Last June, in the early months of the pandemic, we expanded Business Messages to support all kinds of businesses, from pharmacies and grocery stores to airlines and luxury brands. Then, in December, we announced the ability for small businesses to use the Google Maps app to message with their customers. We knew people would find messaging directly with businesses from Google Search and Maps helpful, but we didn’t know just how valuable it would turn out to be.
Consumers are increasingly eager to use messaging to connect with brands, and businesses across all industries are now building innovative messaging experiences to address that growing need. The demand from consumers is reflected in recent data:
45% of users have spent more time on messaging services because of the pandemic
85% of consumers would like to messagebrands directly, up from 65% in 2019
Being able to message a business directly has never been more important. For me personally, there’s nothing more fulfilling than using technology to help people in the moments that matter. After the release of initial COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020, online searches for vaccines reached an all-time high. To help people searching for vaccine eligibility, availability, and appointment booking, Albertsons Companies’ banner pharmacies—like Albertsons, Safeway, and Vons—made this information easily accessible through Google Search and Maps via the “chat” button. This gave people the information they needed, when they needed it.
To be more helpful in moments like these, over the last year, we’ve made Business Messages available globally, in more than 70 languages, and we’ve seen more than 30,000 brands and 200 partners come on board. Major brands like Carrefour, Walmart, and Woolworths have invested in Business Messages to help serve their consumers in new and meaningful ways.
Expanding the conversation between consumers and brands
There were major shifts in consumer behavior during the pandemic, from the way people found and purchased products to the ways they interacted with businesses. Not only did we see higher demand for direct contact with brands, but retail searches also surged. At the end of 2020, retail searches grew at a rate that was more than three times higher than the same period in 2019 (based on Google internal data).
As Business Messages has become more widespread, brands are able to boost both responsiveness and customer satisfaction using the service. Levi’s, for example, surpassed 85% customer satisfaction scores using Business Messages and they discovered that the service drove 30x more store-related questions than web chat.
Many brands have also digitized what were traditionally in-store experiences, especially in high-consideration categories like jewelry. For example, Signet brought its virtual jewelry consultant to Business Messages, offering customers advice and answering queries in a way that’s convenient but still feels personal.
As a working mother, these sorts of innovations have made a direct impact in my own life. I find it very helpful to be able to ask—and get real-time answers to—everyday questions using Business Messages, ranging from store hours and product availability to order status and how to make returns. One of my favorite features is the ability to know, in real time, what store wait times are like, and the exact location of the product I’m looking for, saving me precious time when I visit the store.
Business Messages helps people do more with their time in other ways as well. Earlier this year I’d been meaning to change my insurance plan, but kept pushing it off because I didn’t want to get on a phone call. I can now message Geico to update my policy through the agent pretty effortlessly. Similarly, in India, Vi customers can use 24×7 real-time customer service to chat with their AI powered virtual assistant VIC, integrated with Google’s Business Messages, to check billing information, activate packs, add recharges and payments, check balances, and much more—and it all happens seamlessly.
Building a full suite of messaging products
We’re investing in building a full suite of messaging products that enable seamless conversational commerce to drive business results. As Business Messages continues to support brands in establishing their messaging presence on Google, we’re also experimenting with other ways to help them increase their reach and engagement on Search and Display. To accelerate on the digital front, we recently integrated AdLingo, a project built within Area 120, Google’s in-house incubator. This will enable brands to easily transform ads into AI powered, personalized conversations at scale.
For more information on how you can activate Business Messages, please reach us via the contact form on the Business Messages website. Merchants can also read and respond to messages via Google My Business or on the Google Maps app.
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