The COVID-19 pandemic has made 2020 a tough year for a lot of small Kiwi businesses. It has also provided an opportunity for them to adapt and thrive.
David Kelly of website design and ecommerce agency Zeald has shared with Newshub some advice on how to become more online savvy post COVID-19.
Kelly suggests small business owners need to build digital resilience into their businesses and seize the current opportunities.
“Kiwi businesses are probably some of the most fortunate businesses in the world at the moment, as we’ve had some semblance of normal trading, domestically,” he says.
“It’s been tough but there are currently some awesome opportunities to build their digital technology, so they’ll be prepared for anything unexpected in the future.”
Zeald has given away more than 600 free ecommerce websites to Kiwi small businesses through its Get Ecommerce Movement, and continues to give them away every week. The idea was to provide support and minimise overheads so a business could get started online without the worry of cost.
“We removed the cost barrier by offering GEM websites free. The only cost to a business owner in the first 12 months is a small success fee on sales, which is only paid when a business is earning through its website.”
“We want to see small businesses trading successfully online, growing in new ways, and being digitally prepared for the future.”
Most discovered it wasn’t that hard once they’d taken that first initial step.
The biggest challenges faced by small businesses are capital, time, and fear of change and the unknown.
“We found some people - who may not be tech-savvy - and had never walked this path before felt some uncertainty,” he says.
But at the same time Kelly says it’s been incredible to see businesses adapt so quickly.
“We’ve got some great examples in New Zealand of businesses looking at the COVID situation, seizing the opportunities and acting quickly.”
Popped is an Auckland-based business making niche and hand-crafted popcorn using the finest ingredients in New Zealand, which started three years ago.
Owners Edrich and Grizelda Andrade say before COVID-19 they used to travel to shows, events and expos every weekend, and were basically happy.
“After COVID we had no Plan B and it felt like everything was going wrong, and we very nearly decided to close,” he explains. “But then we thought ‘what can we do differently?’ Zeald helped us with our online sales - we now have an ecommerce website and our customers can pay with direct credit or Paypal through the site.
“Coming out of COVID we generated 200 orders with many of these going to supermarkets and shops. This helped keep our Ellerslie kitchen open.”
Looking ahead to the future Andrade says they’ll keep enjoying taking their popcorn to people, but they now also want to keep Popped’s online sales going too.
“I was always skeptical before, and didn’t know how it all worked, and never had the confidence to do it. But more people are buying online and I feel it’s the future. There’s no physical contact, so people feel quite safe. COVID is probably here to stay for a year or two, so we need to adapt,” Andrade says.
Stacey Johnston from Mahurangi Honey shares a similar story. She admits to enjoying lockdown, but is the first to admit she lives and works ‘at the end of the earth’, in one of the most beautiful and isolated parts of New Zealand.
Before COVID she relied solely on her market stall for honey sales. During lockdown Johnston also took up Zeald’s offer. “I thought I’ll give it a go. I had never done a website before. They helped me to do this, but I was proud of my effort. It’s been a learning curve and I’m still working at it. But it was a good way to get sales while we were in lockdown. And it was so good to call an actual person to receive support, and they were great at doing this.”
“I didn’t realise this but there are systems in place already. The courier can pick up deliveries from my letterbox, and we could send orders directly to our customers.”
“People are so good at supporting ‘local’ during and after lockdown, with a lot of orders coming from my market customers.”
Johnston warns it’s not easy. “I’m noticing now we’re out of lockdown you can’t just expect to get online sales. You need to keep working at it and keep educating yourself. But if you take the time to do it, it’s all there.”
This article was created for Zeald