Chancellor welcomes Google business lifeline

Google has pledged to support small businesses across the country with a package of products, tools and services to support the reopening and growth of British commerce.

A new initiative means they can sign-up to access the package intended to help one million SMEs to stay open.

The search giant says being discoverable online has never been more important, citing an Ipsos study that revealed 90 per cent of those surveyed visited a business if that business had shared images on Google Search and Google Maps. A similar number said they are more likely to interact with a business if they have a phone number listed online.

At the end of 2019, SMEs accounted for three fifths of the employment in the UK and around half of turnover in the UK private sector.

Google’s new Open for Business initiative, in partnership partnership with Digital Boost, is available to all UK small businesses. In particular, it has been designed to help the millions who rely on in-person interaction – such as pubs, restaurants, shops and hairdressers – connect with customers who want to support local businesses whilst staying safe.

Our small businesses form the backbone of the British economy, fuelling growth and creating jobs in communities across the country

It includes coaching sessions with Google staff offering 10,000 hours of free 1:1 support on subjects such as building a profile on Google My Business, attracting customers through local listings, and increasing sales through social media.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak welcomed the initiative. He said: “Our small businesses form the backbone of the British economy, fuelling growth and creating jobs in communities across the country. This has been a difficult time for them, and that’s why I am delighted Google have announced this plan to help small businesses recover from the crisis.

“We will all play a part in this national effort to get the UK open for business again safely. Google’s initiative to support our smallest firms is a great step forward in getting our economy back on track.”

As more people turn to Google Maps or Search on their mobiles for the most up-to-date information every day, it’s now considered crucial for small businesses to understand the value in connecting to customers online to allow their offline business to thrive. As part of its global commitment, Google has revealed that £25 million worth of advertising credits and grants has been made available to British small businesses, government agencies and NGOs.In addition, Google has launched a series of free live 60-minute webinars for anyone to  sign up to.

Ronan Harris, Google’s UK Managing Director, said the aim was “to upskill SMEs and charities by helping them adapt to operating in a post-lockdown environment” and Sherry Coutu, the founder of Digital Boost said Covid-19 had “exposed a lag in digitalisation in dramatic ways”.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The first place many consumers turn to when looking for a product or service is Google, and helping small firms to be more visible as they reopen will go a long way to helping them get back on their feet.

“The mentoring courses and webinars on digital skills and advertising credits all being offered for free will be crucial, and have a positive impact on the small business community. They won’t just help in the short-term, but will help firms make their mark as they navigate a new normal, which will be defined by greater digitisation over the years ahead.”