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NZ SMEs need to keep up in the e-commerce retail race - Spark

31 Aug 2017

In 2014, only 30% of New Zealand small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were using their website, or a third-party e-commerce site, to sell products or services. 

By July 2017, this figure had doubled to 61%.

This is clearly an improvement, but with almost 40% still not online, how can NZ businesses expect to compete in a market that could soon be dominated by retail giant Amazon?

Jason Paris, Spark’s home, mobile and business CEO, says SMEs are not adapting fast enough and New Zealand businesses are in danger of being left behind in the global retail race.

“E-commerce capabilities future-proof our SMEs to take on global competitors in the New Zealand market,” says Paris.

“The data shows that many SMEs are being complacent when it comes to getting online and Spark’s concern is the impact this will have on Kiwi businesses when the likes of arrive on our shores.”

This latest data comes from Spark Lab’s partner Digital Journey. 

The information is pulled from the Digital Journey assessment tool, available through the Spark Lab website.

The assessment tool has a total sample size of 7,000 New Zealand SME business people and is promoted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Just as concerning is Digital Journey data showing 18% of New Zealand SMEs don’t even have a web page for their business.

“Statistics like these are shocking when we think about how much better businesses perform when they embrace digital technology,” says Paris.

“There is a lot of wasted opportunity for SME growth which, given the huge amount SMEs contribute to the economy, translates to lost opportunity for New Zealand.”

The MBIE’s Business Growth Agenda 2017 shows the benefits of digital technology for NZ businesses, including creating opportunities to succeed, grow and generate jobs. 

These are benefits that many SMEs are missing out on.

Digital Journey data also reveals that 44% of small business owners also spend less than one hour a week on their social media platforms.

“Social media is a true opportunity for businesses to develop a relationship with their potential customers. Like all relationships, it takes time, but you’ve got to be where people are,” says Paris.

“What we’re finding increasingly is they’re online”.

 “It’s important to understand that digital technologies like e-commerce and social media don’t necessarily mean more work for SME owners, as is the common misconception,” says Paris.

“The efficiencies that these tools provide allow business owners more time to reinvest in other areas of their lives, including their personal lives, families and activities that lower stress levels and help them perform better at work overall.”

So, what more can be done to get New Zealand SMEs playing in the e-commerce space?

Paris says there’s a lot being done at a government level.

MBIE have a number of initiatives in place to encourage better use of digital technology by small businesses, in areas such as connectivity, workforce skills, regulation, security and privacy.

Paris says this work provides a great platform for the private sector to build on when it comes to supporting digital transformation in business.

“We’ve invested in our Spark Lab programme which consists of events, digital tools, online content and a social networking community for our Spark Business customers.

“Our goal is to help businesses find their edge through digital technology and move closer to their goals.”

Paris suggests that more projects like this could increase education of SMEs on the importance of technology for succeeding in today’s market.

“The government has recognised that when it comes to going digital, small business is struggling,” says Paris.

“As a New Zealand company we really want to see that change because in the end, homegrown business success is New Zealand’s success.”

Spark Lab is a knowledge and capability programme from Spark helping Kiwi businesses find their edge through digital tools, inspirational content and practical advice. 

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