Google announces support package for small businesses
Local businesses are core to our communities, but the impact of COVID-19 has been tough on business owners. As the UK steadily reopens its doors to businesses and people alike, Google has pledged to support small businesses across the country with a burgeoning package of products, tools and services to support the reopening and growth of British commerce.
Small businesses can sign-up to access the package of support here. Google has committed to help one million small British businesses stay open - by helping them be found online by the end of 2021.
At the end of 2019, small and medium sized businesses accounted for three fifths of the employment in the UK and around half of turnover in the UK private sector (BEIS). As the UK locked down in March 2020, small businesses had to adapt overnight to survive in the new normal.
Welcomed by HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Google’s new Open for Business initiative is available to all UK small businesses. In particular, it has been designed to help the millions who rely on in-person interaction - such as pubs, restaurants, shops and hairdressers - connect with customers who want to support their much-loved local businesses whilst staying safe.
Being discoverable online has never been more important. In an Ipsos research study 90% of surveyed people visited a business if the business had shared images on Google Search and Google Maps. From opening hours to a telephone number listing these small details make big differences in gaining new customers. In fact, 90% of people are more likely to interact with a business if they have a listed phone number.
Google’s partnership with Digital Boost will connect UK small businesses and charities with Google Digital Garage coaches and Google employees offering 10,000 hours of free 1:1 support and mentoring. From how to build a strong profile on Google My Business to how to attract customers through local listings, and how to increase customer sales through social media, the mentoring sessions will provide support in restarting or adapting a small business or charity to operate in the post lockdown new normal. Further details, including how to sign up can be viewed here.
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “Our small businesses form the backbone of the British economy, fuelling growth and creating jobs in communities across the country. This has been a difficult time for them, and that’s why I am delighted that today Google have announced this plan to help small businesses recover from the crisis. We will all play a part in this national effort to get the UK open for business again safely. Google’s initiative to support our smallest firms is a great step forward in getting our economy back on track.”
As more people turn to Google Maps or Search on their mobile for the most up to date information every day, it’s crucial for small businesses to understand the value in connecting to customers online to allow their offline business to thrive. As part of its global commitment, Google has revealed that £25m worth of advertising credits and grants has been made available to British small businesses, government agencies and NGOs.
In addition, Google has launched a series of free live 60-minute webinars for anyone to sign up to. The content varies from Get Started with live streaming to optimise your teams online and also understanding analytics. The content is being delivered in collaboration with organisations such as Chelsea Football Club Foundation through their startup business programme 'Edge of the Box Club'. Local MPs, small businesses and charities across the UK are also working together with Google on delivering these sessions.
As part of the Open for Business initiative, Google is also encouraging people to support their local businesses, including the following:
1) Report a place as re-opened and edit other helpful information
Members of the public can report a business as re-opened by clicking on the 'Temporarily Closed' banner on the business and selecting 'Suggest an edit'. And for businesses that have reopened with different hours, submit updated open hours information.
2) Spread the word with reviews, ratings and photos
Customers can share their experience. Writing about a restaurant’s well-executed takeout window or adding photos of the menu in a Maps review can help well-loved businesses attract more customers.
3) Buy a gift card or leave a donation via support links for your favourite local businesses
By searching for 'support local businesses' or a similar term in Google Search customers can see a list of businesses in their area that are accepting donations or offering gift cards. Businesses in the UK can now set up gift card or donation campaigns through Google My Business. Read more here.
4) Make a reservation for a future appointment
Customers can reschedule services and appointments for a future date to assure local merchants that they still have your business. Plenty of salons and other businesses take appointments and reservations directly from Search or Maps.
Ronan Harris, Google Managing Director, UK said: “Local businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. Like millions up and down the country, we want to help small businesses both survive and thrive. Through this programme we’re aiming to upskill SMEs and charities by helping them adapt to operating in a post lockdown environment. Despite the ongoing uncertainty, we want to show that having an online presence can have a transformative impact on offline businesses.”
Sherry Coutu, CBE, Founder Digital Boost commented: “In the past, many leaders of small businesses and charities have struggled with building up a significant online presence. COVID-19 has exposed this lag in digitalisation in dramatic ways. I’m excited that this partnership with Google allows Digital Boost to provide hope: you can turn to us for multiple digital skills boosts to survive the COVID-19 crisis and these boosts will also ensure you have the digital skills to be competitive in the long run.
"The gift of mentoring doesn’t last a day, a week or a month - the skills and knowledge imparted last a lifetime. For that, I am profoundly grateful to Google (and their employees and partners) for their generosity, the impact of which I believe will be transformational to the UK economy.”
Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “FSB is delighted to work with Google on their package of help for small businesses and the self-employed, that have faced immense pressure as a result of COVID-19. The first place many consumers turn to when looking for a product or service is Google, and helping small firms to be more visible as they reopen will go a long way to helping them get back on their feet.
"The mentoring courses and webinars on digital skills and advertising credits all being offered for free will be crucial, and have a positive impact on the small business community. They won’t just help in the short-term, but will help firms make their mark as they navigate a new normal, which will be defined by greater digitisation over the years ahead.”
Roy Rickhuss CBE, General Secretary, Community said: “Community’s members have already had the opportunity to experience the benefits of Google Digital Garage, which has opened up new skills and knowledge to people. This is a welcome new initiative from Google, which I’m sure will be welcomed by our members, both self-employed and freelance workers and those working in small charities across the UK. So many self-employed people and small businesses have faced some vast challenges through lockdown. These tools and support will make an important contribution to supporting them as the economy opens up.”