The world around us is changing. Accelerated by impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic, a digitization of just about every aspect of our environment has precipitated alterations to the ways in which we communicate and interact with one another, share information and ultimately act on it. This evolution could not be more evident than it has been for merchants operating within the retail industry. Shifting consumer preferences and behaviour, hastened by an ever-expanding ecosystem of channels for consumers to traverse throughout their shopping journey, have resulted in a need for retailers to deliver an omnichannel experience to them that includes ease, convenience and a great selection. And, it’s a need that’s putting pressure on small- and medium-sized businesses that have got to enhance their digital presence without the budget or resources of their larger competitors.
To help provide merchants across the country with the digital kickstart that’s required, the Canadian federal government recently introduced the Canadian Digital Adoption Program (CDAP). Meant to facilitate competitiveness and growth and provide small- and medium-sized retailers with a means to access a range of digital tools, the $4 billion funding will go a long way toward getting more Canadian businesses online and enhancing their ecommerce presence through a digitization of their operations. It’s an introduction that David Nagy, digital pioneer and Founder of eCommerce Canada, says could serve to be critically important in the near- and long-term health and survival of many retailers in Canada. And, he adds, it’s funding and support that seems to be arriving at just the right time, too.
“It’s such an interesting phase of history that we’re experiencing right now,” he muses. “There’s so much disruption happening at the moment considering the state of global events and supply chain uncertainty, creating a lot of challenges for retailers to navigate through. Add to that the accelerated digitization of everything, an evolution that’s helped to shape evolving consumer preferences and behaviour, and the need for retailers to be online is amplified. In fact, it’s just not optional anymore. Merchants have got to be in the game and have their catalogue on the internet. The past couple of years have served to expose a sizeable percentage of the population to ecommerce for the first time, while heightening expectations along the way. So, not only do merchants need to be online, they’re also responsible for ensuring availability and accuracy, a good user experience, great service and an overall seamless journey across their platforms and touchpoints.”
In order to address the range of needs of Main Streets across the country and level the digital playing field, businesses are being offered support and funding by CDAP through two important streams. To assist merchants who have not yet begun their digital evolution in full with costs associated with the adoption and implementation of new digital technologies, the ‘Grow Your Business Online’ micro-grant of $2,400 is available. This funding will be provided to 90,000 eligible small businesses, opening up a number of ecommerce opportunities for them.
The second stream of funding – the ‘Boost Your Business Technology’ grant – is available to eligible small- and medium-sized businesses who may be further along in their evolution and are seeking a more robust approach to digitization of their operations. Businesses that receive approval and entry into the program will be provided with access to a marketplace of digital adoption experts who can help develop a digital adoption plan and strategy, or ‘roadmap’, tailored to their needs. In addition, they’ll receive a $15,000 grant which covers 90 per cent of the cost of their advisory services. And, perhaps most importantly, select businesses will be given the opportunity to secure a 0 per cent interest loan from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to facilitate the acquisition of new technology. It’s funding that Nagy, whose company eCommerce Canada has been named as one of the trusted digital advisors within the program’s marketplace, applauds the efforts being made by the government, referring to them as “critical” toward the continued success of small- and medium-sized businesses within the country.
“What this program comes down to is really the fact that it’s a meaningful sum of money that the government is investing in the health and strength of small- and medium-sized businesses in the country,” he asserts. “And it equates to a really meaningful sum of money that each of these businesses receives, providing them with immediate effective capitalization. It’s funding that, within each stream, will result in significant deliverables for participating businesses. It arms Canadian businesses with the ability to level up and become a lot more competitive not just here at home, but it will also serve to accelerate their competitiveness globally as well, enhancing their prominence on the world stage.”
Growing Canada’s technology ecosystem
Another aspect of the program that Nagy lauds as integral to its viability is the focus that’s being placed on youth employment and development. Businesses involved in the program can leverage the help of talented post-secondary students and recent graduates through subsidized work placements to support the execution of their digital transformations. It’s a layer that Nagy says will provide substantial reinforcement for merchants involved, adding that it will also prove to be incredibly important toward growing and improving Canada’s technology ecosystem.
“So much of the focus of this project is oriented around youth employment and the development of talent within the technology space,” he explains. “To this point, Canada hasn’t really done a very good job of incubating this talent. We’re aware that we need technical development, both the soft and hard skills within the technology industry, but we haven’t been effective in fostering that talent within real-world scenarios and settings. This program is intentional in its message that it not only wants to support businesses through this endeavour, it also wants to bring young talent into these businesses to gain experience and help propel the industry forward and increase its competitiveness globally. The program’s been thoughtfully built with consideration paid to the multiple stages of online business development, marrying both business success and the future wellbeing of the country’s employment ecosystem.”
For owners of small- and medium-sized businesses who wish to learn more about CDAP and to view the criteria that eligible businesses must meet, visit www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/152.nsf/eng/home.
For a pre-assessment, or to leverage eCommerce Canada’s digital consultancy services, visit https://ecommercecanada.com/cdap/.