Tom Thomson is executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Tyler Harper

Tom Thomson is executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Tyler Harper

COLUMN: Getting Nelson businesses online

Tom Thomson writes about the benefits of brick-and-click

Tom Thomson

Nelson Chamber of Commerce

Being in business is never easy, even in the best of times. Let’s face it, generating sales, meeting payroll, serving customers, maintaining inventory, competing with online behemoths that dominate sales and doing all of this well enough to earn sufficient profit to keep operating, takes a lot of skill and energy. Now nine months into a global pandemic, a tumultuous time to say the least, people are stressed about the future.

Businesses up and down Baker Street and throughout the area hold their collective breaths each day wondering if all that they have done over the last tumultuous nine months will be enough or will a new public health order be brought down.

The businesses have been doing their part, working diligently to pivot and provide the safety protocols that are required while practising new ways of doing business. The mandatory mask public health order that came down was just one more thing business had to quickly comply with. The recent incidents at three local businesses is upsetting, as these businesses are trying their best to follow PHO and WorkSafeBC mandates. To have a customer or perhaps an anti mask protester take it out on employees or businesses is just beyond what would be acceptable. We just cannot afford to close and go backwards. We have done a tremendous job in keeping COVID-19 infections in check locally, and public health officials are encouraging folks to continue to support local businesses.

Support Local. Stay Safe. Social distance. Avoid large crowds or gatherings. Wear a mask indoors at local businesses

As a business organization we do our best to advocate to ensure businesses have the greatest opportunity for success. That is why we feel that an online presence to complement your bricks and mortar location is paramount.

At present, there are nearly two billion digital buyers across the globe, and this number is only expected to increase. Looking at this data, anyone may safely assume that the brick-and-mortar market is dying. Not yet! No matter what digital technology hits us next, it will never be able to fill our need to touch or physically interact with the products we want to buy.

So, the key is being in both markets! The so-called ‘brick-and-click’ combination can help retailers get the best of both worlds and create the best shopping experience for their customers. Baby Boomers would prefer shopping in-store while Millennials and Gen Z are open to shop in-store and online.

By strengthening their online and physical presence, retailers can create marketing strategies that specifically address the generational consumer shopping behaviour and reach them on the right channel.

To that end, the Chamber has been working with our economic development partners at Community Futures, Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism, the City of Nelson, and Areas E and F to get more businesses engaged in e commerce. At the very least, enhancing online presence through the business website, social media, and purchase fulfilment. That could include delivery, shipping or simply in store pick up at designated times.

Our partners are here to help your business sell and reach more shoppers on the following platforms

• The Support Local BC online gift card program (brought to you by a partnership of your local credit unions);

• The new Kootenay platform, Ballasters.com, that provides an online selling platform for Kootenay food producers;

• Small Business BC’s Kootenay Marketplace

The COVID Rapid Response Team (CRRT) is a collaboration project between Selkirk College, the City of Nelson, Community Futures, and the Chamber of Commerce. The team consists of student interns and researchers working remotely for the Selkirk College Applied Research and Innovation Centre.

Contact the CRRT for assistance with establishing a strong social media and online presence; integration with online marketplaces; website and search engine optimization; online software training; and product photography and virtual tours. To find out more how you can benefit, contact Jonathon Doyle at jdoyle@selkirk.ca.

In addition, Kootenay Association for Science and Technology’s The Digital Economy: Rapid Response + Resiliency Program ( www.kast.com/der3) and the Basin Business Advisor Program have a cross-referral process established. There is no wrong starting point!

Rather than resisting this trend, retailers should combine digital and physical retail to engage their customers, gain an edge over their competitors, and boost profits.

Tom Thomson is executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.

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