New ways to help businesses through COVID-19 with Google My Business.

Most small and medium-sized businesses have faced massive challenges as a consequence of this pandemic and its impact on the economy.  But in response, consumers everywhere on the planet have started hunting for ways to support their favourite companies through this difficult time, especially in places like New Zealand, where restrictions have greatly lifted. 

As an example, Google has highlighted an enormous increase in web traffic, with searches like “how to assist small businesses” seeing an increase of almost 700% over March. 

In response to the rapidly changing trends in online interest, Google has started making changes to Google My Business (GMB).  GMB has always played a huge role in making small and medium businesses (SMBs) visible in their local area, and these changes both update and expand existing features, which we explain in-depth below.

Support Links

The first major change is the global expansion of support links. In early May, Google released support links as an option for Business Profiles, explaining that “merchants are going to be ready to add a donation link, gift card link or both to their profile. They will also share a private message in their post to tell customers how funds are going to be put to use.” 

These were initially rolled out to English-speaking countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and Google has signalled they’ll be rolling out to 18 more markets, including Japan and Italy. 

Secondary Hours 

Google has also come up with a new alternative for listing opening or working hours, as many SMBs have found giving accurate hours so important during this pandemic.

Secondary Hours allow businesses to list multiple versions of their opening times, and many have already begun using this feature to list pick-up or delivery hours, alongside their regular times. Secondary hours are often viewed by clicking “See more hours” on a GMB listing. 

Additions to order with Google

Businesses are typically finding that face-to-face interaction has pivoted towards virtual meetings or online appointments, so Google is improving its offerings in this area. 

Besides integrating online appointments into business listings in a way which will highlight them to users, Google has also changed the way Reserve with Google works.  Currently, Reserve with Google allows users to book in-person appointments through a range of third-party companies.  To help SMBs shift toward more online consultations, the system will soon allow vendors to offer online appointments through third-party partners too. 

Changes for Hospitality Business Listings

Finally, Google has outlined plans to offer restaurants and other food delivery businesses more control of how their product is delivered.  This comes in response to controversies surrounding food delivery, like the revelation in New Zealand that in some cases Uber Eats was charging restaurants between 30 – 35% during the early phases of lockdown. Google intends to permit restaurants to pick their preferred delivery services, in an attempt to curtail this sort of thing. 

Google has also added more attributes to business listings, including “no contact delivery” and “curbside pickup” to provide as much information as possible to users. 

Why do changes to GMB matter? 

While it’s true that others within the digital space, like Yelp, are offering similar (or more) features, Google’s willingness to assist SMBs is worth comparing to the choices offered by others, since their sway in this area is undeniable.

GMB is usually the first port-of-call for any campaign tailored to a small business.  Its value can’t be overstated for businesses that operate an area scale or hold multiple locations. 

Conclusion

These are great changes, but they also raise significant questions. Will these tools stay on indefinitely? If we assume that they’re going to, does this mean GMB will become a serious hub for online and offline transactions?  Only time will tell, but signs point to a much larger shift towards eCommerce than some might suspect. 

How Can Unboxed Digital help?

Do you have a Google My Business listing?  Need help with optimising it?  Unboxed Digital can help you.  Get in touch with us today and ask us how we can take your digital strategy to a new level.

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Therefore book a FREE online meeting if you would like to review your brand, digital footprint and strategy for growth to gain ideas on how to attract more new clients.

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