The festive countdown is well and truly on – Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been and gone which means we’re now right in the middle of the year’s most frantic bricks-and-mortar and online sales period.
According to the British Retail Consortium, last year’s holiday season saw the first rise in high street footfall for five years, with a 0.8% increase giving retailers plenty to smile about.
More recent figures reported in The Telegraph showed that high streets enjoyed the best September sales for five years, as quick-off-the-mark Christmas shoppers started getting their gifts in early.
It’s a similar story in the US, with a strong September leading to increased sales in October and sustained demand across the retail sector going into the holiday shopping season. Commenting on a report from the Commerce Department, Bloomberg notes, “Among other retailers, sales accelerated in October at furniture stores, electronics and appliances outlets, restaurants, clothing stores and sporting goods merchants.”
So, there’s a growing consumer appetite for a hit of retail therapy but what does that mean for you ahead of the holiday season?
Adobe forecasts that US online sales will surpass $100 billion this holiday season, so now is the time for businesses to make sure they’re as visible as possible when potential customers are browsing the web. A great way you can boost your visibility is to ensure your Google My Business page is completely accurate.
Still not convinced? Adobe Digital Insights 2017 Shopping Predictions expected Cyber Monday to become the largest online shopping day in history, generating $6.6 billion in sales (a 16.5 percent growth versus 2016).
Why is Google My Business important?
Consumers use Google My Business to find and contact reputable businesses in their local area – but our own Local Consumer Review Survey found that shoppers are now much less likely to visit business websites after reading positive reviews.
Why? Convenience dictates they’ll simply contact the business directly using the details found on Google My Business instead. With footfall also naturally higher over the holiday period, it’s vital that your information is both accurate and up to date. If your opening hours are incorrect or your phone number is wrong, you risk losing out on festive custom, both online and offline.
Preparing your Google My Business page for Christmas
It won’t take long to whip your Google My Business page into shape just in time for the seasonal increase in footfall.
Naturally, these tips will be most beneficial to businesses that are busier over the holiday season such as retailers, restaurants, event venues, beauty salons and so on. But that doesn’t mean that other businesses can’t spruce up their Google My Business pages and take advantage of increased searches and greater footfall too. From plumbers and locksmiths to takeaways and electronic repair services, almost everyone can benefit from giving their listing a little TLC.
Here are some of the most important things to pay attention to:
It goes without saying that getting your opening times right is absolutely crucial. You not only need to ensure that people can find you, but also that shoppers know what times you’ll be available. There’s nothing more off-putting for a consumer than starting out on a pilgrimage to pick up the perfect Christmas gift or run a festive errand, only to discover the business in question is actually closed. It can have a massive impact on customer loyalty and may even result in negative reviews.
First, you need to verify that your standard opening hours are correct. If you haven’t listed any opening hours at all, fill them in accurately. Google will not look kindly on incomplete listings, and you’ll have no chance of topping the local pack.
There’s also the option to set temporary Christmas opening hours, or ‘special hours’, which is popular with many businesses at this time of year. Perhaps you’re a restaurant offering later opening times around the holiday season, or a beauty salon that will open for six days a week instead of five during party season? Make sure your customers know when they can drop in.
We all know how important reputation is online – 54% of consumers consider the star rating to be the most important factor when judging a local business. Almost half of consumers look for at least a four-star rating before they even consider parting with their cash.
The Reviews section is one of the first things consumers see when they’re deciding between two competing businesses, so embark on a last-minute push to get some great reviews in before Christmas hits.
Questions and Answers are a relatively new addition to Google local functionality. As you’d expect from the name, they give shoppers the chance to ask questions about a business. Queries can range from questions about parking facilities to those about baby changing options or disabled access. You can provide accurate responses by going to the Questions and Answers feature on Google My Business and engaging with interested parties. You can add frequently asked questions to your Google My Business listing too, giving mobile users instant answers to common queries.
Unfortunately, business owners don’t have any control over the photos that are uploaded by contributors – but you can contact Google to have inaccurate or inappropriate photos removed, if necessary. Listings which reflect the business experience accurately are important to Google, and they will take action against customer-uploaded photos which are clearly misleading or not representative of the business.
You can also upload your own ‘identity photos’, which come in three types: profile, logo and cover photo. Your profile picture should be something that will help people recognize your business. This could be a product, service or something else that relates to your business. Your logo should, naturally, be an image of your business logo. Lastly, your cover photo should convey a little personality. It could be an image of your storefront, or a picture of your team inside the store. It could be a shot of you with a happy customer (make sure you get their permission first) or an image of your store during a peak period.
People Also Search For…
This is another section that you don’t have much control over but it’s useful to see what your competitors are up to. Search for your own site and head for the ‘People Also Search For…’ section. There, you should see a list of the businesses that you’re in direct competition with. Head to their profiles and take notes. What are they doing better than you? What are their weaknesses? This will help you pinpoint where improvements to your own Google My Business listing can be made.
We’d love to hear your thoughts
As a business owner, do you find that Google My Business is important as the holiday season approaches? How do you ensure it stays up to date? Share your experiences with us in the comments.