The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted a massive shift to virtual offerings and their popularity only continues to grow as people increasingly favor digital experiences over in-person interaction. As uncertainty and fear continue to linger, businesses across all verticals must be nimble to adopt new ways of operating to accommodate consumers’ concerns. Business may not be as usual, however, Google continues to alter its technology to enable brands to better communicate any special social distancing services they may be offering.
As more brands seek to build out their digital offerings, Google has provided documentation on how to offer your services online. Now businesses can “highlight your fully remote and real-time services such as classes, appointments, or consultations via Google My Business (GMB)” via “Online” attributes. Businesses benefit from displaying their virtual services by improving the discovery process, more easily communicating their online offerings to customers, and facilitating the online booking process. Additionally, attributes display prominently on your Business profile, for broad category searches, and on specific Business Profiles on Google Maps and Google Search.
Connect With Your Customers Through a Video Appointment
In addition to leveraging “Online” attributes, businesses can also connect with their customers via video, which was first noticed by SterlingSky’s Colan Nielsen.
When inquiring further with Google regarding this new feature, Search Engine Land found:
“This functionality is a further extension of our online services announcement earlier this year. Merchants can already note on their Business Profiles that they offer virtual services and add links for booking online appointments. We’re testing some new functionality to help merchants easily get started with video conferencing providers so they can begin offering virtual services. There’s no change to what’s displayed on the Business Profile.”
In order to connect with video, businesses must sign up with a provider to start offering online meetings, appointments, or classes to their customers. The available providers include:
- Google Meet
How to Show You Conduct Business Online
To let people know you conduct business online, take the following steps:
- Sign in to Google My Business
- Click Home
- Go to “Stay Connected during COVID-19”
- Click the type of online service you want to update, such as:
- Online classes
- Online appointments
- Online estimates
- To show your business offers online services, click the checkbox.
Google advises keeping in mind that “in-person appointments that customers book online do not qualify as an online service”. However, virtual appointments via live video qualify as an online service.
Why Local Businesses Should Care
Coronavirus has undoubtedly been a catalyst for remote work. In fact, 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work in a post-pandemic world. Additionally, more consumers are relying on online shopping and appointments in an effort to avoid in-person interaction. BOPIS sales have drastically grown 259% year over year in August, and smartphone sales generated 40% of online sales so far in 2020.
Local businesses must adjust their services to reach consumers where they are shopping and interacting, which is largely online. They must also display how their services have shifted on their local listings to showcase accurate and up-to-date information to searchers during their time of need. Check out these resources to help you surface critical information to your consumers: