Google turns attention to small businesses as U.S. economy reopens its doors
Google today released a collection of new ad products aimed at attracting more small businesses to its platform.
The news arrives as much of the U.S. economy begins to reopen its doors. The company typically holds its Google Marketing Live conference during this time of year, but with the event canceled due to COVID-19, the search giant says it intends to release new Google Ads products through its blog and virtually over the coming weeks.
The first wave includes ads that allow consumers to book appointments for services such as plumbing repair directly through its popular home page, and updates to its Shopping tab that shows product availability, delivery and curbside pickup options (see GIF below).
Searches for services including “carpet cleaning” and “air-conditioning repair” are up 50 percent in recent months, Google says. Features such as booking appointments through ads reflect its aggressive approach in adapting products to cater to needs born in the pandemic, according to the company
“We are highlighting small- and medium-sized businesses because when COVID hit, those people were disproportionately affected all around the world, but also in the U.S.,” Jerry Dischler, head of ad products at Google, says. “A few weeks before the shelter-in-place order happened, we put together a series of war rooms to help businesses during this time of need.”
Although Google Ads already caters to small- and medium-sized businesses, Google still sees opportunity in bringing more of them to its platform: 1 in 3 small businesses said they would have closed or partially closed their doors without e-commerce tools, the company says.
“The face of retail has changed radically so we wanted to do curbside pickup quickly because people couldn’t get into a lot of stores,” Dischler says. “We made additional investments in local inventory ads that tell you if certain goods will be in stock in your community because so many businesses are running out of essential items.”
Google saw nearly $34 billion in ad revenue during the first quarter this year, the bulk of which came from Search. The new feature allowing consumers to book through its website borrows from a similar strategy Yelp first identified in 2016. Later this month, the company will launch a new mobile site to help people find, compare and book nearby service providers faster, says Dischler.
Dischler adds that the search giant will be making a “cascade” of new product announcements in the coming weeks. “We are on the ground floor of something very interesting and different with e-commerce,” Dischler says. “Twenty-five percent of commerce will be online by the end of the year. If that is the case, it creates an incredible opportunity that we are only just starting to see.”
Meanwhile, Dischler says the company made an additional $200 million commitment to its annual Ad Grants, which provide ad credits for non-profits battling the COVID-19 pandemic; the company says its investment now totals $1 billion. Organizations such as the Houston Food Bank increased donations 332 percent through the Ad Grants program, enabling the delivery of 400,000 meals in April, according to Google. The non-profit did not immediately respond to request for comment seeking specifics of that increase.