Canadian Government helping businesses grow online: Canada Digital Adoption Program now open for applications

Throughout the last two years (and countless lockdowns), Canadian business owners have had to keep up with their consumers’ changing purchasing habits in order to survive. Whether that meant offering curbside pickup, same-day delivery, or online ordering, entrepreneurs across the country have strived to meet their customers where they are to remain competitive.

The Government of Canada estimates that 70,000 small and medium-sized businesses require additional digital skills to be competitive in the marketplace. Canadian research shows that businesses that have adopted updated digital practices and tools – including AI-powered customer service tools, updated e-commerce platforms and other digital advances – are 62% more likely to have higher sales growth.

In an effort to help businesses bounce back from two years of pandemic-induced challenges, the Government of Canada launched the Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) on March 3, 2022. The program will see $4 billion invested over four years to support small and medium-sized businesses across the country grow their online presence and adopt or upgrade their digital technologies.

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Depending on their size, specific needs, and goals, businesses can apply for funding through the Grow Your Business Online or Boost your Business Technology stream.

Digital adoption Q&A with Square’s Head of eCommerce Dave Rusenko

We’ve seen a 438% increase in Canadian businesses growing online with Square since the start of the pandemic. Here we speak with Dave Rusenko, Square’s Head of eCommerce, to discuss CDAP and how our partnership with Digital Main Street is helping Canadians to digitize their businesses.

Q: What are your thoughts on the recent announcement about the Canada Digital Adoption Program?

A: We’re pleased the Government of Canada is helping businesses grow online with a proven model similar to the way Digital Main Street and partners like Square helps business owners. This is an important initiative — Canadian research shows that businesses that have adopted updated digital practices and tools are 62% more likely to have higher sales growth. We plan to make it easier for business owners to grow online by training and supporting CDAP digital advisors across the country as they build websites for business owners.

Q: Is Square a delivery partner of CDAP?

A: Square will play a role in helping provide eCommerce training and support to digital advisors hired by delivery partners involved in the program.

Right now, we’re also a partner of Digital Main Street and train hundreds of digital advisors in Ontario and Alberta, so we’re excited to work with more digital advisors across the country, who in turn are helping business owners grow online.

Q: Can you tell me more about your work with Digital Main Street so far?

A: Since 2020, the Square team has been training hundreds of digital advisors from DMS’ ShopHERE program. These advisors work directly with small business owners in Canada who, in turn, are helping all kinds of small businesses in Ontario and Alberta expand online with Square. The digital advisors receive 35 hours of instruction in soft skills training, eCommerce training, and digital marketing training. We’re helping service businesses in food and beverage, beauty, health care, repair and retail rebuild and thrive long after COVID-19.

Q: What is the top barrier that you believe prevents Canadian business owners from expanding online?

A: When a business owner doesn’t know where or how to get started in expanding into an omnichannel operation, it can be extremely daunting. Building a website, managing inventory across multiple channels, and dealing with order fulfillment can be intimidating. There are two significant barriers that we’ve heard from Canadian business owners. Firstly, there’s the costs associated with setting up and maintaining a website, including any extra charges they may need to cover in the future. Square is focused on lowering the bar to help SMEs get started and be successful online, which is why offering a free Square Online option is so important to us. With this product, sellers pay only when they make a sale, and can get up and running fast.

Secondly, there’s a mindset and knowledge gap. Many Canadian business owners who have yet to expand online are unsure of what it entails to actually manage an online store, and many focus on the challenges or barriers they’ll need to overcome instead of the opportunity of the new and potentially significant stream of income ahead.

Q: Where can business owners in Canada find out more information about the program or about Square Online?

A: Business owners can learn more about the Canada Digital Adoption Program on the Government of Canada’s website and they can learn more about Square Online here.

To learn more about the state of eCommerce in Canada, check out The Future of Omnichannel.