Jesse Hirsh:

Technology has created an accelerated society, things are always changing. I like to say the Internet doesn’t have a finish line. There’s no one who could say “Alright, I figured it out, I’m done”. There’s always new services, there’s always new apps and that means new opportunities. Digital transformation is essential for small businesses cos it gives them the tools to be competitive in a digital economy.

Dani Gagnon:

Small businesses that are not fully transformed to digital are gonna have a really hard time in the next five years keeping afloat especially if you do want your business to survive in the next, you know, decade; so many things are turning digital. I even look at, you know, I teach at Seneca and I work with photographers and I’m like you know, even photography is gonna be changing. You gotta think about- if you wanna be a wedding photographer, people are probably gonna be wanting to watch a wedding in VR in like 360, so don’t just learn photography, learn how to do VR.

Cheri Chevalier:

Millennials will be about 50% of the population very very soon. And so, understanding how to engage with that talent, how to get the most out of that talent it’s gonna be really important for businesses both to engage their employees from an employee-engagement perspective, but also as you sell to those customers as well. They’re also becoming the predominant buyers in the ecosystem, and so knowing them again on those two sides of the coin, knowing them as a buyer and knowing them as an employee is really important.

Corinne Sandler:

Most small businesses are quite intimidated by the amount of data out there, and they don’t know what to do with it. So, I think that by understanding and bringing out new technology tools, or analytical tools for small businesses to be able to capture what they’ve got, utilize it and kinda pull out those insights is gonna be key.

Cheri Chevalier:

This idea that IT is democratized, that small businesses have access to the same technology that large businesses do is empowering. And right now, the benefits from that technology are tenfold, the changes are happening so fast, the ability for technology to improve your productivity, to increase your creativity, to drive innovation and create new products is all there for everybody.

Dani Gagnon:

It’s so important that the small businesses have access to the same kind of tools that the bigger companies do. And it’s not very often that they get to watch speakers talk about AI, or you know, patent, anything we were talking about today so, I think the drill really encourages them to kinda think outside of the box think that they’re bigger than they are and that’s definitely gonna help them wrangle all the future when it comes to tech.

Cheri Chevalier:

-We’re a small business nation. 99% of businesses in Canada are small businesses, so in order to strengthen that innovative ecosystem that we have, the innovation economy if you will, we need to strengthen small businesses.

Jesse Hirsh:

We chase big companies like Amazon trying to get them to locate their second headquarters here. When the strength of Toronto’s digital community is in small businesses, it’s in startups, it’s in the grass root of Toronto’s tech community not in the big business world.

Dani Gagnon:

-Small stores are actually what make a community, it’s not the big box stores. When you go to Queen St. West it’s not Queen St. West because of Walmart, like there’s no Walmart there, so if you look at all the little neighborhoods in Toronto especially, like, those neighborhoods literally exist because of the small businesses, and I think if people wanted to PI websites and check that all the businesses that were in the area they’d be really surprised at how many businesses they could get all their stuff from. So it’s just so important to realize that you could shop local and actually support everything we need.

On April 20th, local Toronto business owners filled the Council Chambers at City Hall for a day of transformational insight and the digital best practices at the Digital Main Street Forum hosted by Digital Main Street (DMS).

The Digital Main Street Forum was organized to encourage growing main street businesses to apply technology in ways that can take their business to the next level. From online marketing to customer research to data practices and emerging technologies, the forum challenged business owners to reach outside their comfort zones to consider new opportunities for their businesses.

Jesse Hirsh started the day off by highlighting technology’s impact on the workplace, focusing on automation, robots, co-working, blockchain, and more.

“Technology has created an accelerated society,” said Hirsh, “There are always new services and apps, and that means new opportunities.”

Social media is the new marketing

Dani Gagnon of Dani G Inc. is a mastermind behind some of the most clever social media tactics that businesses can use to drive customer engagement. She highlighted how deftly adapting your content to pop culture trends has the power to drive meaningful interactions.

By intertwining relevant pop culture with organizational objectives, you can ride the wave of a current trend. She shared an example from the time she headed social media for an insurance company. On the same night, the popular television series Game of Thrones had aired, she shared a poll, “What Game of Thrones character most needs life insurance?” This effort of practically tying the business’s offering into this trending content brought relevancy, which was quickly followed with awareness and engagement.

Tip: practice connecting your business back to a trend regularly. Pick five trends and see how you can shape your offering to be relevant to the trend.

Data is the new oil

Data Scientist Corrine Sandler had desired to fill a gap she noticed while working in the research market. With Fresh Intelligence Research, she and her team are able to produce fast, cost-efficient research with actionable truths.

Sandler says understanding data and how to put it to its best use is the secret to creating experiences that customers are willing to pay for.

“Your greatest asset is your customer. Your second greatest asset is your data.”

Sandler emphasized that data is a great asset that can be used to find conversion opportunities. She shared an example of a pool company that found customers converted better when two consecutive days of temperatures were above the historical average. In this case, data helped the company discover the best time to advertise and the most effective ways to do so.

All in all, data is a big deal and it’s extremely important to know how to use it to your advantage.

Millennials and the new-age workplace

Cheri Chevalier, General Manager of Cloud Services & Software at Microsoft, probed businesses to seek millennials for talent in the workplace, and how this will economically benefit them.

“Millennials will be about 50 per cent of the population very soon, and it’s understanding how to engage and get the most out of that talent that’s going to be really important for businesses, both to engage their employees but also as you sell to those customers as well.”

Chevalier also quoted that millennials are becoming the prominent buyers in the ecosystem.

Digital Main Street Forum 2018 at Toronto's City Hall

Digital Main Street Forum was a great opportunity for business owners to learn about technological advances that are shaping the way Torontonians are doing business.

We encourage businesses of all sizes to explore how digital can help improve product and service delivery and customer experience!

The search for digital best practises starts here

If you’re looking to discover how digital can effectively transform your business, we’re here to help.

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