Google has revealed plans to launch a three-month programme of events in Liverpool designed to get thousands of businesses in the city trading online.
The initiative is the first of its kind in the UK and aims to help more than 1,500 companies across the region.
Google said that Liverpool lags behind many rival cities in its use of the internet for business, including Manchester, London, Leeds and Bristol. It is therefore planning a series of free events from September to highlight the benefits of an online presence.
"The internet has created huge opportunities, but many business owners feel they don’t have the expertise they need to help their businesses grow online," said Raja Saggi, head of small business initiatives at Google UK.
"This is the first time we have ever run a series of events aimed at helping one city, and we’ll be working hard with our partners to make a real difference to Liverpool’s internet economy over the coming months.
"With Liverpool’s strong business networks and sense of community, we believe this is the best city to run such an initiative."
The internet giant has partnered with six business organisations – Liverpool Vision, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Liverpool in Business, Liverpool’s Federation for Small Businesses, Women in Business and Business Link North West – to help run the events.
As well as large scale events, a Google 'Juice Bar' will spend three months travelling to various locations across Liverpool, with capacity to give 1,500 business people free one-on-one digital health-checks and advice.
Max Steinberg, chief executive of Liverpool Vision, the city’s economic development company, said: "There is strong evidence that no matter how small the business, or in what sector it operates, even a basic understanding of how to exploit web and email technology is a real driver for growth.
"We are working closely with Google because it is another opportunity to reach out to our businesses to help them improve their efficiency through better use of technology. A solid base of growing businesses is fundamental to the health of the city region."
Liverpool businesses can register for the events on the Getting British Business Online website. The website also offers small business owners and entrepreneurs a free tool to build a website in as little as 15 minutes, as well as information and advice on how to make the most of their website.
The announcement from Google follows the news that a member of its developer relations team will spend two days a week in Liverpool in the new DoES Liverpool technology hub in a bid to work more closely with software developers across the North West.