How Main Street Oakville is Embracing the Digital Age

by Digital Main Street Digital Main Street   |   August 22, 2019   |   Share this :  

“One of the most important challenges facing small business in the Town of Oakville is their ability to embrace the digital age. It’s vital for business today to adapt and become familiar with digital technology,” said Stephen Crawford, MPP for Oakville.

Digital Main Street team Nadia Smith and Michelle Bali show Lemonwood Owner Christine Peters a few ideas for her website at the launch of the new Digital Service Squad Grant Program at Lemonwood. The new Digital Main Street team will help small Oakville business upgrade thier online and social media presence to boost online sales. August 15, 2019 – Nikki Wesley/Torstar

 

It’s never been easy to be a small businessperson.

But in the last few decades, conditions been particularly difficult for your average Main Street retailer. The rise of malls, big-box stores and online retailers that will get a product to your door in 24 hours have all made for an exceedingly challenging environment.

As a result, there have been losses and there’s plenty of downtowns around the province with more vacant storefronts than active businesses. Oakville has bucked that trend, and there’s ambitious plans to keep the town’s brick-and-mortar stores thriving.

Key to that strategy is to stop thinking of the physical store as a separate entity from e-commerce.

“One of the most important challenges facing small business in the Town of Oakville is their ability to embrace the digital age. It’s vital for business today to adapt and become familiar with digital technology,” said Stephen Crawford, MPP for Oakville.

Making use of what’s called a Digital Service Squad, Oakville has trained specialists that help businesses with their online presence. Experts are able to assist with everything from email strategy to influencer outreach.

The program has been well-received — and to date there are 30 businesses across the Bronte, Kerr and Downtown business areas working with the service squad.

Rose Luxton of Lakeside Livin’ Home Décor in the Bronte BIA said there were a lot of challenges to being a new business in the area, but the Digital Transformation Grant Program allowed her to launch the online portion of the business two years earlier than expected.

She specifically credits service squad member Nadia Smith with the development.

“With her support, I have been able to feel confident with the growth and unknown world of digital, which was a very scary (and) daunting place for me. Her knowledge and her expertise has allowed me to explore the digital world more than I ever fathomed. Exploring certain markets that are geared and tailored to my business,” said Luxton.

Both the Ontario and Oakville government have committed significant funds into the program; as a result, qualifying businesses are able to receive $2,500 to purchase and adopt digital tools and technologies.

Adopting new digital technologies has been identified as vital to success for small businesses. The program can be used for everything from enhancing social media to back-office systems like payroll and inventory.

Michelle Bali, a digital service squad member with Digital Main Street, described her role as helping to level up the digital education of local businesses.

“It’s important to marry online activities with off-line activities instead of separating them and being like, hey, here’s my e-commerce store and then there’s a different entity, which is my brick and mortar. It’s important to make sure you're tracking your online activities as well as your off-line activities and gaining insights … it’s important that neither of those aspects are ignored,” said Bali.

 

 

This article was originally published on insidehalton.com

Written by Roland Cilliers

Photo by Nikki Wesley/Torstar

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