant, which is also a Pokémon gym, has hosted a Pokémon party with special food offers.

3. Provide a Utility

Pokémon players are constantly on the go, burning up calories and depleting their mobile phone batteries. Savvy businesses could make themselves useful by offering free energy snacks and battery charges exclusively to players who come into their stores. In Australia, for instance, Virgin Mobile provides free phone charges at retail stores and kiosks in malls where its stores are located. Virgin Mobile also offers free secure charge lockers in food courts. And you don’t need to be a Virgin Mobile customer to enjoy the services — all you need to do is play Pokémon Go and stop in for a charge.

4. Reward Players

Players love to get rewarded with points and the status that comes with leveling up. So celebrate their achievements! For instance, advertise offers for players who accumulate a certain number of points or for those who capture one of the harder-to-find Pokémon. All they need to do is visit your location and show them your mobile phone. Remember, Pokémon Go players are in a happy, enthused state of mind. They want to visit locations where they can play. They will stay and spend money when you reward them to stay. Whatever you do, don’t alienate them by turning them away — unless you want to become a poster child for a business that doesn’t get it. You can also reward players by offering discounts for simply coming in, playing, and capturing Pokémon, as many businesses are doing.

5. Create Your Own Spin-off Contests

Another way to tap into the passion of Pokémon players is to create spin-off games. Consider, for instance, encouraging players to share selfies of themselves at your location (or images of Pokémon they’ve caught) on their social spaces, such as Instagram, with a customized hashtag. Then watch for the images and offer a reward to the most creative one. In Salem, Massachusetts, Flying Saucer Pizza Company encourages customers to share Pokémon Go pictures on social media and tag the restaurant. Players who do so are eligible to win free gift cards. Or you can do as Applebee’s has done, and simply offer to retweet and share your favorite fan-generated images that tag your location. Especially because Applebee’s has reach, the joy of a shout-out and share from the chain is a reward in and of itself.

Dive In

As I noted in a recent Marketing Land column, Pokémon Go is only going to get bigger as Niantic rolls out a formal branded program. I would urge businesses to avoid the temptation to treat Pokémon Go as a passing phase. Pokémon Go is already surpassing many other apps in popularity, and Niantic is still rolling out the game worldwide. By tapping into a strong legacy Pokémon brand and creating a game with brilliant mechanics, Niantic has quickly launched a sustainable business model. Do your homework. Start playing. And start profiting.

For further reading:

 

 

Advertising Age, “Sponsored Locations Are Coming to Pokémon Go on a Cost-Per-Visit Basis,” by Maureen Morrison, July 14, 2016.

Bauserman Group, “10 Examples of Businesses Capitalizing on the Pokémon Craze,” July 15, 2016.

Eater, “How Restaurants Are Dealing with Pokémon Go Mania,” by Whitney Filloon, July 11, 2016.

Forbes, “How ‘Pokémon Go’ Can Lure More Customers to Your Local Business,” by Jason Evangelho, July 9, 2016.

Gizmodo, “Virgin Mobile Has Free Charging Stations for Pokémon Go Players,” by Rae Johnston, July 12, 2016.

Inc.,Pokémon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small, Local Businesses. Here’s How It Works,” by Walter Chen, July 11, 2016.

 PC Magazine: “Pokémon Go: How the Pokéconomy Is Changing Business, One Lure at a Time,” by Rob Marvin, July 13, 2016.

Street Fight, “6 Ways That Local Businesses Are Using Pokémon Go to Drive Business,” by Stephanie Miles, July 12, 2016.

 

July 14, 2016

Pokémon Go: Mastering the Intersection of Location Marketing and Augmented Reality

By Julie Piatek

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Pokémon Go has quickly become one of the most popular mobile apps…ever. In a matter of days, it has topped Twitter’s daily users and is engaging users — so much so that consumers are now spending more time in the Pokémon Go app than Facebook.

In Marketing Land, SIM Partners SVP of Product and Technology, Adam Dorfman, weighs in on the Pokémon Go opportunity for brands and why enterprises with brick-in-mortar locations. In the article Dorfman asserts that now is the time for brands to play and learn, “Even if you don’t capitalize on Pokémon Go, you’ll be one step closer to mastering the intersection of location marketing and augmented reality, projected to be a $120 billion market by 2020.”

Are you playing Pokémon Go? And how do you think brands can take advantage of the fast-growing augmented reality gaming opportunity? Connect with me, I’d love to discuss.

July 8, 2016

How a Coffee Pot Inspired a Location Marketing Experience

By Stardas Pakalnis

How might a business use the Internet of Things for location marketing? It’s the kind of question we discuss on the SIM Partners Velocity product team all the time. I recently decided to take the question a step further with a little experiment involving our Chicago office coffee machine and Twitter.

Our own coffee brewer in the kitchen is like every other machine you see in offices across the United States: a plain-looking contraption that keeps the office fueled by churning out pot after pot of unremarkable but useful coffee. As with a lot of coffee-making units, you have to manually check the machine to gauge its fill levels. And let’s face it — no one likes the experience of placing a cup under the spout in anticipation of getting a much-needed java boost only to find that the pot is empty or down to its last dregs.

Over the course of a few weekends, I created a solution. I built a device that, at first glance, looks a little clunky when you see it connected to the coffee machine:

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In fact, the device, nicknamed SIM Coffee, measures the weight of the coffee pot every second, allowing it to detect when coffee is brewed, how much coffee is poured and how much coffee is left in the pot. As the device monitors this information, it notifies everyone in the office how much coffee is left in the machine. No more surprises or disappointments.

But how do we know the fill levels while we’re sitting at our desks? Here is where Twitter comes into play. I set up a server that collects data from coffee machine, detects fill levels in the machine,  and tweets that information to a @SIM_Coffee Twitter account. If you follow the account, you see tweets that vary by fill level. So, for instance, you might see this:  

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As you can see, @SIM_Coffee has some personality. In the future, we could easily make @SIM_Coffee more interactive, too, by adding visuals such as GIFs along with the quotes about coffee and general messages extolling coffee goodness.

The @SIM_Coffee experiment is admittedly rough and, in the tradition of testing and learning, meant to get us thinking about supporting a location (in this case, our office) with a smart object. But this proof of concept has real-world application. For instance, if you visit Panera Bread often enough, you know that each restaurant relies on a self-service model for customers to get their coffee. Instead of using a small container such as what we use, customers fill their cups from large vessels that rise like little towers from a table. Panera Bread customers face the same issue we do in the office: you don’t know how much coffee is in each container until you attempt to fill your cup. When the container is low or empty, you have to tell an employee, who dutifully trots out a fresh batch, sometimes after a delay.
Now imagine Panera Bread coffee containers being able to let Panera customers and employees know that the House Blend or Hazelnut is running low (or, conversely, is fresh and ready). Panera could easily find a clever way to keep its customers engaged beyond the Twitter-based idea we’ve conjured up.

The Internet of Things does not exist in a vacuum. Smart devices, as this example shows, can enhance a location-based experience in some interesting ways. Why not make a smart device a location marketing machine?

July 6, 2016

How Google Is Accelerating the Uptake of Virtual Reality

By Murali Kundasi

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Google continues to demonstrate its commitment to take virtual reality from the idea lab to the everyday world. On June 27, Google announced an expansion of its Expeditions program through which people can use the Google Cardboard viewer to take VR field trips to places such as Machu Picchu. During the 2016 Cannes Lions advertising festival, Google showcased its VR vision to brands. Most significantly, as was widely reported, at Google’s I/O 2016 event, Google launched its Daydream VR ecosystem, focused on mobile. Brands need to pay close attention to what Google is doing. By using mobile devices to push Daydream, Google is expanding VR well beyond the gaming community.

VR at I/O 2016

Google’s unveiling of Daydream at I/O event created huge buzz, but did you also notice that Google also made the event itself available as 360-degree video livestream? Here was a small step towards mainstream consumption of VR content for everyday purpose — and a sign that Google is practicing what it preaches. With the rollout of VR headsets, 360-degree cameras, and digital assistants, VR media is going to be ubiquitous in the near future. None of those elements alone creates VR, but Google understands that making the building blocks available for widespread use, especially on mobile, is an important step.

The focus on mobile is important. Instead of creating a completely new standalone platform like Facebook or HTC, Google is staging its Daydream VR platform on mobile. For example, as noted at I/O, Google has designed specs to make Android-powered smartphones ready for Daydream VR. By using mobile devices to push Daydream, Google is opening VR outside the gaming community.

By creating standards around its VR platform, Google is pushing its partners to bring VR hardware into mainstream consumption. Google is already spearheading this development with its own product line: Nexus mobile phones. With more partners rallying around VR, we can expect the price of VR hardware (e.g., headsets, mobile phones, and controllers) to go down in future, which also accelerates the adoption of VR by masses. This strategy is similar to the one Google adopted to push its Android platform to masses.

Why VR?

Why Google is pushing VR? One reason is that Google wants to defend its position as major search and advertising platform. The Ad-tech industry is embracing more immersive experiences, and Google’s rivals are already making inroads into VR. By accelerating its Daydream VR into masses, Google will be better positioned to take advantage of the VR era.

Android is key to Google’s adoption of VR. Android keeps Google relevant in mobile world. When people use Google products in mobile, Google can serve better advertisements to its users and generate revenue. When VR goes mainstream with Google’s Android-based Daydream platform as the most used platform (as Google hopes it will be), Google products will be better positioned to understand the consumer. With better user data, Google can serve better search results and advertisement to its users. The bottom line is that Google gets revenue from advertisement — and being closer to user is one trick that Google has mastered to sustain its advertising revenue.

Google’s Recent Moves

Since I/O, Google has continued to demonstrate how seriously it takes VR, an example being the expansion of the Expeditions program. As reported in TechCrunch, more than a million students in 11 countries have used the Google Cardboard viewer to go on virtual trips via Expedition. Google is now making Expeditions available to everyone, which is a sign that Google intends to make VR democratic. All you need is Google Cardboard devices and smartphones or tablets in 2D full-screen mode. Making VR democratic and accessible was the whole point of launching Cardboard in the first place.

Meanwhile, Google continues to demonstrate Daydream’s capabilities in advance of its official rollout this fall. For instance, Google recently shared a demo that shows how you can create animations in VR by grabbing objects and moving them around, thus lessening the need for special skills to create VR.
The strategy is powerful: by making more consumers comfortable with VR through its own products, Google will be the preferred platform when consumers nudge more brands to use VR.

VR is still at its nascent stage with no clear winner. Similar to how photos took long time to become mainstream search content for users, VR content will take time to mature as an acceptable form of content creation and sharing. Mainstream VR will replace both photos and videos as a major content consumption and search optimization we know will be driven solely by VR content and VR experiences. At that stage, brands with better VR content will take advantage of the new shift in content consumption to reach its users effectively.

What Brands Should Do

Brands can do a number of things in light of Google’s adoption of VR. For starters, treat Google as an essential publisher of your content and data. Form a close relationship with Google if you lack one, and strengthen that relationship if you have one. You should be ready to adapt your content for a VR world, and having a relationship with Google will better prepare you.

Now is also a good time to ask how to incorporate VR into your location marketing strategy. For instance, it might make sense to experiment with using VR to enhance your in-store retail experience. And with Google is rebuilding YouTube for VR, you can expect more video experiences to incorporate VR, too. If your brand relies on video to create consumer experiences, you should be ready to incorporate VR content.

For now, VR is still a gamer platform. But VR is changing. Will you be ready?

June 29, 2016

Turn a Site Visit into an In-Store Purchase with a Store Locator

By Emily Helander

Last week, I received an email from a retailer about a sale on their foaming hand soaps (they are wonderful). It was perfect timing as I was nearly out of soap. I had an extremely busy evening, but I wanted to take advantage of the sale without paying shipping fees for hand soap. Clicking through the email, I was taken to their site where I quickly navigated to their store locator to see if I could visit a store in between a doctor’s appointment and dinner. Luckily, I found a store just around the corner from my doctor’s office that was open late enough that I could stop in after my appointment. Without being able to quickly find this information, I probably would have just picked up some hand soap the next day at my local drugstore.

As a marketer, I believe this experience was a great lesson about the importance of making the right information about your business available in the moments consumers are looking for you. Although the retailer’s email campaign and sale piqued my interest, I would not have made a purchase if it hadn’t been for their store locator.

The Importance of a Good Store Locator

Consumers are more informed and independent than ever. In order to win customers, brands  need to provide consumers with the tools to find key information in their moments of need. Store locators do just this, and their impact is huge. According to a recent Think with Google report, in the restaurant, apparel/beauty, and electronics categories, 71 percent of smartphone users say they’ve used a store locator to find a shop location. And even though e-commerce has grown, in-store sales still dominate, with more than 90 percent of retail sales occurring at physical locations.

If a consumer visits a store locator, they likely have a strong intent to purchase. If they are on a brand’s site using a locator, they probably want to visit a store for a good reason — unless the brand gives them a reason to stop looking. Unfortunately, too many businesses do give consumers a reason to stop looking. The most obvious pitfall is the absence of a locator, but a locator that is not easy to use, lacks important information, or contains inaccurate information can be just as detrimental to a brand’s bottom line.

Store Locator Challenges

As the amount of location data available increases, and becomes more complex, it is all the more important for businesses to have user-friendly locators with complete and well-maintained information. Businesses, especially large ones, continue to expand offerings and sub-brands at their locations. At Target you can visit a Freshii, Starbucks, and a pharmacy. As a result, locators need to offer more complex filtering options to help consumers find the services and information they need. But no amount of detailed filters or information will matter if the brand is not keeping their location data up-to-date — which is why a locator is only as strong as the data it’s built upon.

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Although I did find my way to the store and purchased my hand soap, there were still steps along the way that the retailer could have improved my experience. If the email had offered a link directly to “find a store” it would have cut down on the number of clicks I needed to take, and points where I could have potentially dropped off. Similarly, linking directly to a locator that was pre-populated based on my location would have saved me time.

The biggest time killer for me was the lack of more detailed location information. The location I visited was within an eight-story mall, and the time I spent searching the mall directory could have been used browsing other products in the store. Although I ultimately made a purchase, these obstacles might have discouraged another consumer.

Building a Powerful Store Locator

To drive in-store conversions, a store locator must combine location data, relevant content, and experiences that will help a consumer get the information they want and need. At SIM Partners we recommend that you assess a few key components to ensure the success of your locator(s):

  • Location Data – You need to make sure your data is complete and up-to-date. We recommend that you maintain your location data in one central source that can then be used to power your location data management strategy, your locator, and your location pages.
  • Customer Intent – Evaluate what consumers are looking for and what will help move them closer to conversion. By creating custom locators that allow consumers to filter on key criteria, the search experience will be simplified and make the path to conversion much simpler.
  • Next Moments – Provide engaging information and content that will motivate a consumer to become a customer. Not only should you think about your locator results, but you should also evaluate what content is on your location pages — which should link to your locator results.

Locators may seem like table stakes, but having a quality locator can help your brand not leave any opportunity on the table in the moments that matter. To learn more contact us or schedule a demo

June 28, 2016

How Business Attributes Are Encouraging Next Moments

By Adam Dorfman

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If you’ve checked into a restaurant lately, you may have noticed that Google has asked questions such as “Does this location take reservations?” or “Does this restaurant serve breakfast all day?” Google is promoting these questions to help collect business attributes for locations, which helps consumers during their decision-making process.

Knowing if a restaurant takes reservations may inform your decision to go there. For that reason, businesses with multiple locations must treat their attributes as part of their location data.

In my latest Search Engine Land byline I share the importance of business attributes — and how, combined with accurate location data, they can create “next moments,” which encourage consumers to convert.

With recent developments such as Version 3 of the Google My Business API, businesses need to manage their attributes carefully. Have anything else to add? Connect with me — I’d love to discuss.

June 24, 2016

Dr. Google Delivers Symptom-Based Mobile Search Results

By Amanda Bury

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Image Credit: Google 

Of over 100 billion searches occurring on Google daily, one in twenty searches are healthcare related, and one in five healthcare searches are symptom related. Unfortunately, in the past these search results haven’t always been the most reliable — but, that’s about to change.

Google announced earlier this week, that it is rolling out symptom-based search on mobile for healthcare, working with physicians from Harvard and Mayo Clinic to curate the information. Google made a similar announcement back in September 2015, when it released the knowledge graph of symptoms for patients searching on Google.

Mobile Moments: From Search to Care

This recent roll-out is exclusive to mobile, giving patients that are on the go or looking to self-diagnose ease of use. Once a user searches symptoms such as “left side ear pain,” they may uncover that they should see a doctor and get an antibiotic. The next step of course would be to schedule an appointment with a physician.

What This Change Means for Healthcare Marketers

The introduction of symptom-based research underscores why it is critical for healthcare marketers to be visible during moments of need with a search-based location marketing strategy that connects consumers to care.

Patients take multiple paths to find care across a broad discovery ecosystem, of which search represents 77 percent, and mobile plays a large role in those searches. In fact, 60 percent of consumers say they use their mobile phone when choosing a hospital or medical center. When looking at local search patterns, we see patients searching for care around terms like “cardiologist Chicago” or “urgent care Miami.” These “near me” moments represent your opportunity to be visible, relevant, and engaging, when and where people are looking for care.

Symptom-based research triggers more near me searches. Once a user Google’s symptoms such as “left side ear pain” they may uncover that they should see a doctor and get an antibiotic. They most likely want to start the medicine as soon as possible — so they may conduct a “near me” search to find a physician that’s closest to them, or one who is available during the hours they can make an appointment.

Healthcare systems need to be ready for these moments. For instance:

  • Content on your physician pages needs to be descriptive enough to ensure that information about your physicians is visible when people conduct symptom-based research.
  • Your physician directories should guide searchers effectively.
  • Your location data needs to be accurate and visible to ensure that people requiring care can find your physicians.
  • You need to provide tools such as scheduling widgets to make it easier for patients to take the next step and book time with your physicians when they are trying to seek care after they do symptom-based research.

Only a comprehensive location-based marketing strategy that optimizes your locations for search will ensure that patients can find and obtain care with your network of physicians.

What’s Next

Consumer searches for health-related information and care will only increase with the Millennial population on the rise. According to a recent study conducted by Nuance Communications, “More than 54 percent of Millennials say they search online for health information before seeing a physician and reply on doctor ratings; whereas the global average for all patient ages is 39 percent.”

These searches are key moments in the patient journey that represent your healthcare system’s opportunity to connect consumers to care. I expect Google — and others — will continue to continue to innovate in healthcare to meet the needs of consumers when and where they are looking for care. And now is the time for healthcare systems to prepare with a comprehensive location marketing strategy.