Chat with customers in real time via Google Search and Google Maps – how it works, how to set it up and how to build automated chat experiences with the Business Messages API.
The pandemic has changed the way brands and consumers interact forever. People continue to do more of their shopping online and Google research finds half of all adults adopted new technology during the pandemic – including 33% of people over 55-years-old.
According to Forrester, this technology adoption has increased demand for instant gratification, particularly among those who are starting to enjoy the convenience of online shopping during the pandemic.
Google believes its new Business Messages system can provide this instant gratification for local and offline businesses through real-time conversation.
Business Messages is a new product that allows consumers to communicate with companies in real-time from Google Search and Google Maps. Basically, Google has implemented an instant messaging system into the search experience, allowing consumers to start a conversation with companies at the touch of a button.
“Business Messages is a mobile conversational channel that combines entry points on Google Maps, Search, and brand websites to create rich, asynchronous messaging experiences that delight customers and drive business results.”
Let’s say someone needs a new pair of running shoes tomorrow and they’re not willing to wait a couple of days for delivery. They want to find a pair of shoes in their local area and they want to know the company they buy from has them in stock, ready for pick-up the next day.
With Business Messages, they can chat to the company directly and confirm that, if they buy the pair of shoes online now, they can pick them up tomorrow.
If you’re a fan of cheesy explainer videos, you’ll love the joy on this couple’s faces as Business Messages solves all of their moving-in problems.
Gratuitous smiles aside, the video highlights some useful examples of how Business Messages can solve real-life consumer problems and turn them into business opportunities for companies using the system.
First, our couple realise the sudden need for a sofa in their new, unfurnished property and a search for “fast furniture delivery near me” returns local results with the Chat button featured alongside the usual connectivity options (call, directions, website, etc.).
Tapping the chat button opens up the instant messaging interface where an automated bot handles the initial conversation, allowing for instant responses.
The couple browses couches in the chat, selects their favourite option and even books a delivery time without a human needing to intervene. In no time at all, the couple has bought what they need and scheduled delivery at their time of choosing.
Meanwhile, Couch Depot has won the sale with a fully automated channel by providing instant gratification.
Even before the pandemic, 75% of consumers said they would rather talk to brands through text or instant messaging than social media and other channels. Now, we have a larger consumer base of technology adopters demanding instant confirmation and Google aims to satisfy this demand with Business Messages.
To start using Business Messages, you’ll need to turn the feature on in your Google Business Profile. If you’re managing a single business location, typing your company’s name into Google Search should bring up your Business Profile on the results page with a carousel of recommendations to enhance your profile. If you don’t already have Business Messages turned on, this will include a prompt to Turn on chat which you can click to activate.
Alternatively, you can log into your Google Business Profile and click on the Messages tab in the left-hand menu to activate the feature.
Once you’re done, customers will see the chat button appear on your business profile as shown below:
Clicking on this button will open the chat UI and activate your automated welcome message, which you can edit from your Google Business Profile. As soon as customers leave a message, you’ll receive a notification and it’s important to reply quickly.
Google says you should reply to messages within 24 hours and warns it may deactivate chat for businesses that fail to respond quickly enough. Ideally, you want to reply to messages faster than this because purchase demand is highest when customers click the send button.
Your reply speeds could determine whether customers get in touch, in the first place, too. When customers find for your business on Google Search and Maps, they’ll see an estimated response time, based on your replies from the past 28 days:
Customers may be more inclined to get in touch if they trust they’re going to get a quick response.
With Business Messages set up, you can interact with customers in the following ways:
You can do all of the above manually via the instant chat interface and Google says it will add more features in the future.
For smaller and local businesses, manually handling conversations through your Google Business Profile shouldn’t be a problem. However, larger businesses that are likely to deal with a lot of requests need a more automated solution to handling incoming messages.
This is where the Businesses Messages API facilitates automated experiences like the ones demonstrated in the explainer video we looked at earlier.
To build this kind of experience, you’ll need to use (and pay for) a partner application or service provider – and you can find the full list of partners here.
With a customised chat system integrated with Business Messages, you can recommend products/services, facilitate bookings and purchases, accept payments, arrange deliveries and create a fully automated customer experience.
If you need help with Google Business Messages or your wider SEO strategy, our SEO team can help. Call us on 023 9283 0281 or fill out the contact form below and we’ll get back to you. You can also check out our SEO services to find out more.
Gemma joined Vertical Leap in March 2020 as an SEO Specialist after having worked in marketing for 7 years for both in-house and agency side, where she was involved with everything from social media management, through to content development and email marketing campaigns. As a member of the ESEO team, Gemma helps to deliver strategic SEO campaigns across a range of brands on a local, national and international level.
Gemma is well travelled after exploring the world for almost two years and living down under for 12 months. She’s passionate about snowboarding, fitness and supports her local football team, Southampton FC! When she’s not at work doing SEO, you can often find her on her paddle board floating somewhere on the River Hamble or indulging in a snack or two.
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