[App Fridays] New Google My Business is making it easier for SMBs to connect with customersSohini Mitter
Google rolled out a massive update to a four-year-old app and this time, it wants India’s small entrepreneurs to grow their business online.
Gone are the days when you’d call up a friend for a restaurant recommendation or a retail store suggestion. Or ask random strangers on the road for directions. Smartphones pretty much run our lives now. And, business owners are acutely aware of this. Hence, they are striving to be in sync with changing times.
Google, our go-to directory for almost everything, makes it easier for them to do so. In fact, the search giant claims that every month, it connects nearby businesses with customers more than 9 billion times, including over 1 billion phone calls and 3 billion direction requests to stores.
Google launched the Google My Business app in 2014. It let SMBs and SMEs manage online listings and profiles on Google Search and Google Maps, and made businesses more discoverable to customers.
Four years on, in 2018, Google announced a major design and feature update to the app. The revamped Google My Business, which debuted on Play Store in India a fortnight ago, aims to help micro-entrepreneurs manage their business profiles in real time, boost customer engagement, and track business analytics to understand customers better.
Google explained in a statement,
“For instance, if you’re a restaurant owner and have a packed house on a Friday night, the app allows you to create a post with a picture of the restaurant to engage with prospective customers on Maps and Search.”
The app now makes available a slew of interesting features.
1) A ‘Post’ button that allows businesses to add photos, create events, update special offers and deals or any other additional information to its business profile.
2) A dedicated ‘Customer’ tab for businesses to follow and message customers directly, reply to reviews, and improve interaction between both parties.
3) From within the profile tab, businesses can manage all their edits in real-time across Search and Maps.
4) There is also a free website creator that can build entrepreneurs a functioning business website within a few minutes.
Google My Business is currently the #3 app in the ‘Business’ category of Play Store. Until a week ago, it was #1. It recorded over 10 million downloads to date, and is rated 4.5 out of 5 by users.
YourStory dissects the app.
First, you need to create a business listing with an existing or a new Google account.
Then, you enter your business name and location. The app gives you an option to key in location details as well as a drag-and-drop pin on the map. (You can even hide your business address if it is not a shop. Just tick the box.)
If you are in the business of delivering goods and services to customers, you choose a service area. You can either opt for specific areas where you want to deliver or select distance around your business location.
Next, choose a category that best describes your business. There are scores of categories already listed. Select one from a drop-down box.
Provide a contact number and business website. Google says this is optional, but it just adds more credibility to your listing. Research suggests that customer conversion improves if the listing is complete and accurate.
The listing is not functional until you verify your business. Verification is essentially you confirming that the business belongs to you and is located where you say it is.
Google can either deliver a postcard with your verification code to that address or you can opt to verify later. However, in that case, only limited app features can be accessed.
The site is auto-updated whenever you add/edit/delete your business info.
Google gives you the option to customise the website, tinker with elements on the page from the header photo and the ‘call now’ button to about us, gallery, and opening hours sections. You can even choose a colour template. Once you’re done customising the site, you hit the ‘Publish’ icon on the top right of your screen.
After the listing is verified and operational, business owners can go to the Home page and track Views, Searches, and Actions by customers.
Timely content (text or photos) can be published by hitting the Post button on the homepage. The info is synced in real-time across Maps and Search.
On the Customers tab at the bottom of the screen, businesses can respond to reviews and show customers that their feedback is valued.
Why Google My Business is effective
Google estimates that three out of four shoppers search online when they want to find a business, and seven out of 10 go on to purchase from a business they come across on a search engine.
Hence, for businesses, it makes perfect sense to be visible and accessible when customers are actually looking for their products or services.
And, for small businesses, it is all the more effective because Google My Business is a simple and cost-effective platform for them to get noticed. No billboards, no TV ads, no social media promotions, and yet, word goes out to the potential customer.
Besides allowing businesses to list themselves, the app also provides handy data analytics. It lets businesses know where their customers are located, how they interact with the listing, which photos and offers are getting noticed, the number of searches for the business, and more.
And all this comes at zero cost, in real time, and with just a few taps on the smartphone. So, what’s not to like about Google My Business?