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With the pandemic showing more than ever that digital tools can provide a safety net for small businesses, Google has introduced a new programme to help business owners learn how to build an online presence, find more customers, sell online or work remotely.

The content of the new “Grow with Google” lessons can vary from two-minute tutorial videos to live workshops, and range from beginner level to advanced, so every business can find what they need to become more prepared.

The programme was announced after a report this week showed how a “digital safety net” can serve as a support system for small businesses and helps to mitigate the negative business effects of Covid-19.

According to the report by non-profit Connected Commerce Council in partnership with Google, practically all small businesses in the US were disrupted by the pandemic, facing reduced customer demand and hours of operations as well as employee layoffs.

Eighty-five per cent of small businesses said Covid-19 made them rethink their approach to digital tools, allowing them to adapt.

The study also found that businesses that had a digital safety net in place and used a variety of digital tools — like digital ads, digital payments, data analytics and customer insights tools — felt better prepared.

They also experienced dramatically better business outcomes, expecting less than a quarter of the revenue reduction compared to their digitally unprepared counterparts.

The crisis did in fact expedite digital momentum for small businesses: Nearly three-in-four increased their use of digital tools, particularly video-conferencing, over the last five months.

However, not all small- and medium-sized businesses have a digital safety net.

The new Grow with Google lessons are designed to serve the interest of these businesses.

“On the Google for Small Business website, business owners can find personalised Google product recommendations for their business, as well as helpful tips and practical guides to help small businesses get the most of these tools,” Erica Swanson, Head of Community Engagement for Grow with Google, wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

Grow with Google is partnering with SCORE, a network of volunteer, expert business mentors, and non-profit International Downtown Association (iDA) to complete a series of affordable and easily accessible Grow with Google workshops for 50,000 small businesses across the US.

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