Skip to content

When business models shift

Whitehorse chamber offers digital marketing workshop
Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Guatto and program manager Andrei Samson at the chamber office in downtown Whitehorse Feb. 23.

It’s been a year of altering business models and changing consumer demands brought on by a global pandemic.

As Yukon shops and services continue efforts to respond to health guidelines and greater demand for online shopping options, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce is making efforts to ensure businesses can get off to a good start as they ramp up their online offerings.

Registration is underway for the chamber’s Digital First Marketing for Small Business Workshop, a five-session course that covers the basics of adding an online component to a business.

“It’s a stepping stone,” chamber program manager Andrei Samson said in a Feb. 24 interview.

The program, which will begin in March, was first offered in the fall and developed as a result of surveys the chamber did in March and May of 2020 that explored the impacts of the pandemic on business.

The survey found that just 21 per cent of Yukon retailers already had a strong online presence that businesses were looking to further strengthen due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, another 79 per cent had to quickly move or were planning to move to offer shopping online, by phone, email and contactless pick-up.

Whitehorse Chamber executive director Susan Guatto said many found themselves forced to switch business models virtually overnight as they worked to keep business operational amid changing measures in place to address the pandemic.

There were similar findings across the country and it’s expected customers will continue to favour online shopping post-COVID, both Samson and Guatto said.

Out of the survey and the impact of COVID-19, the chamber also made some shifts that saw it expand its Buy Local campaign to target a variety of businesses, including those online, and made changes to its course offerings to adapt to the new realities COVID has brought.

Guatto pointed out that with 61 per cent of the 3,200 Yukon businesses (2,400 of which are based in Whitehorse) being home-based, it was important to reach out to all.

The Digital First Marketing for Small Business course was developed and offered in November based on the survey results and informed from previous marketing and digital marketing courses the chamber has offered. At that time, the course was held in person and, therefore, limited to six. This time around, the chamber will be delivering the course virtually through Zoom, a move that allows for up to 14 participants. Virtual program delivery also means those in other communities can participate as well.

A survey by the chamber of its members in January about potential course offerings found that the highest demand – at 47.14 per cent – was for the Digital First course.

It appears evident that adding an online component is now a necessity for many Yukon businesses.

The chamber’s goal is to assist businesses in making that move.

“(They) continue to need that support,” Guatto said.

While many businesses had to make quick decisions just to get set up to offer online, contactless sales, Samson highlighted a long list of considerations that business owners would typically have to make in deciding how to proceed, ranging from what platform to use in developing a website to how best to direct advertising dollars and more.

“It can be overwhelming,” Samson said, noting the course aims to help business owners determine the best direction in taking their business online.

“All the fundamentals are there.”

The five-week course will begin with an introduction to a digital marketing strategy focused largely on inbound marketing, digital marketing, developing a strategy and goal setting.

Subsequent sessions will focus on reaching a target audience, optimizing websites and search engines, making use of tools like analytics and Google services as well as email, and social media marketing.

Along with the weekly 1.5-hour sessions, each participant will also have a one-hour individual session with an instructor to explore issues around digital marketing specific to their business.

The program is one of a number of program and course offerings the chamber has altered in an effort to assist businesses in adapting to COVID.

Guatto emphasized the importance of letting the chamber know what sort of programs businesses want to see offered through the chamber.

As she noted when asked what she hopes courses like the digital marketing program accomplish for businesses, it’s “that they succeed”.

Participants can register for the course at

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Guatto and program manager Andrei Samson at the chamber office in downtown Whitehorse Feb. 23. (Stephanie Waddell, Yukon News)

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
Read more