ShopHERE powered by Google, the Digital Main Street program aimed to help independent small businesses and artists move their storefronts online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, has officially launched in Halifax.
This is the first time ShopHERE is launching in Atlantic Canada. The program will be delivered in the city by Halifax Partnership, a public-private partnership organization, and will be offered at no cost to 80 to 100 businesses.
“Halifax businesses are eager to expand their customer base and markets through e-commerce, and the onset of COVID-19 has only amplified and accelerated this need.”
A spokesperson for Digital Main Street hinted to BetaKit that there were currently other regional pilots underway as part of the national expansion, but declined to disclose additional regions where the program is active outside of Ontario and Halifax. A spokesperson for Halifax Partnership confirmed to BetaKit that Digital Main Street is working with “a few select cities” in Canada.
The federal government, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, is supporting the Halifax launch with a $100,000 contribution from the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. Neither the Halifax Partnership or the government of Nova Scotia are contributing funding for the launch, Digital Main Street confirmed to BetaKit.
The RRRF funding follows the $57 million that Digital Main Street received from the federal and Ontario governments in June, some of which was used to cover the costs for additional students and staff to deliver ShopHERE.
“Halifax businesses are eager to expand their customer base and markets through e-commerce, and the onset of COVID-19 has only amplified and accelerated this need,” said Wendy Luther, president and CEO Halifax Partnership. “The ShopHERE program will address businesses’ immediate and long-term need for digital and e-commerce adoption and help them adapt and increase their competitiveness during this challenging time.”
ShopHERE matches participating businesses with a student helper who will build and optimize their online store. Through the program, businesses can start selling online and receive training and one-on-one support on digital marketing, shipping, and managing inventory. Participants will also have access to free benefits and tools from program partners such as Shopify, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intuit Quickbooks, and Mastercard.
ShopHERE also recently partnered with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) to offer domain names to the thousands of Canadian small businesses accessing the program. CIRA expects to see as many as 3,000 “.CA” domain names as part of its participation in the program.