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How your business can use free Google Shopping listings.

By Sid Routray|Friday August 7, 2020

As your company shifts to digital venues, there is an increasing number of available services to help you to connect with new customers and increase your sales. One of the biggest changes to the eCommerce landscape is that Google Shopping now lets businesses list products for free.

Find out how local businesses can take advantage of free Google Shopping listings.

What is Google Shopping for business?

Google Shopping is an online product directory that you can use by clicking over from a Google search to the Google Shopping tab.

Google Shopping isn’t a storefront, but instead, acts like a product search engine. Users can search for items across different retailers and can review relevant listings. There’s also the option to filter by price, brand, product details and other factors such as what’s available nearby.

Clicking on one of these listings redirects the shopper to the business’s self-hosted online store or other sales venues like Etsy or eBay. Product feeds auto-populate inventory information so users can find what’s in stock and ready to ship. The listing can also help shoppers know what’s available for curbside pickup, an important factor for those who are looking to limit their time in stores.

In 2012, Google changed the platform from free listings to a collection of advertisements. Even though the platform looked like a neutral product directory, businesses were paying to get their items showcased in Google Shopping. As you’ll read below, this has changed again.

Google Shopping listings are now free.

In April 2020, Google announced that any business can now list its products on Google Shopping for free. This is a significant change that will allow many more businesses a chance to connect with new shoppers.

By listing in Google Shopping, you’ll have an opportunity to get your products matched with millions of shopping searches each day. Whether your company has slashed its advertising budget or your small business is just starting to go digital, free Google Shopping listings can be a game-changer.

“What we’re seeing is that there are many, many retailers and small businesses that stand ready to serve shoppers, but don’t yet have a great way to connect with them digitally,” Google’s president of commerce, Bill Ready, explained to The Verge. “We think that by doing this, it helps many more shoppers find what they’re looking for, but it also helps bring some quite needed relief to the retail and small business ecosystem.”

Existing users of Merchant Center and Shopping ads don’t need to do anything to take advantage of free listings. Initially, the free product listings program only applies to US merchants. However, it will be rolled out globally over the next several quarters. Plus, a partnership with PayPal will be coming soon.

What are the advantages of listing your products on Google Shopping?

For sellers using Google Shopping, the primary benefit is to “make your products discoverable.”

For example, a company that sells razors directly to consumers on their website needs to help people to discover their products while also driving shoppers to their product pages. By listing their products on Google Shopping, they’re creating another traffic pathway that could lead to more sales.

Now that listings are free, businesses can add their full inventory of items to achieve maximum potential visibility.

Free Google Shopping listings can help retailers to stay afloat during changing business circumstances. It can also help small businesses to play a role during supply chain gaps where they may have inventory available even when major stores are sold out.

How will Google’s product ads differ from free listings?

Even as Google Shopping changes to offer free product listings, there are still options for paid ads that look similar to product listings but are prominently displayed.

Google says, “Paid listings will continue to appear in ad slots and will operate in the same way as Shopping Ads do today.” This means that even though the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings, paid listings will likely be on the top and bottom of search results and could be scattered throughout too.

For local businesses, paid listings can be a way to augment free listings to help get prioritized visibility. As the number of items listed continues to grow, there will be an increased incentive to showcase your items that people are shopping for.

How can your business make the most of free Google Shopping listings?

For users, Google Shopping is a comparison tool. They can easily see which products are lower-priced, which have better reviews, and which products match their needs.

This means that the first consideration for merchants is the items themselves. If you offer a quality product at a good price, you’ll have a better chance of earning more customers.

The second consideration is the search algorithm that powers Google Shopping. The product listings may be free, but search engine optimization (SEO) will become a key factor as to how often your products are displayed to shoppers.

As products from more stores are listed with Google, use SEO principles to increase your chances of being one of the top listings for a shopper’s search. This includes using keywords, metadata, helpful descriptions and high-quality photos.

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Loyal customers are critical to business success because they tend to be a source of repeat business. According to The Loyalty Report 2018, “Loyalty programs that establish positive emotional connections with Members see 27% more of their Membership increasing their spend with the Brand.” This research tells us that building customer loyalty can lead to more spending.

Loyalty programs vs. improving customer experience: Designing your approach

There are different approaches to building customer loyalty. Some companies use loyalty program cards, bonus offers and other incentives. You might offer access to special deals like CVS or take 5% off the purchase price like Target. You might even give some or part of your product away for free, like airlines that provide free flights through their loyalty programs. What if your small business isn’t interested or able to offer these kinds of loyalty programs?

There is another way to encourage loyal customers to keep giving you repeat business. Gather customer feedback through a phone survey and then use that data to improve the customer experience. When customers see that the business owner has acted on their feedback, they may feel inspired to return to that business. That means more revenue for the bottom line. You just need a fast and straightforward way to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. That’s where a focused business phone survey comes in.

Why increasing customer loyalty with a phone survey is a good choice.

Organizing a customer satisfaction survey by phone offers notable advantages compared to other methods. While a net promoter survey can give you interesting data, there is no conversational element involved. Further, using the net promoter survey approach effectively requires a certain degree of specialized training in the net promoter methodology.

You might also consider online customer surveys. Surveying your email list or website is worth attempting. Depending on the size of your email list or website traffic, you might be able to get a large number of survey responses. The challenge with online customer surveys is that you will have to spend a lot of time reviewing the data to find insights. There is no way to ask a customer to clarify their survey responses or provide an example.

Conducting a customer satisfaction survey by phone gives you the best of both worlds. You can ask questions and get survey responses. However, you also have the opportunity to provide the human touch. For instance, you may hear a customer complain about a lost or delayed order. When you hear about a problem during a phone survey, you can gather all the necessary details to make the situation right with the customer.

How to increase customer loyalty with a phone survey step by step.

The following steps give you a starting point to create a simple customer satisfaction survey. Over the course of a month, you could gather a significant amount of insights to improve your customer service by calling five to 10 customers per day.

  1. Define your customer satisfaction survey goals.

Before calling a single customer, reflect on your business goals. Are you seeking to improve your profit margins? In that case, you may want to focus your survey on the customers that spend the most on your business. Finding ways to make high-spending customers content may give you an excellent return. Alternatively, you may decide to focus your survey project on whether your local SEO has attracted customers. 

  1. Write your customer satisfaction survey questions.

Now that you have clarity on your goals, it is time to write your questions. According to Survey Monkey, a survey software company, it is best to focus your survey on closed-ended questions. An example of a closed-ended question would be: “How many times have you bought from our business in the past 12 months?” However, this kind of question may not give you the ideas you need to improve the customer experience.

At the end of the survey, consider asking one or two open-ended questions to understand better what your customers like. Encourage customers to think creatively with a question like this: “If you could change anything in our business, what would you improve?”

Tip: Reduce your need for note-taking by using call recording, but make sure that you ask for permission first.

  1. Test the survey with a small group of customers.

With your list of customer satisfaction questions, make a few test phone calls to customers. The purpose of the test is to discover if any of the questions are unclear. If you receive confusing answers, revise the question to make them clearer.

  1. Train employees on how to gather survey responses.

Consider running a few training phone calls for your employees. Ask them to call you or other employees in a role-playing scenario. Making a few practice calls will help your employees become more familiar with the questions. Besides, practice phone surveys will help employees learn how to record survey responses accurately. Once the training is complete, give your staff a list of customers to call and let them get started.

  1. Review the survey responses for insights and follow up with customers.

After all of the survey responses are in, schedule time to review the results. In particular, look for patterns in the results. If a large number of people gave low scores to your website, you may need to make improvements. Also, review the survey responses received in the open-ended questions. You might be pleasantly surprised at what customers tell you.

  1. Follow up with customers after the survey when needed.

A phone survey lets you gather rich insights because you can quickly ask follow-up questions. However, merely gathering survey responses may not impress your customers very much. Instead, offer to refer problems to the business owner for improvement or offer to enter the respondent in a drawing for a gift card. That is a much more compelling improvement! By addressing problems and issues when they arise, you stand a much better chance of winning additional loyal customers.