Bellville Downtown District Marketplace
Belleville is a town located between Toronto and Ottawa in Canada. During Canada’s strict lockdown in 2020, the Downtown Belleville Improvement Area (a business improvement district) decided to embark on a project to create an online marketplace called the Downtown District Marketplace.
In just four weeks, the BID launched a website which allowed nearly two-dozen businesses to receive orders for curbside pickup. Today, the website hosts over a thousand products from local businesses, including restaurants, artisan markets, art associations, and galleries. It has attracted more than 50,000 visitors and over 1,000 orders. In fact, the marketplace has been such a success that the BID is no longer supporting it with grant funding.
The BID is currently developing the site to add shipping. Currently, customers can pick up curbside, or merchants manage deliveries themselves.
How the marketplace works
The BID created the marketplace on the Shopify platform. The platform charges the BID $299/month, plus $10/month for a multi vendor marketplace app, which means the BID does not become the merchant.
The BID was fortunate to have two young staff members with the technical skills needed to design a website. They created pages for each local business, which only they could access and edit.
Shopify collects the money from the sales, and the BID pays its merchants every 2 weeks. Each local business is responsible for paying credit card and transaction fees. The BID doesn’t take any commission. The local businesses greatest concern about the marketplace was payment terms. Early on in the project, the BID spent many hours sorting out payments to the local businesses, but it has since managed to automate this process.
Launching the marketplace
The BID launched the marketplace with a teaser campaign, which included VIP access to the first 250 people that signed up for its newsletter. In this way, it was able to gather feedback on issues that early users faced and make adjustments before opening to the general public.
Its subsequent marketing tactics have included social media (paid and organic), digital advertisements, local radio, and press releases sent to local and national media outlets. Local partners have also provided content and written features for the Marketplace.
The BID did not receive support from the city to launch the Marketplace. It did, however, receive funding from a regional marketing board to run a contest on the website — users who spent $50 could win Marketplace gift cards to use on their