9 Aug 2018

Dialling up to a better future on the West Coast

2:03 pm on 9 August 2018

West Coast companies are finding success online as they look to overcome the barriers of living in such an isolated place.

The Hokitika boost your town workshop

The Hokitika boost your town workshop Photo: Supplied/Development West Coast

A series of digital technology workshops helping businesses lift their online presence and performance are being held across the country and took place this week on the West Coast.

The head of Westport IT business Vertigo Technologies, Brett Cottle, said the internet had become essential.

"It doesn't [matter] where you are in New Zealand - whether you're on the [West Coast] or whether you're in Auckland. I think everyone is going to have to move online to be able to survive in one way or another.

"It's next to impossible now. People no longer want to go out and go shopping. Malls still are a thing, but going to a mall is more of a family day out or something to do. You find more and more people aren't spending money at malls ... just going there to browse and then going to online and buying what they want."

Andrea Rodgers, who makes specialist soaps in Hokitika, said the internet was a powerful marketing tool.

" think it was an eye-opener in the things that you can do and perhaps things that you can achieve - the reach that you can achieve, how you can share your stories with other small businesses around town [and] moving onto Instagram."

However, not everybody is convinced of the power of the web, including Vanessa Atkinson, who runs a clothing alterations company called Stitched Up Real Good.

"I kind of find it like a black hole. I really don't know enough about it. I don't know if it's working for the businesses next door to me because people really aren't talking about what results they're getting from it."

Development West Coast chief executive Chris Mackenzie said some needed to be shown why it was worth moving online.

"We've had a comment that says 'look, I can write a receipt quicker than I can fire my computer up and produce something.' Businesses on the West Coast, like everywhere else, are actually interested in looking at what are opportunities for them to speed up their businesses for them to become more efficient - and digital is one of those areas," he said.

AboutUs founder Steve Adams, who is helping run the workshops, said the internet had changed the way businesses function.

"The old business plan in regional towns used to be hopefully someone will walk past the front door of the shop and come in, or the phone might ring 'cause someone will find us in the Yellow Pages.

Nowadays, it's about being proactive and getting out there and making connections with customers all over New Zealand and all over the world, using tools like Facebook and Instagram."

Mr Adams said a business' distance from its customers was no longer important.

"Imagine if you combine a Facebook page with an e-commerce site. You can be shipping things from anywhere in the world, really. You could have your brand on the West Coast, you could have your logistics set up in Christchurch and you could be shipping to the world. Location is becoming irrelevant, and that's great news for the West Coast."

The final two Boost Your Town workshops are sold out and will wind up this week.