Get started with Google's Business Messages

How Retailers can Get Started with Google’s Business Messages

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 it?). 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 as a brick-and-mortar retailer, you still have a big advantage over online-only competitors. You 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 that’s why they’ve recently launched Business Messages.    

What is Google’s Business Messages?

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 or by 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.
Google's Business Messages as used in Retail
Google’s Business Messages used in a Retail Context
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 Business Messages will become one of the most widely adopted consumer to business messaging channels in the world. We’ve previously covered the benefits of implementing Google’s Business Messages (in fact, messaging in general) as a customer engagement channel in a multi-unit business. So how do you set it up?  

How to set up Google’s Business Messages

You have two different options when it comes to interacting with consumers directly from your Google My Business page. The option you pick will depend on the complexity and size of your business.  

(i) Independent Retailers

If you are an independent retailer with a handful of stores, you can follow the steps below and switch on the messaging features in your My Business app yourself.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.

(ii) Retail Chains

Retail chains could also choose to use the My Business app to respond to customers. However, this will quickly become difficult to manage because Google has not yet built a dashboard that is suitable for multi-unit use. Instead, they have opened up an API (Application Program Interface) so that existing providers of multi-unit messaging software can help retailers manage the channel efficiently. ServiceDock is such a company and Google have chosen us to be a launch partner for this solution because of our experience in retail customer engagement. The benefit of dealing with a service provider like ourselves are as follows:
  1. We give you oversight and insight into the content of the messages being sent and received by your store associated.
  2. Our mobile app is designed specifically for in-store use on smartphones and tablets and is extremely easy to use so there is no learning curve for new hires.
  3. We also aggregate other channels (e.g. WhatsApp and Facebook) into the same messaging inbox.


3 Tips to Help Retailers Use Google’s Business Messages Effectively

Google’s Business Messages can really help your stores compete with the level of service online retailers can provide via their apps and websites. It can help drive footfall and in-store conversions and really improve the bottom line. Bit it is only effective when used properly.  

1. Personalise the experience

Remember that you’re probably receiving messages from a customer who is either considering visiting the store to make a purchase or has recently done so. The chat should be an extension of the in-store experience, so make the tone as friendly and conversational as possible. Messaging is not a formal channel like email where every message sent needs to start with “Dear” and end with “Best Regards”. Customers will feel valued when you break down barriers. Introduce yourself and ask for their names. Always be attentive to how you can tailor the retail experience towards them and get to know them on a more personal level. 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.  

2. Make sure you respond promptly

The advantage of messaging is that it lends itself to short interactions, unlike contacting a call centre or sending an email. You should really be targeting to get back to customers within 15 minutes, where possible, but because messaging is asynchronous (unlike voice calls) your staff have the flexibility to respond when they have the time. This reduces any stress about whether to answer the phone or talk to the customer standing in front of you. If your store staff can’t respond promptly (e.g. in the run-up to Christmas), consider having a central service team pick up the slack. The last thing you want to do is damage customer relationships by antagonising them by ignoring their messages. 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!  

3. Learn from the feedback you capture

Google has implemented some customer feedback features that can fire at the end of the messaging interaction with the customer. The results of this CSAT (Customer SATisfaction) question will give you an indicator of how consumers are reacting to the channel. If you’re using the right platform, it will also tell you which store associates are delivering great customer service and which ones may need a little more training. Messaging customers will be a new experience for many store associates so keeping a close eye on the satisfaction stores is strongly recommended.  

It’s Time to Get Started with Google’s Business Messages

Consumers are demanding convenience and personalisation, and Business Messages marries these two attributes to help retailers drive conversions and customer loyalty. There are many benefits to implementing Google’s Business Messages, such as improving the level of personalisation your team can offer, increasing footfall by improving the conversion rate of online searches to store visits and it may even improve your SEO rankings. At a time when social distancing requirements mean in-store interactions are more challenging, Business Messages creates the opportunity to extend the in-store experience into people’s homes and offices. Early adopters will benefit the most so start maximising store potential by implementing Google’s Business Messages today. Please contact us if we can be of assistance.
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How Retailers can Get Started with Google’s Business Messages

by Oisin Ryan time to read: 7 min