With the movement of Kiwis across the country during the holidays, how do small business owners keep up with their customers?
Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, Kiwis can find solace in escaping the big cities in favour of their more relaxed rural counterparts.
But where do we flock to?
Looking at Spark’s anonymised mobile usage data over a million Kiwis left our main centres over the break, but by and large, they didn’t venture too far – with most preferred destinations being within a 3 hour drive from home.
The top 5 places of choice for Aucklanders were the Waikato, Northland, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, and Rotorua regions.
Whereas Wellingtonians preferred to holiday in Kapiti-Horowhenua, Auckland, Waikato, Hawkes Bay, and Christchurch.
Christchurch locals chose to visit South and North Canterbury, Auckland, West Coast, and Queenstown.
Overall, rural areas experienced the highest increases in daily mobile data usage: Kaikoura Coast (101%), Central Otago (86%), and Northland (86%).
However, the Coromandel was by far the most favoured hotspot, with over 150,000 visitors contributing to a whopping 231% spike in mobile data usage.
On the flip side, the main centres Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch not only experienced dips in daily mobile data usage (20 – 25%) over the peak holiday period, but also around 50% of their locals left to go elsewhere.
With these population movements over the break, how do small to medium businesses keep ticking over?
Greg Clark, Head of Business Sales at Spark, says that “in order to keep on top of this holiday population see-saw, it’s good for small businesses to think about their online strategy to take them across the break”.
“Being online means businesses don’t have to rely on people physically walking into their stores, they can benefit from having their doors open 24/7”
“Not only that, but they will show up on the radar of potential customers visiting their town who are searching for nearby products or services.”
“Consumers nowadays have the technology at their fingertips to search for, compare, and purchase products online – all while they sit on the couch at the bach.”
Nielsen is closely following this ever-growing trend towards e-tail therapy, noting that more than half of Kiwis are shopping online and it’s predicted that by 2025 nearly everyone will be regularly shopping online.
Steve Dunstan, co-founder of Huffer – one of New Zealand’s most iconic fashion brands, is a champion for the digitisation of small business.
Over the last year their online sales have grown substantially, and they are aiming for nearly 15% of sales to come through their online channel this year.
“It doesn’t mean that brick and mortar stores are becoming less important, rather we think it’s important to marry up online and instore into one cohesive experience for our customers”.
“Mobile is very underutilised in New Zealand at the moment. Kiwi businesses should be leading with mobile. The more mobile-friendly a retail company is, the more it will grow”.
“Now people are no longer limited to where their computer or laptop is, they can take their shopping experience with them to the beach.”
Being online and mobile-friendly allows Huffer to connect to their customers in different, unique ways. Over the Christmas break they had an online-exclusive sale of 50 re-issued editions of their iconic retro t-shirts.
Dunstan says the decision to only release them online rather than in-store “was a great chance for us to reward our online followers, and give our online community a chance to get hold of some of our sought-after classic tees that haven’t been around for awhile.”
In this movement towards e-commerce, non-digitalised businesses are missing out on their slice of the profit pie.
Clark notes that “if your business isn’t online then you won’t even be part of your potential customer’s consideration set when they search online – you’re essentially invisible to them.”
Alarmingly, almost half of all small and medium-sized businesses have no online presence whatsoever, and they account for 97% of all enterprises and 30% of all employees in New Zealand.
And this digital divide is set to become more noticeable with advances in technology.
Dunstan says, “with phones and tablets becoming larger, easier to use, and more accessible – along with IP technology making online payment easier we are going to see a massive increase in mobile.”
“As a business we should all be investing in a mobile platform and not leaving it at that, we should be constantly re-assessing it to keep ahead of the technology trends”.
Getting your business found
Spark want to help Kiwi businesses on their digital journey, encouraging them to follow the lead of other successful business customers like Huffer into the online space.
Spark Communications manager for small and medium enterprise, Sally Gordon says Spark are focused on getting more small business owners to take their first step on the road to digital nirvana.
“We know that Kiwis like to get away with their friends and family for the holidays, and this brings a lot of shift in people coming and going from different areas – our goal is to help small businesses keep running no matter where their customers choose to be.”
“We aim to help by offering them simple digital solutions, including a free mobile-optimised website for every Spark mobile business customer.”
*Insights provided are estimated visitor numbers for the entire NZ population using the total number of Spark devices at a location, and based off regional market share, extrapolated out to an estimate of total NZ visitor numbers.