Google has launched a new feature for businesses to get help from customers as the pandemic takes its toll, the California tech company announced on its blog Wednesday (May 27).
“We’ve seen firsthand … the impact COVID-19 has had on small businesses and how they connect with their customers,” wrote Jen Fitzpatrick, senior vice president of Google Maps. “People across the world are looking for ways to continue supporting corner bookstores, local watering holes, beloved dance studios and other businesses that give their neighborhoods character, even if it’s from a distance.”
To assist local businesses share how their patrons can support them during the pandemic, Google conducted a trial run that allowed merchants in six countries to add donation links and gift cards to their business profiles.
Google did not say how much was raised to support those businesses.
Now, the search engine is rolling support links out to businesses in 18 countries such as Italy, Spain and Japan.
“We’ve partnered with PayPal and GoFundMe for donations,” Fitzpatrick wrote.
For gift cards, companies can link directly to the page on their website or to their gift card offerings with one of their eligible partners, which includes Square, Toast, Clover and Vagaro.
Google is convinced shoppers are seeking ways to help based on the fact that a search for “how to help small businesses” set a record in March 2020, up more than 700 percent from February.
To help customers connect them with businesses in need, Google made it possible for people to look up their favorite local businesses to see if they’ve added donation or gift card links to their business profile.
In the coming weeks, Google said people will also be able to use Search and Maps to find all of the nearby businesses that are asking for support.
Google’s initiative comes as a survey by the Connected Commerce Council, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit whose mission is to promote small and medium-sized business (SMB) access to digital technologies, found that during the COVID crisis 76 percent of SMBs are relying more on digital tools than before. In addition, 40 percent are using digital tools to find new customers during the pandemic and 80 percent say they want to learn more about how these tools can make them more profitable.