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App of the Month: Choose Newmarket

The year 2020 was definitely “unique”. The term unique to me refers to creativity as many people have found creative ways to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, including hosting virtual gatherings to keep their businesses open or simply stay connected with friends. For January’s App of the Month, we take a look at how the Town of Newmarket chose a unique way to support their local businesses using ArcGIS Survey123 and ArcGIS Experience Builder.

As much as I find online shopping at big-box stores convenient, I really miss going into a local shop, striking conversations with people and walking out knowing I found the perfect gift that would make my loved ones feel special. To recreate this experience, the Town of Newmarket launched Choose Newmarket, an application that supports local businesses during the pandemic by connecting them with residents.

At first glance, you might wonder, where is the app? Well, the site itself is the app.

Using ArcGIS Experience Builder, the Town’s GIS Team customized an interface for data on local businesses, which was collected using ArcGIS Survey123. Results from the data collection tool are automatically displayed on the app, so everything in the app is connected! Isn’t that nice and needed when everything and everyone is so far apart?

Identifying local businesses

Having used ArcGIS Survey123 in the past, their GIS team decided to use this tool because it’s easy to set up surveys and collect valuable data with it. Data on businesses such as their logo, business category, search tags or associated keywords, contact information and top five holiday gift offerings were all captured through the survey. Another cool feature of the survey is it included COVID-19 safety measures enforced in each store.

After the data was collected, Town staff reviewed the submitted surveys using ArcGIS Dashboards and took the submissions through FME software to manipulate the data into a hosted feature service on ArcGIS Online.

Engaging residents

After collecting and validating the information, the next step was to display and communicate it to residents. To do that, the Town developed an online business directory site using ArcGIS Experience Builder. As the name implies, the tool allows you to build a digital experience for your audience. For more on this tool, check out why you need to start using ArcGIS Experience Builder.

Choose Newmarket provides residents with the experience of going to a one-stop resource site to do their holiday shopping; it connects local businesses with their community. It is driven by the data collected from Survey123 and then customized to meet the required functionality as well as the aesthetic to match the cause or store’s branding. The Town went even further with customization and used ArcGIS Experience Builder Developer Edition to create a custom widget that helps enhance the search experience for users.

To encourage residents to use the application, the Town ran a promotional campaign and hosted a contest where participants could win prizes by sharing how they supported a business in Newmarket on social media. The contest resulted in good engagement numbers.

A good lesson from this is it’s not enough to make an amazing application, you also need to put some effort in showing off your hard work!

Delivering a win-win for all

When I first came across Choose Newmarket, I was ecstatic since I was in the middle of googling “local Christmas businesses in Toronto”. This app was exactly what I was looking for! (Unfortunately, it’s not in the place I reside in.) The impact of this application has been all positive, both for the Town and the community it serves. Through the app, the community now has a useful shopping resource that supports local businesses. Meanwhile, the Town is able to use their existing software and save money, instead of spending on expensive web development to set up an online business directory.

Businesses were quick to participate as well, with over 100 signing up within the first week of the app’s launch. They were very appreciative of Choose Newmarket and reported that new customers have visited their stores or restaurants after discovering them through the app. The launch was perfectly timed for December holiday shopping and the Town is hoping to continue building upon this resource site to support their local businesses beyond the pandemic.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.