How Retailers can Get Started with Google My Business Messaging
The way customers interact with stores is changing
Today’s consumers place a high value on the shopping experience, which means offering convenience and delivering excellent customer service is critically important. A key ingredient in achieving that is the ability to engage quickly and easily with the brand but this is frequently where brick and mortar retailers fall down (i.e. Should the consumer contact the store or head office, and what's the best way to do that?).
Online shopping offers convenience and clarity in this regard. There is only one point of contact and that is the website/app, which you are most likely logged into all the time. But brick-and-mortar stores still have the advantage over online only businesses in that they can offer a face-to-face experience with a product expert in a nearby store. The challenge is how best to connect customers to those staff members so that convenience is maximised.
A recent Nielsen study found that 56% of customers would rather send a message than call a business. Thus, there is significant demand for real-time messaging services, particularly among Millennial and Generation Z customers. It is the quickest and easiest way to chat with businesses and it comes naturally to the billions of consumers who already use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SMS texting throughout their day. Calling, on the other hand, is rarely used by younger generations, and it is seen as a more awkward and time-consuming way of communicating.
Google understands this challenge and they’ve decided to do something about it.
What is Google My Business Messaging?
Most brick-and-mortar retailers will already be actively managing their Google My Business (GMB) account because they know it’s where thousands of customers find their location, phone number and opening hours, etc. It’s also the profile that appears when users search for a brand, or for similar businesses in your area (e.g. “shoe stores in Kensington”). For many years consumers have been ringing those same stores directly from the GMB listing using the “Click-to-Call” button. But as we’ve pointed out, there is a strong preference for a messaging option among younger consumers in particular and Google is now offering that channel directly from within search results and the Google Maps app.
By clicking on the “Message” button on the retailer’s GMB profile that shows in mobile search results or within the Google Maps app, consumers can engage directly with store staff or whoever is managing the company’s GMB account (i.e. using the My Business app on a mobile device orby logging into their GMB account). Once the consumer clicks on the button they’re taken to a new messaging feature in the Google Maps app which works just like many of the other popular messaging apps.
This is going to change the way retail stores interact with the local community and, given the pervasiveness of Google search and the Google Maps app, it’s very likely GMB messaging will become one of the most widely adopted consumer to business messaging channels in the world.
We'll cover the benefits of GMB messaging to retailers later in this article, but first let’s cover how to set it up in your store.
How to set up Google My Business Messaging
The messaging tool is simple and easy to use. Here’s how to get started communicating with your customers.
- Open the My Business app and log in with the Google account that manages the page that you want to open the messaging channel on.
- Turn on Messaging by clicking the three dots at the bottom right side of the screen and selecting “Settings”, then “Messages”. Tap “Turn on messaging” and enter your phone number. You will be asked to confirm this number via SMS text. Don’t worry, Google won’t share this number publicly on your Google My Business page.
- Next, set up your customised auto-response by tapping “Edit your welcome message”. Take advantage of this feature to create a bespoke greeting that makes customers feel welcome. We also suggest asking them for details about their query in this message so you can respond with an answer to their question in your first response. This is more efficient for you and a better customer experience than responding with “Hi, how can I help you today?”.
Show the personality of your business, and remember the importance of being friendly and personal. First impressions are essential!
- Finally, be sure you or your staff have notifications switched on for the My Business app so that you don’t miss customer queries and can respond as promptly as possible.
3 Tips to Help Retailers Use Google My Business Messaging Effectively
While the Google My Business messaging feature is a godsend for brick-and-mortar stores striving to compete with online retailers, it is only effective when used properly.
- Personalise the experience
Remember that live chat is a friendly conversation. Customers will feel valued when you break down barriers. Introduce yourself and ask for their names, and always be attentive to how you can tailor the retail experience towards them. Customers will have a great retail experience if they arrive at your shop to meet Jenny, whom they have been speaking with over chat, and get her help in finding the perfect item.
- Make sure you respond promptly
The advantage of messaging is that it’s speedy, unlike contacting a call centre or sending an email. If you can’t respond within an at least an hour or two maximum (when you’re open) then it might be better not to enable the messaging button. The last thing you want to do is damage customer relationships by antagonising them.
Make sure your staff is well equipped to quickly answer queries, and be aware that Google will post your typical response times on your Google My Business listing. They can even deactivate your messaging if response times tend to be longer than 24 hours. And remember, information sent through the app is not encrypted, so asking customers for any credit card or banking information is high risk and not recommended!
- Ask for feedback to make sure you’re learning and improving
Messaging is a real-time conversation that is far more personal and less intrusive than other means of customer communication. Thus, consumers are far more likely to provide feedback. After queries have been answered, follow up by asking a few simple questions. Some ideas include:
- On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend our business to a close friend or family member?
- How was your experience with our service today?
Finally, invite customers to post a review that will appear publicly on your store’s Google My Business page. Always respond to each review individually. You will develop credibility and a reputation for transparency, and gain essential insight into what you can improve.
It’s Time to Get Started!
Consumers are demanding convenience and personalisation, and GMB Messaging marries these two attributes to help retailers drive conversions and customer loyalty. There are many benefits to implementing Google My Business messaging, such as attracting younger customers, improving your SEO and building a reputation for great customer experience.
So what are you waiting for? Start maximising store potential through messaging.