As the pandemic rages on, small businesses and entrepreneurs across many industries continue stretching the boundaries of typical commerce to reach their customers. From retail brick-and-mortar to service-based businesses, artists and restaurants, small business owners have been challenged to pivot creatively, thoughtfully - and as quickly as possible.
The ShopHERE Powered by Google Program is dedicated to supporting small businesses with creating and configuring an online store, providing training on how to use it, manage inventory, shipping, and even market it to develop an online presence.
In an effort to enable small business owners to keep doing what they do best, the ShopHERE team is simultaneously building online stores to help them get selling online as quickly as possible. Developing an online presence is essential for small businesses to reach beyond their local customers, grow their business, and make their products or services accessible for curbside pickup, delivery, and more. Recent holiday shopping trends revealed that 36% of Canadian shoppers have shopped online with a new store or retailer they hadn't before COVID-19. Having a strong online presence is crucial for businesses to get in front of these new customers.
To date, more than 10,000 small businesses across Ontario have received support from the ShopHERE program and are well on their way to realizing a return on their time invested, retaining employees, and selling to new customers. All participants of the program receive dedicated one-on-one support from an eCommerce Coordinator, trained on industry-leading platforms. This support is provided at no cost to the small business owners, as the program is funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, the province of Ontario, and supported by key corporate partners. There are many program graduate success stories to explore on our blog, from a Windsor-based hockey apparel store to a vintage furniture and home accessories shop in Thunder Bay.
Knowing who your customers are and how they behave is important to building and marketing your retail and online business. Consumer behaviour changes rapidly, especially during a pandemic. On a technical level, having an online presence is essential to help customers find you in a Google search, build your brand awareness online, and drive sales. As business operations and restrictions are constantly changing in response to COVID-19, customers must be able to go online and get up-to-date on how they can access your business and shop from you.
ShopHERE program graduate and owner of Green Cabin Pottery, Cindy, says she feels that since launching her online store, she has experienced larger exposure, and more customers have been contacting her through the website and other social media channels, “I enjoy interacting with customers and the online store allows them to see my products without having to leave their home!”
One of the key considerations that are made through the process of getting your business online is selecting a domain name. It's critical that the domain of your website is memorable and catchy so that your customers can remember it and new visitors understand what your business has to offer. Through ShopHERE's partnership with CIRA, participants of the program are eligible for a free, custom .CA domain to complement their new, professional online store.
With provincial lockdowns in place and stay-at-home orders issued in recent weeks, now is the time for small business owners to explore the ShopHERE initiative and receive free 1:1 support with building, updating, managing, and even marketing an eCommerce store. The program is quick, easy and available to all registered businesses in Ontario until March 31st, 2021. An online store is the perfect one-stop-shop that every business needs to reach new customers, keep them informed and, of course, encourage them to shop!