Many small businesses across the country temporarily closed their storefronts this year during the country-wide lockdown. According to the OECD, these closures are likely to hit small and medium-sized businesses the hardest. For many, digital tools have become a lifeline during this time.
Today, we’re kicking off International Small Business Week, a global initiative taking place from now until Saturday June 27. This week is a celebration of the resilience of our local small business owners - like Toronto-based stationary shop owner, Peter Laywine, who after over 30 years in business, set up his online store in March, which not only saved his business, but increased sales by almost 1700%.
To get the week started, we’re highlighting free tools and resources to help small businesses get set up with online stores, connect with their customers virtually, and get support from Canadians looking to rally behind their favourite local businesses. We hope you find these new tools and resources helpful.
Get set up online
A few weeks ago, we announced a new pledge to get 50,000 Canadian small businesses online. In partnership with Digital Main Street, the ShopHERE powered by Google program helps Canadian small businesses and artists build a digital presence. Eligible businesses can sign up for the program now to get a free online shop built for them.
One of the first businesses to go through the program was Toronto-based tea shop, Plentea, which had to permanently close its doors due to COVID-19. Plentea quickly pivoted to an online-only shop and now has the potential to reach customers across the globe.
“We signed up for the program and within a week we were up and running with the first iteration of our Shopify website. It's hard enough letting our guests know that they can no longer visit our store, but It felt very empowering telling them that we will be online, and they can continue to order our loose leaf teas through www.plentea.ca. We have already had an influx of orders and a lot of "thank you's" for us being online.” - Tariq Al Barwani, Founder, Plentea
For small businesses looking to grow their digital skills and get the most out of the web, we’ve created a Google for Small Business hub of free resources and training, a step-by-step online starter kit, and we’re also offering free virtual workshops and 1:1 coaching sessions through Grow with Google OnAir.
Get support from Canadians looking to help
Canadian search interest in "how to help small businesses" skyrocketed in March 2020 as consumers are looking for ways to support their corner bookstores, local watering holes, beloved dance studios and other businesses that give their neighbourhoods character—even if from a distance.
Merchants can now add support links for donations and gift cards to their Business Profiles, letting Canadians support some of their favourite businesses like Edmonton’s Continental Treat Fine Bistro, Montreal’s Bis, and Toronto’s Wong’s Ice Cream, right in Google Search and Maps.
"A donation or a gift card towards a future dine in experience will go directly to paying our amazing staff and to keeping our doors open through these tough times." - Sylvester Borowka, Continental Treat Fine Bistro
Get connected to customers virtually
Many small business owners who normally provide in-person services are now building virtual offerings. Yoga studios are offering online classes, salons are hosting virtual hair styling classes, and restaurant owners have quickly implemented delivery and curbside pick-up options. On Google my Business, we have introduced new features that make it easier for verified merchants to connect with their customers through their Business Profile in Search and Maps.
- Add attributes like “online classes,” “online appointments,” or “online estimates” to their Business Profiles to let people know how they’re operating and what the offerings are.
- We’ve expanded Reserve with Google to help merchants offer easy appointment bookings for online services so customers can quickly find available times, book a slot, and add it to their Google Calendar. Millions of people have already booked in-person appointments thanks to integrations from our Reserve with Google partners.
- Lately, interest in food delivery and takeout has exploded. In response, we’ve added more third-party ordering providers, so people can order directly on Google. To give merchants even more control, we’ll soon be making it easier to indicate their preferred online ordering partners on their Business Profiles.
- Today people are deciding where to grab food not only based on the menu, but also on how easy it is to pick up safely. We added attributes like “curbside pickup,” “no contact delivery,” and “dine-in” so that restaurants can easily share these important details on their Business Profiles in Search and Maps. Since March, more than 3 million restaurants have added or edited their dining attributes. Some restaurateurs are even ditching dining areas for good.
We know that businesses across Canada are looking for support during this time. We hope these new product features, tools, resources and programs can help them on their road to recovery.