Improving digital capability helps retail businesses grow

On the right: Kellie Martin, owner of Soul 2 Soul Shoes

Businesses across Melbourne’s South-east have been upskilling and modernising their operations during the pandemic.

When many Victorians were required to stay home to reduce the risk of COVID-19, this included shop owners who relied heavily on local customers.

To support businesses during this challenging time, an initiative led by Glen Eira City Council alongside Stonnington, Bayside and Boroondara councils was established to set up the Digital Pathways Program.

This twelve-week digital literacy program was designed to help small and medium business owners develop confidence within digital spaces and understand how digital marketing strategies and platforms can elevate the capacity of owners.

When Kellie, owner of Soul2Sole in Elsternwick took over the store in the middle of the pandemic, she didn’t know just how long it would last and how it would impact her business.

“Not sure if we were brave or stupid! It was definitely an unsettling time. The bills keep rolling in. But we were more fortunate than many - we have a great product and live in a fabulous community. It gave us the time to improve our web site, which is time that we may not have had otherwise.”

“The program helped us to identify our brand values, define our digital marketing goals and help us plan for the future.”

The program was delivered online and included training sessions on business promotion, logo and image design, social media marketing and online payment methods via PayPal.

“We’ve improved all of our digital platforms, reaching more people than ever with a clear brand identity and look forward to growing the business further,” Kellie says.

When the program launched in 2021, 143 business owners undertook the program, with the 12 recorded webinars now available as a resource to the wider business community on Digital Pathways.

“This program is invaluable for business owners who are inevitably time poor. The pandemic has taught us that we need to be flexible and try new things and sometimes you need help in doing that.”

“I would encourage others to attend programs like this to keep learning new things,” advises Kellie.

The program was funded by the Inner South-east Metropolitan Partnership, who engage communities, provide independent advice to government and deliver local projects to advance local priorities.

Almost $11 million from the 2021-22 Victorian State Budget was allocated to the Metropolitan Partnerships to support Melbourne's communities as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visit Metropolitan Partnerships to find out more about the Digital Pathways Program.

The Office for Suburban Development engages with local stakeholders and communities to identify their needs and aspirations, and deliver projects to improve local community involvement, infrastructure and services.