Commerce

Google now lets merchants accept bookings for online services


Google is introducing a handful of new features and tools to help businesses transition from the physical to virtual worlds. The launch comes as companies and industries have had to embrace the internet due to social distancing measures enforced by the COVID-19 crisis.

Merchants who are registered with Google My Business, a free service that lets businesses manage their online information as it appears in Google Search and Maps, will soon be able to indicate whether they are offering online equivalents of their usual services. This will begin showing up on business profiles in Google Search and Maps “in the coming weeks,” according to a company statement.

Google is also expanding its existing Reserve with Google service — which lets consumers book tickets and make appointments directly from Google — to support bookings for online services. Initial partners include booking services like Booksy, WellnessLiving, Zooty, and Regis, which offer a range of beauty and health services. So merchants working with any of these platforms will now be able to offer online appointments from inside Google and display details such as how to pay and which video platform they use.

Above: Google My Business embraces online appointments

A few weeks back, Google rolled out a new feature that allows businesses to include “support links” in their profile — enabling them to solicit donations from loyal customers or encourage people to buy gift cards.

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At launch, support links were only available in six countries, including the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., but from today the feature will be landing in another 18 markets, including Japan, Spain, and Italy.

Above: Google My Business: Support links

Yelp partnered with GoFundMe back in March for a similar donations tool, though at first the duo automatically opted all businesses into fundraising campaigns — with no way to opt out. Google’s new feature is on an entirely opt-in basis, and merchants can enable it through the Google My Business dashboard.

Moreover, while “delivery only” virtual kitchens were already a major trend, they have not been able to verify themselves on Google My Business. That changes from today.

Adapt

Google has launched a bunch of new tools and features in response to the pandemic, such as allowing advertisers to promote curbside pickups in their online listings and showing COVID-19 testing centers in search results. Last week, Google also began highlighting hotels that cater specifically to COVID-19 responders with discounts and special deals.

The company says search trends for various services have been turned upside down over the past few months, with March seeing a huge spike in terms like “online yoga” versus something like “yoga near me,” which has plummeted. Google also said that between mid-February and mid-May businesses made more than 200 million edits to their profiles, roughly double the number of changes for the corresponding period last year.

Ultimately, businesses across the spectrum have had to adapt to what is being referred to as the “new normal.” With ride-hailing services largely on hiatus, Uber is investing more heavily in its food delivery business while also betting on micromobility services. And institutional investors are backing platforms that allow local pizzerias to sell online, software that makes it easier for brick-and-mortar stores to embrace ecommerce, and cloud-based tools that support the acceleration of distributed workforces.



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