Google has announced new features to connect holiday shoppers with small and local businesses, part of an ongoing effort to support smaller merchants on its platforms.
In a company blog post, Google detailed upcoming changes to Search, Maps, and Merchant Center aimed at helping small businesses stand out.
These include AI-powered product image generation, enhanced business information panels, and labels identifying “small business” listings.
New “Small Business” Labels In Search & Maps
Among the new features, Google is adding a “small business” label to qualifying companies’ Search and Maps listings.
This label should make it easier for shoppers to find and support small businesses during the critical shopping season.
Businesses can identify as small businesses in Google’s Merchant Center and Business Profile platforms. Google will also add the label automatically based on factors like the number of products offered and web traffic.
“Shoppers are looking for small businesses: In fact, 84% of people say supporting local and/or small businesses is important to them,” said Matt Madrigal, Vice President and GM of Merchant Shopping at Google.
AI-Powered Product Image Generation With Product Studio
In addition to the labeling, Google is expanding its AI-powered Product Studio tool to all U.S. Merchant Center Next users and Shopify merchants using the Google & YouTube app.
The scene generation feature uses a text-to-image AI model to place products into any imagined scenario the merchant describes.
Merchants can tweak and reuse effective prompts to consistently generate on-brand, creative images. Backgrounds can be removed, and one-click can improve image resolution.
Early tester Doppeltree created diverse social media and e-commerce images much faster than usual using the free AI tools in Product Studio.
More Business Info Directly In Search Results
Google is also displaying more key business information directly in Search results, such as deals, shipping policies, and customer reviews. This is intended to build consumer trust and confidence in unfamiliar but legitimate small businesses.
Similar expanded panels have driven over 2.3 billion free connections like calls, directions, and reviews for local businesses on Google Business Profiles in 2022. The panels will showcase authoritative business information from across the web, not just what merchants directly submit.
Merchants should ensure their Merchant Center listings contain accurate information to utilize these panels fully. Deals, customer service details, and shipping/return policies will benefit holiday shoppers.
Holiday Season Critical For Small Business Sales
The holiday season represents a major sales opportunity for many small businesses. Supporting small and local businesses has become an essential value for many consumers.
Google faces ongoing criticism that its products favor larger players over small businesses. Providing tools to help small merchants succeed may counteract some of those concerns.
While time will tell if these new features move the needle for smaller merchants, business owners should familiarize themselves with the updates.
Leveraging free tools like AI-powered visual generation in Product Studio could also give small businesses an edge over the competition.
Check that your Google Business Profile and Merchant Center accounts contain accurate information to take advantage of these upgrades.
Featured Image: Meepian Graphic/Shutterstock