Google Maps ramps up support for local businesses

File: A label will reportedly also let users know whether the number of Covid-19 cases in a particular spot is trending up or down.

File: A label will reportedly also let users know whether the number of Covid-19 cases in a particular spot is trending up or down.

AFP/Justin Sullivan

SAN FRANCISCO - Google's popular map service added more ways for people to engage with local businesses struggling to survive the economic hit of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Google Maps enhancements were touted as part of an effort to help small shops and restaurants.

They come a week after Facebook unveiled free tools for retailers to create online storefronts on the social network and Instagram.

Google searches for "how to help small businesses" rocketed to an all-time high in March, according to Google Maps senior vice president Jen Fitzpatrick.

READ: Facebook Shops to showcase online stores

New features at Maps include being able to check by name whether local businesses have donation or gift card links at their online profiles.

In the weeks ahead, Maps will make it possible to use its search tool to find all nearby restaurants asking for financial help to endure the crisis, according to Fitzpatrick.

Google has protocols to check whether businesses reaching out for support are legitimate operations, the Maps team said.

In response to financial disruptions caused by the pandemic, Maps recently began allowing merchants in a half-dozen countries to add links to make donations or buy gift cards.

READ: Google boosts support for checking coronavirus facts

Google on Wednesday added another 18 countries including Italy, Spain and Japan.

Maps is also ramping up tools for customers to tune in to online sessions or appointments.

"Merchants who normally provided in-person services are now pivoting to connect with their customers virtually -- from yoga studios offering online classes to salons hosting virtual hair styling classes," Fitzpatrick said.

"We’re making it easier for customers to discover online classes and book virtual appointments."

Source
AFP