Tauranga is a trailblazer when it comes to small to medium enterprises (SMEs) embracing the web to grow their businesses, the inaugural Google New Zealand eTown Awards reveal.
Tauranga was today named as one of New Zealand's top five eTowns in the awards launched by Google to celebrate the towns and cities making the best use of the web to connect with customers and grow.
Auckland City, Nelson, Queenstown and Wellington City were also named regional winners, with the overall national winner to be announced in Wellington in May.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said he was delighted that web-savvy local SMEs had been recognised by Google.
"It's great to see them using the online world so efficiently to enhance their businesses and, by extension, the reputation of Tauranga City," said Mayor Crosby.
Annie Hill, projects manager for Priority One, the economic development agency for Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty, said "We want to shout from the rooftops about the exciting things that are happening here and it's fantastic that the great work that is being done online has been recognised in the Google eTown Awards."
She said Priority One had run a local IT cluster for 10 years, which now had more than 500 members.
The local Chamber of Commerce and Export Institute were both very active, and all the agencies worked closely together with businesses.
International research has established the strong links between digital engagement and commercial success.
Tony Keusgen, Country Manager, Google New Zealand, said it was exciting to see small and large towns alike featuring in the awards.
"The web has always been great at levelling the playing field, and the New Zealand eTown winners prove this," said Mr Keusgen.
"This shows the power of the web to help businesses - and towns - pivot into new areas based on economic conditions. Many towns known in New Zealand for tourism have made the most of the web to raise their virtual visitor numbers as real-world visitor numbers dropped after the global financial crisis."
Jennifer Boggiss, General Manager of Tauranga SME Heilala Vanilla, said that a website was a key aspect of their business plan when they launched the company in 2008.
"My husband Garth has an IT background and was adamant that a business has to have a website and a domain name. We have since significantly revamped our website," said Mrs Boggiss.
The company has distributors throughout New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Brazil and the United States and has ambitious growth plans. It also began selling online in April last year.
"Selling online provides another revenue stream we didn't have before," said Jennifer. "A lot more people are shopping online. Our teenage daughters do almost all their shopping online.
"Alongside our New Zealand domain name we also established domain names for Australia and the USA to target our key markets. We also use! social media and we ran Google ads when we launched the online sales."
The Google eTown Awards have previously been held in Europe, Australia and Canada.