Google finds we are an economy of kindness

Local businesses are core to our communities, but the impact of COVID-19 has been tough on business owners and the surrounding community. As part of Google’s commitment to supporting local businesses in the UK, new research conducted by YouGov on behalf of Google has been released today which reveals the positive changes in people’s connections to their local community sparked by lockdown and that up to date online information is key to reigniting consumer confidence. 

As 88% of Brits believe that consumer confidence in visiting local businesses is important to revive the UK economy, it has never been more important to open the conversation as a nation and ensure everyone knows how to play a small part in making a big difference to the UK’s recovery. 

Of the 2,000 Brits surveyed 85% of respondents said having up-to-date business information - such as new opening hours - online was important. Details of special measures taken by businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were said to be important by 71% of respondents, ahead of a star rating for the business (63%) and information on opening hours (62%).

The research compared the views of 2,000 UK consumers and 1,000 UK small businesses in relation to changes in behaviour and feelings towards local areas and businesses. 38% of UK consumers said they had shopped more at local businesses during lockdown, with 88% of those respondents saying they would be more likely to choose to shop locally in the future. 23% now know the names of more people in their local area and 42% say there’s a stronger sense of community now than pre-lockdown. 

Google Search Trends data supports YouGov’s findings as searches for ‘local’ surged between March - August 2020 with top searches being: ‘local guide programme’ (+1620%),’ local farm box’ (+1348%), ‘local meat delivery’ (+1345%), ‘local farm shops’ (+963%),’local bike shops’ (+432%) and even ‘local beer delivery’ (+541%). As the UK locked down, Brits’ kindness and generosity was truly revealed as searches for ‘volunteering’ reached a record high in the UK in March and in April searches for ‘donation’ reached a record high in the UK with ‘donate to NHS’ surging +1668% between March - August. Searches for ‘near me’ began to steadily increase in April and reached an all-time UK high this month. 

The research also shed light on how local businesses in the UK feel about their local communities. 62% said they felt a responsibility to their local community during lockdown and 41% feel more appreciated by customers now compared to pre-Covid times.

The businesses were also asked for their opinions on how their relationships with customers have changed in the past few months; 40% feel that customers care more about their business since pre-lockdown and 26% recognise more customers now than they did pre-lockdown. 

But how can we help? 

When asked what customers could do now to support local businesses in today’s challenging climate 70% requested either word of mouth or online recommendations, 51% said an online review would help boost business and 37% said customers posting a photo of the business or its products online would be useful support. 

With 54% of consumers reporting seeing more acts of kindness during lockdown, Google is calling for this kindness to be channelled into local business support. From today some much loved British faces such as Anthony Joshua, The Vivienne, Julie Adenuga, and Lady Leshur will be sharing their unique ‘love letter’ tributes to their most-loved local businesses on social using #DearLocal. 

Google is encouraging Brits to join the conversation and show their appreciation to their most loved local businesses by posting a Google review then sharing on social to join the #Dearlocal conversation. 

For its part, Google is supporting local businesses via its Open for Business initiative, welcomed by HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The initiative commits to helping 1 million small businesses remain open by the end of 2021. In addition to this Google has committed £25m in ad credits and 10,000 hours of free mentoring, in partnership with Digital Boost, for UK small businesses. For more information click here.

As the backbone of local economies, it’s never been more important to ensure small businesses have the help they need to adapt and benefit from the opportunities provided by digital.  Around 30% of UK SMBs do not currently own a company website, while 71% do not manage a search engine listing or map listing for their business (YouGov SMB Decision Makers Survey, November 2019). To further support the Open for Business pledge, Google is launching a one-stop-shop specifically for small businesses across the UK to help them succeed online. This includes a free tool that provides bespoke recommendations for the right products and resources for every business whether they are getting online for the first time or want to strengthen their existing web presence and reach more customers. Google for Small Business is live from early September 2020. 

Small Business Minister Paul Scully said: “Throughout this crisis, we have stood side by side with businesses to ensure they get the right support at the scale and speed needed to get back on their feet and reopen safely. Shopping locally not only supports local jobs but the wider community too, and it is great to see Google offering these small and often independent businesses the advice they need to advertise their business online, encouraging even more people to back their local high streets.”

Ronan Harris, Managing Director, Google UK, commented: “Local businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. Like millions up and down the country, we want to help local businesses both survive and thrive. The results of this research show we’re more likely to visit a business if we’re confident in knowing what we’ll find when we get there.  From something as simple as updating opening hours, posting a review or a photo of anti-Covid measures taken by a business, we can all help make a positive impact by sharing online information for our favourite local businesses.”

Anthony Joshua, British Professional Boxer said: “Community has always been really important to me. The people that make it but also the economy that underpins it all. It can be easy to take it for granted but whether it’s your barber or your local takeaway, cafe or pub, each one of them is more than a small business -  they’re the backbones of communities right across the UK. I think it’s more important now than ever before that we show them some appreciation and love however we can.”