As international conglomerate Amazon gets ready to make its mark in Australasia, New Zealand's retail businesses big and small really need to stop and think about how they'll remain competitive - especially online, and especially against international competition.

But unfortunately, many of them aren't taking the threat seriously enough.

Our own data gathered across Xero's small business customers shows that only 15 per cent of small businesses have an online shop, despite more than two-thirds of New Zealanders 18 years or older making online purchases.

Recent research from Spark Lab found similarly concerning results: almost 40 per cent of companies they surveyed say they aren't online, and around one in five don't have a website.

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With the announcement that ultrafast broadband is being rolled out to another 190 towns and rural areas by 2022, there's never been a better time than now to take advantage of the internet, technology, and global small business platforms to help your business profit and grow.

The reality is that taking your business online is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

It's a vital part of any successful business strategy, but specifically for New Zealand retailers, it's one of the key ways to help them survive against the likes of Amazon.

Here are some of the significant benefits of taking your business online.

Reach and sell to more customers

People nowadays primarily search online for the things they want, and increasingly so on their smartphone. While older generations are quick to deride the amount of time millennials spend on social media, tech-savvy Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter users are taking advantage of those businesses' wasted opportunities.

A recent Xero survey of 1000 small businesses found that the number one thing people are concerned with is securing new business. Yet, according to Spark Lab, 44 per cent of the business owners they spoke to spent less than an hour a week on social media platforms.

But there is loads of research and evidence that shows that social media is a great way to increase sales and retain customers.

In fact, the State of Social Selling report that found almost three quarters of companies who sold on or through social media increased their sales in a year.

Get to know your clients

Embracing social media is one of the easiest ways for businesses to solve that main concern of getting more customers. It helps to build a stronger brand for your company as you engage in conversations with your clients and really get to the gist of what they're interested in.

Any platform you use can generate useful data about your customers - things like who they are, what they like, and how they feel about your company. You can then use those insights to make smarter business decisions, like which product you need to stock and more.

Become connected globally

For a lot of small businesses, it can be easy for people managing companies to feel like they're "going it alone". But being online really does open up a world of opportunity for them to connect, support, and inspire each other.

We call this "the network effect", and it's most prevalent online in ecosystems like Xero's, which now houses hundreds of integrations and app partners.

The reality of business now is that you need to act as if you're operating in a global economy no matter where in the world you're based. Businesses need to be strong in any market they want to be present in, not just where they're located.