Google is extending the company’s yearly advertising grants by adding $200 million to support nonprofit group outreach efforts focused on fighting racial injustice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Google’s expanded offering brings its commitment to $1 billion in all.
The internet and technology company also announced that it will initiate product updates on its platform as the country reopens its economy. The new updates will mostly center on e-commerce. The updates will include the ability to search local services through its Local Services Ads. Users will also be able to book services through the ads. The new feature will only be available in the U.S. and Canada for now, but Google said it plans to expand it to the international market at a later date. Google is also trying to compete with Amazon by reviving its Shopping tab by highlighting curbside pickup options.
The Internet giant said it would also allow small businesses to use its Smart campaign ads for free so they can disclose and promote their physical locations on Google Maps. Google will extend the offer through the end of September.
Traditionally, Google would make similar announcements at its Google Marketing Live conference, but it has been canceled due to the coronavirus. Google said these first announcements are part of a slew of announcements planned during the next few weeks.
Jerry Dischler, vice president of advertisements at Google, said: “It’s especially important now because of COVID-19 that we’re in this intense listening mode where we’re trying to get feedback from the market. We’re trying to launch products as quickly as possible to address market needs.”
Google announced its initial $800 million package in March as part of its relief efforts to ease the burden on small and medium-sized businesses, health care workers, and the government.
Dischler said Google held “war room” discussions to determine its response in the wake of the pandemic. The company wanted to learn how advertisers were affected as well as how consumers were weathering the outbreak.
The company learned that travel was amongst the top sectors impacted by COVID-19. Google’s response was to introduce a “pay per stay” price model in which travel companies wouldn’t have to pay for ads if a customer canceled their trip.
Travel firms faced challenges from the economic shutdown due to the virus, causing revenue to dry up.
Google hopes that expanding its ad pricing model for hotels will alleviate some of the burdens that these travel groups face. At the same time, now that many countries are lifting some restrictions, Google hopes to capitalize on its ad products that offer an incentive to the travel industry.
The new strategies mirror a more comprehensive plan that shows Google wants to move more deeply into e-commerce. The company offered free product listings in its Shopping tab in April. Many analysts saw the move as a challenge to Amazon’s reign in the online retail marketplace. Researchers say that by the end of the year, Amazon will have 38 percent of the e-commerce market share.