The Launch of the Digital Main Street Business Platform
In mid-June, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced the launch of an innovative new online business support platform. Pegged as the first of its kind worldwide, Digital Main Street is backed by project partner representatives from the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), Google Canada, MasterCard, Rogers Communications, Shopify and Yellow Pages, and main street businesses, project facilitators, and vendors.

According to Mayor Tory, “Technology has changed the demands and expectations of consumers and Toronto’s main street businesses require our support to help them thrive in today’s retail environment. When fewer than half of Canadian small businesses have a website, the need for this kind of service is widespread and immediate.”

Important Features of the Digital Main Street Program

The first major aspect of the Digital Main Street program provides recommendations for website improvement. Businesses will receive a website assessment that is used to provide a custom-tailored roadmap for digital adoption. This assessment includes a digital to-do list and provides recommendations for trusted technology providers who can help businesses meet their goals.

The program will also offer businesses access to the Digital Service Squad. Developed in conjunction with George Brown College, students and recent graduates will assist main street business in the completion of their digital assessments and in the process of onboarding basic technologies.

Other components of the program include BIAcademy and BIA Lab. BIAcademy provides “a suite of learning and development opportunities focused on helping main street businesses adopt and sustain new technologies.” The BIA Lab is “a business incubator for retail innovation startups that will match technology companies with main street businesses to test and scale their technologies.”

The Origins of Digital Main Street

Digital Main Street was born through a collaborative effort between the City of Toronto and TABIA, with advisory and web development services provided by Kinetic Café. Project development included consultation with Toronto’s BIAs, technology companies and main street businesses, and pilot programs were conducted in three Toronto BIAs.

Private sector partners have provided the financial backing for the Digital Main Street initiative and most of the participating companies have also contributed complimentary or discounted services, in addition to training and workshops for BIAs and main street businesses.

According to Fab Dolan, Head of Marketing for Google Canada, “Digital Main Street offers global scale to local Toronto businesses, connecting consumers from Canada and around the world to the great products and services this city has to offer. No matter the size, every business today is a digital business. And, with the right tools, every business can be national or even global.”

“Online is the new local for small businesses, and not having a digital presence can mean missing the first point of contact with future customers,” said Nyla Ahmad, Senior Vice-President, Enterprise Marketing, Rogers Communications. “Being part of the Digital Main Street initiative in partnership with the City of Toronto will allow us to help small businesses get the support they need to attract customers in a digital environment and discover technologies that will ultimately help them succeed.”

“The adoption of digital marketing and technologies by small businesses is an ongoing challenge across Canada,” adds Paul Brousseau, Vice-President, Brand Communications at Yellow Pages. “We’re pleased to partner with the city of Toronto to help bridge the digital gap for local businesses through the Digital Main Street initiative.”

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Posted by: DSR
Monday, August 1, 2016
Tag: Business Start Ups
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