With the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on the everyday running of many local businesses and services and the potential for further local lockdowns or even temporary changes in trading hours due to virus impacts, businesses must be prepared and ready to respond quickly to enable their local customers to be efficiently and effectively updated.
There is no question that the impact of the global pandemic that is Covid-19 hit business at great speed, and the effects at first were dramatic and hard-hitting. Google My Business (GMB) reacted quickly to provide a cushion for some of the many local businesses affected and it continues to recognise that the future survival of many will be a great challenge. Providing adaptions quickly and implementing some of the changes long term for the future, GMB hopes to provide a better outlook for businesses and their local consumers moving forward in this “new normal”.
Google were quick to respond and to maintain the benefits of their adaptions businesses need to continue to constantly review, monitor and assess their GMB listings to ensure reputations are maintained and consumers know how to reach them.
One of GMBs most successful features was the temporarily closed feature which allowed shops, stores, restaurants and services to provide instant information as to their situation during lockdown. This feature will be a vital form of communication for local companies and will be monitored carefully by consumers should future local lockdowns be activated. A highly successful feature for the current situation but also a great long term detail for seasonal businesses in the future.
Some features, such as Google Posts (also known as Posts with Google), were lifted to allow businesses with more than 10 locations to publish posts across all outlets providing customers with vital updates quickly. A useful update feature that may not be around forever, so use it wisely to share important health and safety information about the running of your services during the pandemic while also sharing adverts, sale information and special events.
The prominent Covid-19 post type creates an instantly recognisable feature that displays any Covid-19 information relevant to the running of your business or any information consumers need to know. Monitor its usage and appearance on your GMB page.
Accuracy of information is vital when adding attributes and displays, such as no contact delivery for restaurants and delivery companies, and looks to be a useful feature for businesses in the future as changes to the way we now live continue to develop. Google provided an instantly clear and concise opportunity to display this information by locating it in the knowledge panel and it’s only beneficial to your business if regularly maintained.
Hugely helpful to service providers, such as plumbers and electricians, is the local service ad attribute feature that allows you to provide updates to customers about the health and safety guidelines you will follow to ensure the safety of them while providing your services. Information such as PPE you will be using, cleaning procedures and social distancing regulations you will be following can all be indicated in this feature too.
GMBs allowed healthcare providers to share vital information and provide links for patients to access support online through its telehealth and Covid-19 links, reducing the number of people turning up at health care settings in person. This was greatly successful in reducing the amount of footfall into the practices reducing the virus spread potential and is a must for any local health care provider if not currently using this feature.
GMB really is thinking about how to continue to support local businesses during this unsteady time and features, such as the adapted hour’s services to include secondary trading hours that are for specific consumers such as the elderly or key workers, is a key feature that can be instantly applied should local lockdowns occur. The updated Google Maps means travel services now communicate the safest travel information and which are the less busy routes to follow. It even includes information on the impact of travel on routes to Covid-19 testing sites. Allowing consumers to be aware of this travel update information could be beneficial to the footfall through your doors and that could have a positive impact on sales.
Consumers love nothing more than seeing what is actually happening so use the visual content on GMB to really promote your business. Show customers what you are doing to keep them safe when they arrive, include images of checkout screens, one way systems, the PPE staff will be wearing, hand sanitiser stations and how services are being adapted to ensure health and safety come first. Create a range of visuals, such as photos and live video tours, to engage consumers and build trust. Nothing says welcome to our local business than providing a safe setting and a smile, even if it is behind a mask.
Being clear and concise in the information you provide to your local customers is vital to the future success of your business and Google My Business is proving that consumers are reaching out to you for updates and guidance so be there for them and they will be there for you.