As business districts, retail centers, and destinations continue to grow and become more competitive, organizing and mapping them becomes an essential component in their marketing efforts.
Having a fully functional, informative map that brings customers to your business or shopping district should be easy, right? Unfortunately, many make the mistake of either using the wrong type of map for their website or not using all of the features that make a great interactive map. When businesses first began creating maps for their websites, online maps as we know them today didn’t exist. Brands were making do with scanned print maps or the very limited online options of the day. Today over 70% of shoppers are using mobile to locate places and businesses. With this expanded use, customer expectations have soared, requiring information to be displayed in a standard, familiar-looking format, one that is searchable and interactive.
At Saltwater Software, we’ve had a front row seat to this evolution. Being in the trenches of software design from the beginning has given us a thorough education in what works and what doesn’t. In this blog series, we’re sharing some of what we’ve learned over our years of building software, starting with an inside look at mapping for business.
#1 If They Can’t Find You, Your Map Is Useless
Some destinations assume that the best mapping solution is to simply plug in a commercial mapping module into their website. Unfortunately, commercial modules can have many issues. Sometimes plug ins will send users to erroneous locations. Other times modules will change a posted location without your knowledge. Some look to avoid these bugs by hiring a designer to produce a map that looks better than a commercial module, but under the surface it suffers from the same problems as the plug in. As a result, these options can lead to your site failing at the one thing you need a map to do—get your customers to your business.
#2 Maps Must Be Intuitive
Today’s user expects an interactive map to be closely integrated, allowing the user to see both the location on the map and information about that location in seconds. For locals & tourists alike, a map with no frame of reference is useless. But if there’s a city name next to that dot, with different colors to represent cities of different sizes, icons for airports and landmarks, your customers will grasp where everything is at a glance.
#3 Improve Your SEO & Google Data
When a map is created correctly, it interfaces seamlessly with Google and other search engines, providing them with extensive data and metadata. This information is sent out to the apps people are using to access stores in the area – which in turn drives search rankings for businesses. No off-the-shelf software can offer this. And because information is constantly released to aggregators and the rest of the digital world, you never have to think about doing this yourself either: Member data is made available to directories automatically, taking the burden of SEO tasks off your plate.
#4 Change Swiftly & Accurately
Because of changing landscapes, even the best systems require maintenance. What happens when your mapping software or related system acquires a glitch? Addressing problems and changes internally is a drag on your team. Will your agency address the problem? A strong map requires a team that will be available both during the build and after its implementation for both routine & unexpected maintenance.
#5 You’re In Control
Great custom software solutions enable bulletproof functionality, but also empower the business to easily maintain these systems themselves. We provide is an all-in-one website platform to help marketers manage and maintain essential visitor data. This is supported by an intuitive, extensive and robust CMS system that maintains all locations, business data and categories without external assistance. We are always at work behind the scenes — managing upgrades so you never have to worry about installing patches or other modernization tasks. And of course, always happy to provide any support as needed.
As business districts, retail centers, and destinations continue to grow and become more competitive, organizing and mapping them becomes an essential component in their marketing efforts. After years of experience working with destinations, districts and associations, our software solutions provide the productivity, visibility and sheer marketing power you need to exceed your business goals.
For a great example of powerful mapping at work, check these successful projects: