With more than 25 years since Al Gore invented the Internet (or not) and seemingly everybody tweeting everything, it would follow that the business opportunities of the online economy would be widely recognised in New Zealand.
But as it turns out, as a business community, we’re not quite as connected as we may think – yet.
The MYOB Business Monitor, a survey of over 1000 Kiwi businesses across the country, showed that only 34% of businesses own a website, and around 20% sell products and services online.
And perhaps more surprising, given how much has been published on its phenomenal growth and influence over recent years, just 14% of Kiwi businesses use social media.
So are the figures telling us that social media is over-hyped, or that local businesses are just a little under-connected?
Well, the data paints a picture that is slightly more complex. Social media use is definitely growing in New Zealand. If you are under 40, you’re twice as likely to be promoting your business through social media. And if you are 30-something woman, based in Auckland, you’re probably tweeting to your thousands of followers about an amazing new product launch event, at a pop-up venue with VJ live-streaming from Madrid, right now.
But most Kiwi businesses are still showing some reluctance to get online, or they’re not seeing the benefits that the online economy can offer.
And that’s a bit of a shame, because the research we’ve done also tells that business with a website do better than those without. According to the Monitor, 37% of businesses with a website reported an increase in revenue, while only 28% of businesses without a website saw revenues rise.
So what we really see here is an opportunity for Kiwi businesses to do more and engage with their customers more online.
The benefits of doing so would be widespread. We hear a lot about improving productivity as a key focus for the growing economy. The improved results for online businesses highlight that becoming a more connected economy could see us make major productivity gains.
Becoming a more connected economy could also see us make some huge strides in catching up with businesses over the ditch. Currently, Aussie businesses are about as online as Kiwi ones – and our retailers are far ahead of their trans-Tasman neighbours. If we want to find an area (other than rugby) where we can match – and even surpass – Australia, the Internet economy would be it.
Building online business is not something that should just fall to individual business owners. As a country, we all need to make the step up to greater online engagement. Otherwise the Government’s super-fast broadband will be more about streaming video-on-demand than helping Kiwi businesses earn more.