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How Ottawa merchants can survive and thrive amid COVID-19

New product offerings, a shift to online sales and better use of digital marketing are some of the strategies Ottawa merchants are employing to engage customers in new ways.

To help local business owners understand these changes, OBJ and sponsor Invest Ottawa recently teamed up to explore how many retailers are not only surviving, but thriving, amid COVID-19. 

This is an edited transcript of a discussion between Invest Ottawa’s Paula Hopkins and OBJ publisher Michael Curran. To hear the full interview, please watch the video above. Prefer an audio version of this podcast? Listen to it on SoundCloud or Spotify

CURRAN: What does future-proofing your business look like these days?

HOPKINS: It’s really about setting your business up for success during changing times or crises. There were probably a lot of local businesses who were thinking about going digital before the pandemic, but now we’re seeing these entrepreneurs being really creative about how they are selling their products and marketing their business. Whether it’s offering online courses and training, subscription boxes or service-based business selling their products, it’s essentially starting a whole new business and we need owners to actually assess how they can sustain that practice. 

CURRAN: How can businesses make that jump to a more permanent online sales platform?

HOPKINS: We need to make sure that your e-commerce platform of choice is suitable for your business model and that it fits with your website, but there are many other platforms for online sales that businesses should be considering. Do you need a booking system or scheduling software? Do you need a customer management relation system? Being able to stay connected with your clients is critical and we are helping businesses understand those platforms and how to properly implement them.  

CURRAN: The number of social media platforms out there is daunting. Where should business owners start?

HOPKINS: A common mistake we see with social media is business owners looking at what is popular instead of thinking about the best fit for them. You need to look at who your target client is and where they are spending their time online. Once you know your client, and know where they are, that’s where you should start. It’s also important not to try to master all of the platforms, but start with one. The best thing to do is to have a plan. Social media marketing can be a job in itself, and it’s easy to become caught up in the posts, so having that plan will be critical for success.