If you’ve been following Business Link on social media, you’ll have noticed an uptick in posts referencing the digital economy. This is because we’re running two programs designed to help small businesses enter the digital economy or improve their success in the digital economy (more on these later). As we’ve been promoting the programs, we’ve mentioned some of the things involved in the digital economy, but we haven’t really sat you down and explained what it all means.

Defining Digital Economy

“Digital economy” is generally defined as referencing the economic activity enabled by the internet. This is a huge umbrella and covers e-commerce, online banking, digital marketing (both paid advertising and organic results from social media) and even services offered over video platforms. If you have connected with a service provider over Zoom in the past two years, followed a brand on Instagram or considered cryptocurrency, then you’ve contributed to the digital economy.

Digital Economy for Small Business

But, if we’re looking at how the digital economy affects you and your small business, we can make it a lot simpler. In fact, we can divide it into just two categories: e-commerce and digital presence. Think about e-commerce as anything to do with making money. For our purpose, it’s all about those dollars rolling in (like setting up an online store or integrating your store into Instagram). Digital presence is about being seen (like having a website with SEO optimization) or making connections (like interacting with potential customers on social media or setting up an online booking platform for your service-based business).


If you’re selling a product or products, and you don’t have an online store, it has never been easier to get that set up.

Setting up an online store is relatively simple with a modern website. Most providers offer built-in commerce platforms as well as integrations with e-commerce service providers like Shopify. They make it so easy that your biggest worry will be taking top-notch photos of your products!

But what if you’re not selling products? What if you’re one of the thousands of service providers in Alberta? For you, e-commerce could look like setting up appointment scheduling on your website, a chatbot for frequently asked questions, or a text messaging system so clients can re-order from you even when you’re closed.

But, if you’re not technologically minded, we can help. Keep reading to learn how you can have a digital economy expert help you through the steps and set you up with the skills you need to take it on in the future.

Digital Presence

Social media can be one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to be seen online … but it can also be complicated, scary, and expensive if you don’t know where to put your money. Our experience at Business Link tells us that a lot of small businesses (sole proprietors especially) know the importance of social media but don’t have the time or energy to devote to making their online presence successful.

What you need for your business is going to be very different from the business next door, which is why our Digital Economy Program offers one-on-one advice (more on that later). For now, take a few minutes to browse through Business Link’s blogs about Marketing, Brand & Sales. A few highlights include:

Digital Transformation

If this blog has you feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry: this section will make you feel much better.

Business Link has developed two programs to help you with your digital transformation. The first, the Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP), is all about e-commerce—and getting you $2,400 to make your e-commerce happen. It’s a great place to start if you qualify (full details are here, but essentially, you need to have one employee or have made $30,000 in the previous year). The first step in this program is meeting with an E-Commerce Advisor, who will help you determine what your needs are. They’ll help you with finding an eligible expense for the grant and offer support for improved digital strategies. Their time with you is limited, though, so you will probably take their insights to the next program, the Digital Economy Program (DEP).

The DEP has less stringent eligibility criteria (your business must be registered in Alberta, full details here), so you probably qualify for this if you don’t qualify for CDAP. This program pairs you with a Digital Service Squad member who can offer you personalized help that goes beyond e-commerce. They can help you with SEO, social media, your website, strategy, and basics like how to set up a social media account. The best part is they do these activities with you, so you leave the program with a working knowledge of digital marketing.

Learn all about CDAP and apply here, and learn all about DEP and apply here!