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Are you open for business? Why not check, you could be surprised

A small jewellery store recently discovered that, according to Google, it had closed. The situation reminds COLEBY NICHOLSON of Monty Python’s ‘Not dead yet’ sketch.

We came across an interesting problem recently when a storeowner contacted us to renew her magazine subscription. In order to verify that we had the most up-to-date information, we noticed that a Google search indicated the store was ‘permanently closed’.

It was a shock to the storeowner who didn’t realise that consumers were being informing that her jewellery store no longer operated.

And let’s face it; if Google says you are closed then you’re closed, right?

It reminds me of the ‘Not dead yet’ scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail; where two men debate whether a third man is dead even though he’s telling them he’s not, “I feel fine, I feel happy. I think I'll go for a walk,” the man retorts while they still argue about him being dead.

These days most retailers are active on social media engaging with existing customers on Facebook but many fail to monitor the basics of SEO - being found by new customers. How professional is your Google listing and where do you rank? I searched another jeweller and Google advises that my colleague’s store is inside a chemist! 

In fact, when was the last time you searched yourself; what if Google has ‘closed’ your business?

Like most people, the affected storeowner didn’t realise that consumers can report a business closure to Google and worse, the ‘permanently closed’ notification can’t be missed given it appears in a large red banner. You are closed even when you are open!

This can obviously be a problem for customers, especially younger people who don’t know life without the internet; everything on the web is true.

I got a good insight into how Google affects everyday thinking a few years ago when one of my Gen Y staff members told me someone didn’t exist because he “couldn’t find them on Google”.

I had briefed the journalist to contact someone for a story in another magazine only to be told a few days later that there were no comments. At first I thought he meant the person didn’t want to be quoted for the story so I asked, "Did he say anything?"

The journalist’s explanation was that the business must have closed because the he couldn’t find a website or phone number online. As far as this person believed, if something wasn’t found on page one of a Google search then it didn’t exist!

I asked him if he had tried the phone book or the White Pages online or even called directory assistance? The answer was, “No, why?”

I dialed directory assistance, handed him the phone and told him to ask for the business name. Of course, he immediately wrote down a phone number, hung up the phone, looked at me and asked, “How come they’re not on Google?”

Life without the internet

Now, we could offer any number of reasons for what occurred but I’ve come to realise that we now have a whole generation of people who don’t know life without the internet.

Gen Y is usually defined as people born between the early 1980s and 2000s while Gen X refers to people born from early 1960s to the 80s, so it is Gen Y who often don’t know any other source of information other than the internet and (even more of a concern) what Google shows them.

There is no doubt that there are many differences between Gen Y, Gen X and the Baby Boomers. Research has been conducted, reports published, and everyone seems to have their own idea of what makes Gen Y different from Gen X.

I am not one for taking too much notice of such things because many of the attributes are personality based rather than pre-determined by a birth date, but it’s hard to dispute the overarching finding that it is Gen Y’s use of the internet and their social media activities that sets them apart from the others.

They’re the most tech savvy and are often described as the ‘now’ generation given their demand to access things instantly. Gen Y have no concept of how the world ever functioned without mobile phones or on dial-up internet and they have a propensity to relate to one another without face-to-face interaction, something that earlier generations cannot comprehend.

If you’re at all unsure about their dependency on mobile devices, take away a Gen Y’s phone and see what happens – life’s not worth living!

And therein lies the point: Gen Y is becoming an economic powerhouse and the way they shop is very different to their predecessors. Their smartphones are weapons against business, tools to secure the deal. Not only do they have the gall to compare your prices against your competitors while standing in your store but their need for instantaneous gratification and service means everything in your business must be digitally friendly to get them in the door in the first place.

Gen Y’s multi-channel approach to shopping means they can start online, visit your store to touch and feel and then buy on their phone. Or they can visit your store, compare online and then return to your store to close the deal.

To take full advantage of this multi-channel approach, stores must have a mobile-friendly online presence. In addition to that, they need to ensure they can be found everywhere that Gen Y shoppers are looking.

If you’re not visible when they want to view you, it’s over – everything needs to fit within Gen Y’s mantra of ‘instant’ and they’re not going to do things your way – the old way.

Most importantly, in shopping this way, Gen Y has influenced other generations, which means Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are multi-channel experts these days too, following Gen Y into the new age of shopping with phone firmly in hand.

The changing landscape means retailers are being divided into tech-savvy businesses which use the very best of digital technology to improve their businesses and those that hope there are enough customers who prefer only the old ways of shopping; without much help from the internet.

I hope there are and I hope they can find you. 

Postscript - So what has happened to the jeweller who Google lists as no longer in business? Well, the owner is still trying to get the “permanently closed” red banner removed.


More reading
Cut the claptrap, sell stuff and be proud
13 reasons why retailers are failing
The future for jewellers is the good old days
Changing retail landscape - the quick and the dead

Coleby Nicholson

Former managing editor • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson was publisher and managing editor of Jeweller magazine for over 12 years. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than a decade and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

Duraflex Group Australia

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