Shopify, Canadian government launch initiative to help small businesses grow online amid COVID-19

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Shopify has partnered with the federal government to launch a new initiative called Go Digital Canada, aimed to bring more Canadian small businesses online and support them in the new era of digital transformation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to provide support to help bring these businesses online, and help future proof that backbone of the economy.”

The initiative is set to be announced Wednesday at Startupfest’s virtual fireside chat between Harley Finkelstein, COO of Shopify, and Mary Ng, Canada’s minister of small business, export promotion and international trade. Go Digital Canada will serve as what Shopify called a “central resource hub,” where entrepreneurs can receive support on growing their business online through tools offered by Shopify, as well as partners and experts.

“From our perspective, small businesses, they are the backbone of the Canadian economy. They make up 98 percent of Canadian companies,” Sylvia Ng, general manager of Shopify’s Start product line, told BetaKit. “The fact that they’re faced with these unprecedented challenges due to COVID right now [made us want] to provide support to help bring these businesses online, and help future proof that backbone of the Canadian economy.”

Go Digital Canada’s educational resources will include coursework, resources, and support from experts, all of which businesses can opt in to use. These resources will be provided by Shopify as well as organizations in Shopify’s partner network.

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In addition to free courses, Go Digital Canada will offer a 90-day free trial of the Shopify platform for merchants that register before October 1, 24/7 support, a tap and chip reader (while supplies last), and free access to Shopify’s POS pro plan for brick and mortar merchants, until October 31. Other resources include step-by-step guidance from Shopify Compass and live webinars.

One of the partners on Shopify’s new program is Digital Main Street, through its national ShopHERE program.

​Business owners​ using the hub are able to tailor their stores to suit their individual needs, including setting up online payments, gift cards, and local pickup or delivery options, and launching free email marketing campaigns.

The Government of Canada is not providing any financial backing to Shopify for Go Digital Canada, rather Sylvia Ng said the government partnership is aimed to “amplify and guide” Shopify’s work.

“Shopify is an incredible made-in-Canada success story, and their work to help Canadian entrepreneurs go digital, as we increasingly shift online in response to COVID-19, will help create even more Canadian success stories,” said Minister Ng.

One of the partners for Go Digital Canada is Digital Main Street through its ShopHERE program, which has a similar mission of helping small businesses move online. Sylvia Ng said Go Digital Canada’s online hub is mostly self-serve, but businesses that need more dedicated assistance in going online will be referred to the ShopHERE program, which will provide one-on-one support.

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ShopHERE was initially a City of Toronto initiative focused on building online storefronts for local independent businesses and artists. Following a Google Canada commitment of $1 million, ShopHERE went national with a goal to set up 50,000 online stores across the country. Shopify is supporting ShopHERE by assisting businesses in getting their online store built and launched within 90 days.

Sylvia Ng said one unique component of the Go Digital Canada hub is that when businesses complete a learning module, Shopify will provide links for businesses to act on what they have learned directly on Shopify’s platform.

“The hub is going to be very rooted in community,” Sylvia Ng told BetaKit. “All the courses that we have there aren’t just by Shopify, but also by our ecosystem, and [by] bringing our partners like Digital Main Street on, we’ll be growing that community further and bringing the trust that these merchants and businesses need in order to understand how to grow their business.”

Image source Unsplash. Photo by Roberto Cortese.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast