8 Exciting Digital Updates To Help Small Businesses Grow

VMB, All Ireland Business Foundation

As a business owner, you’re well aware of how important it is to continuously adapt and change, especially during the current pandemic. Whether it’s how you market yourself, how your staff performs their jobs, or the technology you use in your business, there’s never been a more important time for companies to be agile.

Here at Virgin Media Business, along with our #BackingBusiness initiative, we want to do as much as we can to help Irish SME’s out so we’ve collated the most exciting recent digital updates you can use now to help your small businesses grow.

Facebook & Instagram Shops

With footfall to physical stores severely affected by COVID-19 and the enforced lockdowns, Facebook decided it was the perfect time to launch Facebook and Instagram Shops.

We’re all aware that people have been buying and selling items on these platforms (Facebook especially), for years now, but there’s never been a dedicated, fully functional e-commerce shop available from within a business’s page. Facebook Marketplace does fill this void somewhat by allowing sellers to list products that are discoverable by users, but it doesn’t support transactions so there still needs to be some form of interaction between buyer and seller, and it’s more aimed towards the sale of personal belongings.

1. Facebook Shops

This is where Facebook and Instagram Shops come in. With Facebook Shops, businesses can set up an online store that’s accessible from both Facebook and Instagram and populate their store with products from their catalogue… and it’s all absolutely free. Stores are also customisable, so you can change the cover image and colors to reflect your brand and keep the experience nice and consistent.

Users can then find your Facebook Shop from your Facebook business page, Instagram profile, or discover them through stories, ads, or user-generated content.

Another useful feature on Facebook Shops is customer support, which is handled by WhatsApp, Messenger, or Instagram Direct. From these tools, customers can ask questions, track deliveries, and have any queries answered pretty much instantly.

2. Instagram Shops

Instagram Shops work slightly differently to their Facebook counterpart, as they’ll be accessible through the Instagram Explore tab, until later this year where shops will be given their own tab in the navigation bar.

The functionality however will remain fairly similar, and users will be able to browse collections from their favourite brands without leaving Instagram.

3. Live Shopping

Both Facebook and Instagram Shops will have the ability to link with live video, so users can shop in real-time. Brands and creators will be able to tag products from their shop before going live, and these products will then be accessible from the bottom of the video so users can learn more or purchase them.

4. Instagram Stickers for Small Businesses

Another new feature you may have seen over the last couple of months is Instagram Stickers for Small Businesses. Businesses can share a gift card, food order or fundraising sticker on their Stories and profile. When tapped on, these stickers will take users directly to a fundraising page within Facebook or allow users to order food or make a donation to the business.

The stickers can also be re-shared by users on Instagram to help increase the reach across the platform.

Google My Business Updates

Not to be outdone by the other media giants Google have introduced a host of new features to help small businesses out during the pandemic.

5. Expansion of Support Links

Having seen searches for “how to help small businesses” increase over 700% from February to March, Google introduced support links to English speaking countries back in May. Stemming from the success of this feature, Google has now rolled it out to 18 new countries including some of those worst affected by COVID-19, Japan, Spain and Italy.

Support links appear when a business name is searched and they show links so users can donate or buy a gift card from the Business profile in the results. Businesses can add a short message above the links explaining what the donation will go towards.

6. New Business Attributes

With many businesses such as gyms being forced to move entirely online, Google is introducing new attributes that will show in search results and Maps. These attributes will take the form of “online classes” and “online appointments”, with the goal of ensuring searchers are aware of services offered by businesses even during these strange times.

7. Secondary Hours

With the phasing plan in place, many businesses are forced to open reduced, limited or secondary hours. Google is aware of this and has now added a ‘secondary hours’ feature to Google My Business that will show up in the Business profile.

For example, if a restaurant closes for sit-down at 6 pm, but stays open for delivery until 9pm, this can be added to the Business profile.


8. YouTube Video Builder Tool

Video production is not easy for small businesses, especially when budgets are tight and in-person shoots are basically impossible. To combat this, YouTube accelerated the release of its new tool, Video Builder.

Video Builder allows businesses with limited resources and production knowledge to create a short YouTube video of 6 or 15 seconds in duration, which can then be used in advertising.

The tool works by animating static assets such as images, text, and logos and then adds music to it. Businesses have the option to choose from a variety of layouts based on their message and goals and to customise colours and fonts to keep brand consistency.

It’s fair to say there has been some great support shown for SME’s not just in Ireland, but all around the world by both consumers and media platforms. Our hope is that if you combine some of the tools mentioned here with the best small business broadband in Ireland, your business will benefit and come out the other side of COVID-19 stronger and more technologically advanced.

The process to select the next group of Business All-Star accredited companies has begun and further information is available at businessallstars.ie.