Digital Transformation - Start Your Journey Today | The Ismaili Canada
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Digital Transformation - Start Your Journey Today

The Aga Khan Economic Planning Board for Canada in conjunction with Digital Main Street (DMS), Google and Shopify, is pleased to offer resources for Jamati business owners and managers interested in digitally transforming their businesses to respond to the Covid pandemic. Such resources to assist businesses begin or enhance their digital presence include support services, and digital transformation education.

This page provides two key sources of support:



A public funded organization committed to supporting businesses build their digital presence for better marketing and selling goods and services online.  All educational resources are available to businesses across Canada and the ShopHere, Future Proofing and related Grants are only available in Ontario at this moment. 



A set of resources compiled with Google and Shopify aimed to help increase your digital presence and support digital marketing and start and improve your online store.


This program will help small business owners relaunch their businesses with a focus on ecommerce and online marketing in the wake of COVID-19. The program goes beyond simply getting businesses online, it will help entrepreneurs create financial forecasts that allow them to recover from revenue loss, and transition their business model into one that relies less on foot traffic and face to face interaction.
  • Provide business owners a comprehensive plan to guide their digital transformation.
  • Provide main street businesses with the digital literacy skills they need to execute their digital transformation either through a do-it-yourself approach and/or being a smart consumer when purchasing these services.



Digital Main Street has compiled a list of tools, how-to guides and tutorials available to assist all main street business in embracing digital technology. You can find information on: how to build your online presence, using social media effectively, paid advertising, and much more.



Digital Main Street has obtained public funding to provide one to one support services and facilitate public grants to businesses to begin or enhance their online digital presence. If you are an Ontario business, please click below to access programs and grants subject to certain qualifying parameters.

Ontario only:

Click on any one of the programs and grants available to better understand program requirements and benefits.  

Certain programs have registration cycles.  Should any one program not be available, business owners are encouraged to register and will be notified when the program is active.

Digital Transformation Guide

The guide includes 2 tracks, which we recommend you do in order:​


1. Digital Presence and Digital Marketing​

Leverage digital technologies for business operations & to reach your customers online. Foundational all-encompassing overview and education of the different aspects of operating a business and reaching customers online. 

Who is this for? Those who need a well-rounded comprehensive introduction to digital businesses and reaching customers (marketing and sales) through digital channels. This will cover everything from presence to sales and operations.​​


2. Ecommerce – Start/Improve Your Online Store​

Specifically catered to retail and virtual-retail businesses that want to build an online store, and reach customers. ​

Who is this for? Those who understand the main concepts behind online presence (website and social media profiles, and tools to reach customers online), and who want an in-depth tutorial on setting up an online store.​​


See below for guides and learning resources for each track. We highly recommend you get familiar with concepts in Track 1, as this is foundational knowledge, regardless of if you are in the retail business or not. 

Guides & Resources

Start here if you are new to finding customers online

1. Fundamentals of Doing Business Online – Digital Marketing

Google Digital Garage series reaching and optimizing online customer touchpoints in the context of business strategy and goals. This is a comprehensive series that will give you a solid foundation.

Covers: Goals for online presence; websites; email marketing; search engines, organic search and paid search; search engine optimization; search engine marketing; web traffic analytics; local online advertising; social media; mobile apps; display ads; video content; eCommerce

Who is this for? Everyone. This is an all-encompassing education on running a digital business, focused on reaching customers online (awareness and selling).


2. Set up a Google Profile Online

Step-by-step guide on creating and using Google Profile effectively

Increase your discoverability

Who is this for? Those who have yet to set up a Google Profile and want a step-by-step guide.


3. Step by step guide to building online presence (Google Profile)

Building a website easily, starting an online store (Shopify), Running Google Ads Smart campaigns, Google Analytics

Who is this for? This is for you if you want further step-by-step guides on website building, social media basics, video content creation, setting up online stores, pricing and product information presentation, and Google Ads. 


4. Improve your user’s experience to increase sales

Implementing User Experience Best Practice, and Improving Website Performance

Who is this for? Those who have a website but want to make it more user-friendly


5. Tactical Digital Marketing Resources

Reaching Customers Online and Increasing Web Traffic  – comprehensive set of blogs on tactics to reach customers online and generate leads, including using content, SEO, social media and Ads​ 

Social Media and Search Engine Ads  – Reading resources on social media marketing and guides for top social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google, YouTube, etc.​

See Additional Resources link, under "Resources for reaching customers and selling online" for more related resources​.

Who is this for? If you know the basics of Google Ads and other social media ad platforms and want to dive deep – see links to tutorials for each platforms’ ad campaign-creation features. ​​


1. Get familiar with Track 1, starting with Fundamentals of Doing Business Online – Digital Marketing


2. Making the leap to E-commerce

An introduction to resources and ecommerce tools to transition a small business to online operations. 

Additional course on getting started with Shopify

Who is this for? Those who are not yet familiar with Shopify basics


3. Step-by-step program to create an online store, manage inventory and reach audience online via online marketing

A step-by-step guide to getting set up and getting familiar with Shopify ecosystem to power your online store. 

Covers: Creating compelling product content; Designing and setting up online store; Marketing Strategies; Fulfillment settings; Launch

Who is this for? Those who want a tutorial on starting a Shopify store and want to get started right away. 


4. Other resources to make setting up an online store easier

Digital Main Street shopHERE – free advisory support in setting up eCommerce online store

Learn about 90-day trial and partnership between Government of Canada and Shopify

Who is this for? Those who need support and discounts on setting up their Shopify stores, and have gone through the tutorials in #3 above.


Additional Resources

Google Guide for SMBs

A high level step by step guide for small businesses on creating an online presence using the Google ecosystem (software product suite). 


Google Back to Basics

Foundational guides (101s) on digital marketing, including SEO, Digital Marketing Strategy, User Experience best practices, and Video best practices​


ShopHERE Starter Kit

Guide to help small businesses accelerate their online presence.


Ontario Grants Program and ShopHere

Guide to the Ontario Grants Program and frequently asked questions about ShopHere​


Webinars on each aspect of running a digital business (operations and selling)

Google OnAir webinars on digital-first operations, such as Project Management, Fundamentals of Online Marketing, Managing Your Business Remotely, etc. 


90-day free Shopify Trial

Learning resources and links to access trial period for Shopify stores (eCommerce).


Shopify Entrepreneurs Facebook Group

Group to learn about and share best practices with other eCommerce merchants/retailers. 


Shopify Video Playlist

Bite-sized into tutorial videos for Shopify store-creation and operation


Digital Main Street webinars 

Live webinars offered by Digital Main Street including regular Digital Marketing Bootcamps, Starting/Growing your Shopify store, etc. 


Digital Main Street Future Proof 

Upcoming program (limited to Toronto businesses) to help pivot business model and help implement digital transformation plans. 


Additional Learning/Certification Resources


ShopHERE Certification for Students

Certification for enabling companies to build online presence


Google SkillshopGoogle Analytics Guide and Google Analytics Lessons

Deep-dive lessons for Google Ads, Analytics, YouTube, Ad Manager, etc.


Google Primer

Bite-sized lessons on starting and growing a business online


Shopify Courses

Comprehensive list of lessons on Shopify ecosystem for all levels of skill – from beginners to those ready to implement advanced functionalities for reaching and fulfilling customers online. 


YouTube Creator Academy 

Learn to create and track performance of your video content


Google Ads Video certifications

Video-based ads courses and tutorials with Google-certifications


Resources for reaching customers and selling online


Search Engine Optimization Comprehensive Guide​

Video-content Creation Courses (YouTube Basics to Advanced) ​

Google Ads OverviewDeep-dive LessonsVideo Tutorials  ​

Lead Generation with Google  – guide to generating high quality leads​

Inbound Lead Generation – Beginners' guide for generating inbound leads

Considerations When Choosing A Digital Marketing Agency

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a way to connect with and influence your potential customers. The real difference is, you connect with and influence those customers online. (2)


What Is A Digital Marketing Agency?

You can either handle the marketing in-house or hire an agency to handle your marketing.  For the internet, you are encouraged to choose a digital marketing agency with expertise in all things online from websites to social media and web advertising. (3)


What to consider when looking for an agency? (2)

Before reaching out to a digital marketing agency you must first determine what your goals are in having an agency partner. Digital marketing in a general sense is a broad skill set. So, let’s start there:

  • Goals: What are you trying to accomplish by hiring a digital agency? The answer to this question is unique to each client. Are you looking for more traffic to your website by any means necessary or do you have a more specific set of requirements? Helping potential agencies to understand your goals will ensure that you receive more detailed proposals from the agency.
  • Skill Sets: You must have a true understanding of your own skillset, and the skill sets of the various internal team members in your business. This will go a long way when determining responsibilities. Do you need help with certain aspects of digital marketing, or do you need to outsource the entire marketing department to the agency? Depending on the resources and skills you have at your disposal, your agency may suggest a full-service approach or a more collaborative approach. It is always in your best interest to be open and honest. When trying to establish an effective partnership all parties need to know what they are bringing to the table. 
  • Budget: Your budget will be the single most important factor when trying to find an agency.
  • The Interview: The process for designing and proposing a complete digital marketing strategy typically takes much longer than that of a single service. Expect your agency to take 1-2 weeks while keeping you informed along the way. 
  • Understanding Your Needs + Goals
    • You must be honest about your skills and goals.  
    • Does the agency demonstrate an ability to understand those needs/goals?  
    • Are they going to build a plan that suits your unique requirements or are they simply supplying “package” pricing?  
    • Are they willing to dive into your marketing mix and look for opportunities? 
  • Their Experience
    • It is important to determine how experienced the agency is in each element of the marketing mix. Do they specialize in Website design, SEO (Search engine optimization), Digital Ads (Facebook, Google, Instagram) etc. It is rare that you will find an agency that has been doing everything since day one. 
    •  Does the agency you are interviewing have experience across all the different areas of digital marketing i.e Website, Ads, SEO? If so, what are their strongest attributes and what are their weakest? Do they offer complete solutions to other clients and can demonstrate success? 
  • Putting it All Together
    • Digital marketing is a series of strategies working to support each other. For example, Ads bringing a higher amount traffic to your website, and the website enabling you to make more sales
    • Finding an agency that understands how to delicately utilize each of these elements to their maximum ability is key.
  • Final Selection
    • You have likely spent a couple of weeks and quite a few hours going through calls and proposals at this point. You have narrowed down your list and now it is time to select a partner. At this point, your decision will weigh heavily on final details



When trying to determine how to choose a digital marketing agency using the above-mentioned questions and categories to determine the ability of a digital marketing agency to deliver on your expectations. Pick the agency that can earn your trust and demonstrate a clear understanding of both your needs and abilities. Always look for an agency that is prepared to evolve with you. If you go through this process, your chances of finding the right agency are significantly higher. (1)


Sources: (1) (2) (3)

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