As COVID-19 increases the urge for many to shop online, the University of Alberta has partnered with the City of Edmonton to help local businesses improve their presence on the web.
The Making Edmonton Digital program aims to get small businesses that may not have been able to make that change due to a gap in knowledge or finance — online for free.
“It’s been a struggle for many businesses just to adapt to the new reality,” said Rahim Jaffer, the owner of Rooster Kitchen & Bar on Whyte Avenue.
“One of the things that I realized is that we weren’t as active in the digital platform as we could be.”
The Making Edmonton Digital program launched with the help of a $75,000 Edmonton Economic Recovery Grant in the fall. The U of A’s School of Retailing provides businesses with a “digital student consultant” to help launch an online site.
“Consumer behaviour has changed so much in the last seven months, even when the pandemic is over people are going to continue to shop online,” Heather Thomson with the U of A’s School of Retailing, said.
“Our hope and what we’re out to do is to help as many businesses improve their digital presence in some way, shape or form,” Thomson said.
The city partnered with the university as part of its COVID-19 recovery initiatives. The Edmonton Economic Recovery Grant is meant to provide local businesses and business organizations with flexible funding in order to relaunch and strengthen their business models.
The Making Edmonton Digital program is aiming to target 315 local businesses.
“Each business gets about 15 hours of time from the student but we’re working on something that will extend that program into the year,” said Braidon Reid with the City of Edmonton.
Thomson said that so far, the students involved have done a vast array of different online work for the businesses.
“[They’ve been creating] Google profiles, creating social media strategies and social media accounts, website e-commerce, taking photography, improving search engine optimization,” she said.
For Jaffer, he says he hopes the restaurant’s new online presence will help it survive COVID-19 — and beyond.
“This really jumped out at me as an opportunity to save some money and hopefully get the help we needed to create a better presence on that digital platform.
“Having that improvement on our website will hopefully reach more people in order to show what we have to offer.”
–With files from Chris Chacon, Global News
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