Toronto retailers at Google Canada and Retail Council of Canada's first Retail Spark.

Toronto retailers at Google Canada and Retail Council of Canada's first Retail Spark.
Toronto retailers at Google Canada and Retail Council of Canada's first Retail Spark.

Retail Spark brings e-commerce advice to local businesses

Heading into the busiest retail period of the year, 40 per cent of Canadian independent retailers say they will not be advertising online—and yet 72 percent of Canadians plan to research their holiday purchases on the Internet, according to a recent poll conducted by Google Canada.

"Of the small and independent retailers in that survey, 49 per cent said that they want to leverage the Internet to be able to promote their business, but they're looking for increased guidance from various resources and support networks," says Rafe Petkovic, Google Canada's head of industry, retail.

On November 13, Petkovic will help local retailers get online at Retail Spark, an afternoon of educational workshops and talks at the CBC building in Vancouver. He will be joined by Mark Startup, VP of the Retail Council of Canada's MyStore; Lynsey Thornton, director of UX research at Shopify; Curtis Petersen, chief marketing officer of ShoeMe.ca and OnlineShoes.ca; and Anne Donohoe, CMO of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC).

Donohoe will share what MEC learned when it discontinued its print catalogue to move into digital advertising and omnichannel retailing in 2012. "Even though we had had the e-commerce site for years, it was really a big shift for members to go online and to be able to discover what products MEC had for sale, and also [for MEC to] focus on digital advertising to reach members and nonmembers," she says. As a midsize retailer and cooperative, "MEC really has to be focused and efficient with our dollars and be as relevant as possible to our members."

Google Canada, Shopify and the Retail Council of Canada will also launch a digital starter kit, a PDF of resources designed to help businesses get online and overcome key misconceptions. Experts will be available for one-on-one sessions to answer questions regarding adding and managing inventory, processing payments, calculating shipping rates and syncing online and offline retail operations.

Vancouver's event follows similar workshops in Toronto and Montreal. To download the digital starter kit or register for Retail Spark, retailers can visit retailspark.withgoogle.com