Digital Main Street Forum Supports Businesses Going Through Digital Transformation

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By Craig Patterson

Toronto’s popular Digital Main Street Forum takes place on Friday, April 20, and independent businesses are encouraged to sign up as the event fills up quickly. The Digital Main Street Forum aims to assist main street in embracing digital technologies to build and grow their business, and the event takes place throughout the day downtown at Toronto City Hall [Click here to sign up]

The Digital Main Street Forum will deal with topics ranging from online marketing and leveraging data to better engage clients, to adopting ecommerce to reach a broader customer base. The Forum aims to help independent retailers to navigate the “Why” and “How To” of embracing both physical retail as well as online. Retailers are finding that embracing both physical and online retail leads to greater revenue — it’s why online retailers such as Warby Parker and Indochino are opening physical retail spaces, as well as why most successful retailers also have strong e-commerce platforms. 

Digital Main Street is an online platform and service that helps ‘main street businesses’ adopt digital tools and technologies by providing training, assistance, and a web portal focused on helping create and action a digital transformation. Digital Main Street is a TABIA program created in partnership with the City of Toronto.

Digital Main Street team and Digital Main Street Partners (Mastercard, Google, Rogers, Microsoft, Shopify) will be on hand to talk and network with attendees.

Toronto city hallToronto city hall

Toronto city hall

“With a full morning of keynote presentations, and an afternoon of practical hands-on breakout sessions – there will be something for everybody. Whether they have been in business for 20 years, or are just starting out – there will be valuable information for all independent businesses,” said Darryl Julott, Digital Main Street’s Program Manager. “Our goal was to create a local full day event aimed at assisting main street business in embracing digital technologies to build and grow their business,” he said. 

Morning Keynote presentations at this year’s Digital Main Street include the following: 

The Future of Commerce: Automation, Consumer Loyalty, and Data Driven Businesses. Presented by Jesse Hirsh:

Smartphones are making it easier for consumers to be smarter and strategic when it comes to what they purchase and consume. Increasingly we tune out advertisements, even use technology to block them, and instead rely upon recommendations from our social networks that influence what we buy. Reputation plays a central role as ratings and reviews influence purchasing decisions. Loyalty marketing continues to evolve, and predictive analytics offers the elusive opportunity to actually anticipate what people will buy (and when). What are the tools and skills you need to thrive and prosper in a highly competitive and turbulent marketplace? How can you ensure a human touch in an era of automation?

There’s No Such Thing As “Social Media Marketing”. Presented by Dani Gagnon, Dani G. Inc.

Dani notes, “Social media was created as a social tool, not a marketing tool.” If you’re actually going to reach an audience, you have to write for your target market, not as a way to further your business. That means making content interactive, clever and truly social; and framing it to reflect the things the Internet is talking about (to ensure it is more widely shared). A recent example: Ms. Gagnon persuaded an insurance company to reference TV show The Walking Dead on its Facebook Page by launching a poll titled, “Which character is most likely to need life insurance this season?”

Demystifying Data. Presented by Corrine Sandler, founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research 

The Internet has made us seriously delirious from data. We are living in mad crazed data driven world and analysis paralysis has crept in – YES Data has a dark side. Corrine will demystify it for you, “because data is just a story based on facts that has a soul”. She will show you how data can support your authenticity rather than your insanity. Data doesn’t really matter, only opinions and stories formed from the data matter.

As well, Afternoon breakout sessions will be announced soon.

To sign up for this year’s Digital Main Street Forum, visit:

And for more information on Digital Main Street, visit: 

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Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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