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Spark’s advice for growing your business online

Nearly two million Kiwis search the web for businesses, products and services every month. Last year they spent $4.1 billion online, including $1 billion on websites based overseas.

By Sally Gordon, SME Communications Manager

But only half of small businesses in New Zealand even have a website. Simply put, if you don’t have a website for your business, then you’re missing out on potential customers who spend online.

It’s so easy and so important to get online, says Sally Gordon from Spark, especially when you can start off with a free mobile-optimised website (external link) offered by Spark to its business customers.

“There are so many small and medium businesses with no online presence and they are missing out,” she says.

“Our goal is to reach out to these businesses to explain the simple digital solutions available to them.”

Case study

Nine years ago small business owner Steve Dunstan took his clothing label Huffer online. But it wasn’t until recently that the business optimised its site for mobiles. It was a no-brainer – the traffic coming to the Huffer website through mobile devices was mind-blowing.

“Mobile is where the future is,” says Dunstan, adding that 5% of all Huffer sales now come through online.

“We have a multi-channel approach. People who want the Huffer experience can go to a store and talk to the team. Others who want to be in their living room, on the smartphone laxing out, can shop that way.”

Tenby Powell, founder of New Zealand SME Business Network, says the long-term economic impact of small businesses not being online is concerning.

“The spotlight of digital importance has illuminated a glaring deficiency that, in time, will impact small business growth and performance in New Zealand.”

Powell says the pace of the digital revolution has caught many by surprise.

“Many of our SME businesses are owned by baby-boomers who did not grow up in a digital age.” But they must adopt and adapt to technological change,” he says.

A range of free online tools is available to help businesses navigate the digital world.

To make sure your business is safe online check out the Government’s ConnectSmart website (external link) . It has practical steps, including a small business toolkit (external link) , to help protect your business, employees and customers from increasingly sophisticated online scammers.

The Digital Journey website (external link)  guides you through a digital assessment, and gives you an action plan tailored for your business. It has multimedia toolkits, templates and step-by-step instructions.

The Digital Resources (external link)  website has a wide selection of guides, including advice on reviewing your website, digital training, using video, the cloud and social media. The site constantly changes as the team and their partner organisations develop more content.

Common website mistakes seen by the Digital Resources team

Sensory overload: Cramming too much into your website confuses potential customers. Just keep the essentials simple, clear and visible – and don’t forget contact details for your business.

Company centric: We know you’re passionate about your company and want to share that on your website. But you really need to make it about the customer – and how they are going to love your product or service.

Dull or generic content: If your website is never updated or it’s out of date, then customers won’t return. Keep it fresh, with interesting and relevant content, and give customers a reason to keep coming back.

Banks and other businesses offer free websites to their business customers. Westpac and MYOB (external link)  and design innovation agency AboutUs (external link) are just two available.

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