During forced closures, online shopping and social media are lifelines for Kincardine’s The Loop
Misty Gibson-Traynor spent months chipping away at her digital strategy and website while running The Loop, the downtown Kincardine fashion and gift boutique she owns with her husband.
But it only took a few days – through the province’s decision to order non-essential businesses closed during the COVID-19 pandemic – to make that digital strategy The Loop’s lifeline to its customers.
Like most main street businesses, The Loop was hit hard by the pause to foot traffic, but being online has allowed Gibson-Traynor to continue doing what she loves.
“We’ve been busier than I thought it would be – it's nice that people are supporting local,” says the shop owner. “We’ve been offering in-store pickup or local delivery… I’ve been delivering locally – the next day usually.”
She says she misses the face-to-face element of being in the shop but the crisis has created an unexpected opportunity to highlight the website and online shop she’s spent the past year chipping away at. “We just launched our website before Christmas, so it was still really new for us,” says Gibson-Traynor. The Loop was also starting to experiment with social media advertising for its new online shop and business when the pandemic forced emergency shuttering.
Both the online ads and website came out of Gibson-Traynor’s participation in Digital Main Street, a program that combines grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario and the Ontario BIA Association to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities, last year. Through the program, The Loop was able to apply for and receive a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant.
Gibson-Traynor says going online was a part of the plan since she and her husband bought the business in 2017. But getting it there was a big undertaking. “We knew right from the start that eventually we would have to expand online,” says Gibson-Traynor. Not only would it give the business access to sales across Canada but it would allow locals to keep an eye on the shop’s every-evolving spread of products. “We're not seasonal, but it changes every season for us… we're constantly changing and revamping and reorganizing.”
Through Digital Main Street, The Loop owner was exposed to Instagram, a tool that fits well with a visually-focused business like hers. She says buying ads has helped to stay top-of-mind, something that’s become even more critical as the pandemic drags on. “We've been doing some more of the boosting on Facebook and Instagram and stuff like that, trying to get (the business) out there more and just hoping that people will realize that there’s more to us than just a brick and mortar.”
For a town that sees its population swell during the warmer months, reduced foot traffic could have a serious impact on businesses. But Gibson-Traynor is trying to see the bright side in all of it.
“Hopefully for locals realize that if they can't get out, they can do in-store pickup even when this is all over,” she says.
Written by Andrew Seale