For businesses, 2020 has been an absolute shock to the system with the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc in terms of usual practices.
It has disrupted almost every sector in numerous ways, from affecting opening hours and the ability to trade from one’s premises to staff changes, cash flow, marketing and more.
But while it may be a long road to full recovery, the positive news is that in the digital space there have been innovations designed to help brick-and-mortar businesses communicate more effectively to their customers and improve their online engagement while they navigate a return to normal trade.
One of the most useful tools to do just this is Google My Business (GMB) – the free and highly-effective online business ‘classifieds’ listing has released numerous new features to help businesses, with the major ones as follows.
1. Temporarily Closed status
GMB has introduced a new ‘Temporarily Closed’ status that allows businesses to distinguish between temporary and permanent closure. The feature is useful beyond just the Covid-19 application, as many businesses will be able to use it for other temporary closures such as holidays, renovations or stock-takes.
2. Posts across multiple locations (for chain businesses)
Until recently, GMB has not allowed businesses with more than 10 different locations to publish dynamic content posts (special events or offers, changes in hours, new store launches etc.) across their multiple business location pages. However, to help businesses communicate Covid-19 changes quickly and effectively, this restriction has been lifted. Businesses are advised to use this facility intelligently to post relevant information regarding Covid-19 protocols, but also sales, promotions and special events to help generate revenue.
3. Covid-19 specific posts
Businesses are able to post new content under a specific ‘Covid-19’ post type which surfaces this content more prominently than other posts. The feature allows businesses to highlight health and safety practices, opening hours, store protocols and more.
4. New Business Attributes
Businesses are now able to list a set of brand-new attributes including no-contact delivery and off-premises pickup, which is particularly useful for restaurants, take-away and fast-food businesses and retailers. GMB also displays these attributes prominently using a check-mark, giving customers a strong visual cue when a business offers these facilities.
5. In-home/business Service Attributes
For service-orientated businesses such as plumbers, electricians, maintenance services and similar, GMB has opened up a new set of service checkboxes to help businesses highlight protocols such as what in-home/business services they offer during the pandemic, and what steps they take to protect customers while visiting homes or businesses.
6. Healthcare via digital platforms
To help ease unnecessary visits to businesses involved in primary healthcare, GMB has opened the facility for these businesses to display prominent links to online resources, care options, diagnosis tools and more. This allows visitors to get information about Covid-19 without having to physically visit the facility, helping to ease the burden on the healthcare provider during these extremely testing times.
7. Support & Donation links
Many communities are actively supporting and helping local businesses to recover after retail sales, in particular, plummeted during March and April this year. To help businesses post information on how their communities can help them, GMB has created a ‘Buy a Gift Card’ and ‘Donate’ button which can be added to profiles.
8. Updated Safety Maps feature
To help commuters find safer routes during Covid-19, for example that avoid large crowds or rush-hour congestion, GMB has launched a revised Google Maps which includes highlighted routes, as well as an alert reminding people travelling to a Covid-19 testing facility to verify their eligibility to be tested, thus helping to avoid unnecessary strain on the healthcare system.
Covid-19 has created an extraordinary situation for almost every business, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Google My Business remains a powerful, free and highly-effective business tool to help businesses recover from the current crisis.