Executive Summary - OBIAA

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Ontario Digital Main StreetBUILDING Resiliencefor Small BusinessOPEN FORBUSINESSRetailers must shift their way of thinking and build digital into their vision andstrategy from the very beginning. Technology cannot be the fourth or fifthbusiness decision; it must be the first.(Retail Trends in Canada 2019-2020, BDO Canada report, August 2019) Executive SummaryRecognizing the need in 2018 to help mainstreet small businesses be more resilient, theGovernment of Ontario funded Ontario DigitalMain Street (DMS), a 12 million multi-facetedprogram to help main street small businessesadopt and use digital technologies moreeffectively. The project was an expansion of theDigital Main Street program that was originallycreated by the Toronto Association of BusinessImprovement Areas three years earlier.GOVT. INVESTS 12,000,000IN DIGITAL REVITALIZATIONBUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 20202

DMS is part of the Ontario MainStreet Revitalization Initiative,a 40 million Government ofOntario investment over twoyears to create jobs and helpcommunities re-energize theirmain streets.Today, Ontario is facing anextraordinary economic and socialchallenge as priorities shift to addressthe COVID-19 public health crisis,creating enormous downward economicpressure, particularly on small businesses.Those best able to survive had made priorinvestments in e-commerce capabilities, remoteworking technologies, and customer relationshiptools. By improving their ability to work online, aswell as reach and sell to customers online, thesebusinesses now continue to earn revenue, keepcustomer relationships intact and maintain tieswith suppliers.CONNECTEMPOWERSUCCEEDOf the more than 15,000 businesses thatparticipated in Digital Main Street, manyare better able to cope during the COVID-19crisis because of the foresight of the Ontariogovernment to implement a program focused onrevitalizing the heart of communities and buildingsmall business resilience across the province. Atno other time in history have digital capabilitiesemerged as the key component businessesneeded in order to thrive in an increasinglycompetitive, global, and volatile environment.With the unprecedented challenges that businesses are facing from the impactsof measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Digital Main Streets programhas proven to be timely as businesses are forced to either limit their operationsor close their doors entirely. Working online has become the new normal asbusiness—particularly small business—struggles to adapt to the situation.(Brian York, Director of Economic Development and Government Relations, City of St. Catharines)BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 20203

Reaching Main Street OntarioThe Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA) was and is uniquely placed to work with the TorontoBIA Association (TABIA) and the Government of Ontario to deliver Digital Main Street.OBIAA has the exclusive ability to reach the 315 Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) thatsupport their communities, and in turn, main street businesses.For the past 19 years, OBIAA has built a high degreeof trust and credibility with BIAs, municipalities,Chambers, and Ontario ministries. That trustpositioned OBIAA to work with the Governmentof Ontario to launch and administer Digital MainStreet in a way that not only effectively addressedthe digital disparity common among main streetsmall businesses, but also resonated with needs ofthe entrepreneurs who own those businesses.315 BIA COMMUNITIESThis is the exact program smallbusinesses need.(Cathy Lee, Haven Home & Gift, Collingwood)BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 20204

The Digital Main Street StoryDigital Main Street was created by TABIA in June 2016 in recognition of the need tohelp Toronto’s main street small businesses adopt online and digital tools in order to becompetitive and improve business outcomes.TABIA and the City of Toronto partnered to launchand deliver the program, along with a group ofstrategic partners — Google, MasterCard, Microsoft,and Shopify. The program was designed withentrepreneurial attitudes in mind, acknowledging thatsmall business owners are spirited, independent, andover-extended. Time, money, energy, and attentionare all in short supply, so DMS adopted an innovativeapproach designed to help these small businessesdigitally transform.The components of the program include knowledgetransfer through online/in-person learning platforms;resources through small business grants; and,support through trained digital service squadsdeployed into the main street community. Thesekey components work together to help build digitalcapacity in stages.We need to help equip ourmain street businesses with thetechnology to meet the changingexpectations of today’s consumer.(The Hon. Ernie Hardeman, Minister ofAgriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)Small businesses drive our economy forward It’s our job to ensureOntario has the environment necessary for success in the future.(Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. Prabmeet SinghSarkaria, Associate Minister for Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. From ShapingOntario's Small Businesses Strategy, Government of Ontario, 2019)BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 20205

Community FocusOBIAA, with the support of the Province and in partnership with TABIA, has rolled outthe DMS program in order to support communities across the province. Reaching into themain streets of villages, towns, and cities across Ontario means ensuring the program’seffectiveness is extended from corner-to-corner, from remote communities in the northand northwest, to the populous south and west, and up the St. Lawrence and OttawaRiver Valleys.Since its launch, the program has proven itsability to impact every type of community in theprovince. A total of 155 municipalities effectivelyrolled out the Digital Service Squad (DSS) programequating to 100 DSS grants awarded to 58 BIAsand 42 municipalities and Chambers.As a retail confectionary business,we used the DMS grant funds tohelp us exceed our traffic andconversion goals, which madethe transition from brick-andmortar to e-commerce during theCOVID-19 pandemic seamless.We have been able to keep thebusiness running with online sales.# DIGITAL SERVICE SQUAD GRANTS100GRANTS42MUNICIPALITIES58BIAs# PARTICIPATING COMMUNITIES341BUSINESSES, CITIES, TOWNSAND VILLAGES(Digital Transformation Grant FeedbackSurvey, 2020)Downtown Perth, OntarioBUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 20206

The municipalities, Chambers, and BIAs that wereawarded a DSS grant contributed to its success byproviding matching funds for securing additionaltraining and resources, and promoting the programto their main street small businesses. This supportdemonstrates the importance they place onensuring their downtown small businesses aresustainable and successfully launched into a newonline economy.MATCHED AND IN-KIND 3,460,000 750,000 FROM BUSINESSESFROM BIAS, CHAMBERS,AND COMMUNITIESDigital Main Street is an example of how important it isthat we all work together to make things happen.(The Hon. Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 20207

Keeping Ontario WorkingJob creation is at the heart of the government’s commitment. The DMS project supportsjobs in two vital ways:1) by helping to keep main street smallbusinesses healthy and growing, and in turn,protecting jobs, promoting job growth, andstimulating the local economy; and2) by creating work opportunities for recentgraduates (partnering with local colleges anduniversities) and/or by hiring experiencedmarketers to deliver DSS services.TOTAL # JOBS GENERATED BY DSS# OF JOBS205Small businesses makeup 40.6% of Ontario’sGross Domestic Productand employ 2.3 millionOntarians.(Shaping Ontario’s Small BusinessSuccess Strategy, Government ofOntario, 2019)BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 20208

The Online OpportunityBuying online today is the norm, not theexception, with eight out of 10 Canadiansbuying online1 and almost 50% buyingonline at least twice a month.2 Accordingto The 2019 e-Commerce Benchmark Reportfrom Canada Post, the average number ofonline purchases by Canadian rose by 58%between 2016 and 2018.3Yet, in an increasingly competitive and onlineworld, main street small businesses have been slowto adopt digital technologies, putting them at adisadvantage and reducing their resiliency. Accordingto the Government of Ontario’s recent publicationShaping Ontario’s Small Business Success Strategy, asmuch as 40% of Ontario small businesses do not havea website.4The potential for these businesses to ‘up their digitalgame’ is enormous. Online commerce is predictedto account for between nine percent and 10% of allretail sales in Canada,5 and 62% of Canadians preferto buy from Canadian online retailers.6The reality is main street small businesses managetheir operations with limited time, funds, andknowledge of digital tools and techniques. Theselimits create challenging barriers to thriving in thenew online business environment. The DMS programis optimized to help businesses adopt and expandtheir digital capabilities in ways that are realistic,actionable, and effective.Main Street businesses haveto compete with retail chainsthat offer all these convenientshopping experiences andoptions. And that’s no easy task.(The Hon. Ernie Hardeman, Minister ofAgriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)CANADIAN ONLINE PURCHASES80%BUY AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR50%BUY AT LEAST TWICE A MONTH62%PREFER CANADIAN ONLINE VENDORSResearch shows businesses thatinvest in technology have higherrevenue growth and higherprofit growth.(Shaping Ontario’s Small Business SuccessStrategy, Government of Ontario, 2019)The 2019 e-commerce benchmark report, Canada PostInternet Retailer Canadian Consumer Survey, July 20173The 2019 e-commerce benchmark report, Canada Post4Shaping Ontario’s Small Business Success Strategy, Government of Ontario, 20195The State of Ecommerce in Canada, CIRA, 2016 and eTail Canada: The eCommerce & Omnichannel Conference 2019 Director’s Report.6The State of Ecommerce in Canada, CIRA, 201612BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 20209

Innovating for SuccessOBIAA has delivered an expanded versionof the unique and innovative design of DMSby responding to the special needs of thesemain street business owners across theprovince.DMS is a program built around a trained squad ofstreet-level members, an online learning platform,and structured training programs to help mainstreet businesses grow and manage their operationsthrough technology. This successful foundationhas been expanded into a comprehensive programto assist local BIAs, municipalities and ultimately,main street small businesses across Ontario, assess,explore, and support their future goals.Gaining the experience necessaryto compete in the digital age isan important element of success.Businesses in the Main Streetdistricts of Ontario will receivehands-on training from the DigitalService Squads to help build theironline presence.(Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, MPP and AssociateMinister for Small Business and Red TapeReduction)BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 202010

Responsive Program DesignThese basic principles form the foundation of the expanded Ontario Digital Main Street program:4 Support digital transformationthrough knowledge transfer,capacity building, andeducation.4Provide business ownerswith the access to resourcesneeded to begin their digitaltransformation and empowerthem to become smartdecision-makers in order togrow their businesses.4Provide businesseswith hands-on supportand guidance throughproactive DSS members andadministrative centres.As created by TABIAKnowledge TransferResourcesSupportDigital Assessment Digital Transformation GrantsDigital Service SquadsOnline Training Digital Vendor DirectoryDigital Transformation PlanDigital Service Squad GrantsAdministrators, BIAs,EcDev Offices, Chambers In-Person Workshops/WebinarTrainingTHANKYOU!BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 202011

Knowledge TransferDigital AssessmentThe first stage of the digital transformation processis a self-assessment of current digital and onlinecapabilities. The digital assessment tool is availableon the DMS online platform at digitalmainstreet.caand takes small business owners through a step-bystep series of questions to determine their currentdigital footprint and make recommendations forpotential areas of improvement and enhancement.DIGITAL ASSESSMENTS TAKEN9,188# SMALL BUSINESSES OWNERSOnline Training and the Digital Transformation PlanThe next stage is to complete the online training.This multi-module digital training program isvital to helping small businesses understand howto use digital tools and technologies to growtheir businesses for today’s needs and for thedevelopment of future needs.USE OF DIGITAL TRAINING5,657# SMALL BUSINESSES OWNERSThe final part of the training takes the businessthrough the steps of writing a Digital TransformationPlan (DTP). This plan is a road map for the businessto execute their digital objectives and includes anaction plan and milestones to ensure success.I am learning a lot from the online DMStraining modules and feel empoweredby my enhanced knowledge. Everyaspect of DMS is hitting key areas ofinterest for me.(Trendsetter Hair Clinic, Kingston)In-Person Workshops / Webinar Training ProgramOBIAA partnered with training provider, CampTech, to deliver hands-on, specific training tosmall businesses across Ontario through webinarsand in-person workshops held in communitiesacross the province. The Camp Tech trainingdelivered targeted content to help entrepreneursand owners learn about website development,social media, e-commerce, online advertising anddigital marketing, and other digital topics.# OF IN-HOUSE TRAINING REGISTRANTS4,437 2,754WEBINARSBUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 2020WORKSHOPS12

ResourcesDigital Transformation GrantQualifying main street small businesses thatcompleted their digital assessment, digitaltraining, and DTP could apply for a 2,500 DigitalTransformation Grant to help cover the costs ofimplementing their plan.There were 2,165 grants available to qualifyingbusinesses, and all grants were distributed for atotal value of 5,412,500 injected into Ontariomain streets. Grant recipients reflected the mix ofmain street small businesses, with retail and foodservices dominating but also including a range ofother types of services.DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION GRANTS2,165# PROVIDED TO SMALL BUSINESSESTOTAL VALUE ISSUED 5,412,500TYPES OF BUSINESSES RECEIVING GRANTSRetail78236.1%Business Services512.4%Consumer Service23010.6%Recreation472.2%Food & Beverage22910.6%Health & Beauty462.1%Health & Wellness22410.3%Art eauty1024.7%Education211.0%Medical Services864.0%Music90.4%Financial L TOTALLack of resources to invest in innovative or new technology is one ofthe six major challenges facing small businesses across the province.(Shaping Ontario’s Small Business Strategy, 2019, Government of Ontario, 2019)BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 202013

ResourcesBusinesses receiving grants applied the funds to avariety of uses, including optimizing websites forsearch, setting up e-commerce, back-office solutions,social media advertising and creating customerdatabases. The figure to the right illustrates thevarious areas where businesses focused their efforts.Words cannot express how helpfulthis Digital Transformation Grant hasbeen to us. It has helped us covera lot of expenses that a business inits first year wouldn’t normally beable to afford such as Google ads,boosting social media ads, SEO, etc.USE OF FUNDSDigital g4% 2,204,408 1,878,252 719,625 400,737 209,478100%(RUZE Escape Rooms, Burlington)Digital Vendor DirectoryThe DMS design considered how small businessescould best access local digital vendors for requiredconsulting and services. The DMS Vendor Directoryhoused at digitalmainstreet.ca has more than 740registered digital vendors in 110 communitiesacross Ontario.Vendors in the directory offer a range of capabilitiesincluding digital marketing, e-commerce, digitalconnectivity, cloud computing, and search engineoptimization.TOTAL #DIGITAL VENDORSSupport740Digital Service SquadsAt the heart of the program’s design is the DSS.BIAs, municipalities, and Chambers could applyfor 10,000 grants to hire and train digital squadmembers to proactively visit main street smallbusinesses at no cost to the business. These trainedspecialists help them with the online assessment,and once they complete the online training modules,can assist with the development of their DTP inorder for the business to apply for a DigitalTransformation Grant. Squads are also equippedwith 360o cameras to help businesses increasetheir visibility on various online platforms. This oneon-one DSS help includes support for basic websiteset-up, digital storefront set-up with e-commerce,creation or enhancement of social media presence,and much more.BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 202014

The ResultThe province-wide response to the DMS program over the past two years shows theincreasing need for this type of program to equip main street small business entrepreneursand owners with knowledge, resources, and support. The amount of interest this programgenerated across the province is evidenced by the numbers: 182,981 unique visitors visitedthe Ontario DMS online platform over the two-year program, building to an average high of10,763 per month.# OF UNIQUE VISITORS TO ONTARIO DMS WEBSITETOTAL OVERALL ## AVG HIGH MONTHLY182,981The clearest indicator of need, however, is thenumber of businesses that applied for the DigitalTransformation Grant. At the December 31, 2019cut-off, 2,553 small businesses applied for 2,165grants. This means that of the more than 100,000businesses/property owners within the BIAs acrossOntario, 97,447 were unable to receive a DigitalTransformation Grant during the two-year windowfor a variety of reasons. If all small businesses inOntario are factored in, the number jumps to 415,577(Statistics Canada). In addition, there were manyeligible rural communities across the province thatdid not apply for the Digital Service Squad Grant as aresult of limited time and resources.The recent pandemic has shone a bright light on theneed to ensure that our communities, and the smallbusinesses that support them, are resilient enoughto survive and thrive in a world that is globallyconnected. OBIAA’s successful partnership with thegovernment of Ontario and TABIA, together withthe launch of the expanded DMS program acrossthe province, has proven to be a highly effective andefficient way to ensure main street small businesseshave the digital capabilities they need to continue todrive Ontario’s economy forward.10,763The good news is that this initiative continues tomake progress. As of April 30, 2020, there are stillover 50 Digital Service Squads assisting businesseswhile also adapting their program outreach in orderto comply with the province-wide shut down. Certainmunicipalities that have seen the positive effect ontheir main street businesses have provided additionalfunding in order to prolong the DSS program in theirareas.The government of Ontario, in turn, has extended thecompletion deadline to allow Digital TransformationGrant recipients more time to execute their plansand reach their objectives. This means that once theshutdown is lifted, over 800 businesses will be able tocomplete their plans and expend their grant dollarsinto the economy.In retrospect, the government of Ontario’s 2018decision to invest in Digital Main Street was timely,strategic and essential for increasing the digitalcapabilities and resilience of main street smallbusinesses across the province.BUILDING Resilience for Small Business Progress Report April 202015

3The 2019 e-commerce benchmark report, Canada Post 4Shaping Ontario’s Small Business Success Strategy, Government of Ontario, 2019 5The State of Ecommerce in Canada, CIRA, 2016 and eTail Canada: The eCommerce & Omnichannel Conference 2019 Director’s Report. 6The State of Ecommerce in Canada, C