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SMEs offered free websites for 12 months

Westpac CEO Peter Clare hopes the initiative will help small firms grow their customer bases. Photo / Greg Bowker
Westpac CEO Peter Clare hopes the initiative will help small firms grow their customer bases. Photo / Greg Bowker

Online payment solutions provider MYOB and lender Westpac Banking are looking to get 10,000 local businesses online by offering free websites for the next year.

The initiative will let businesses access MYOB's Atlas platform to build a website with e-commerce facilities, irrespective of whether they're a Westpac or MYOB customer, Westpac chief executive Peter Clare told a briefing in Auckland.

Just one-third of local firms have their own website due to the cost and time involved in setting one up, despite MYOB research showing an online presence improves customer engagement and can generate more revenue, the companies said.

The initiative is part of Westpac's push to help grow local small and medium enterprises and build its national footprint in that sector, while MYOB is seeking to add a customer-facing service for its clients in addition to its back-office functions, such as accounting and payroll, they said

Through the MYOB platform, businesses will be able to create a website with the ability to sell and receive payments, optimise search engines, and monitor use through Google Analytics.

The offering will be free for 12 months, after which businesses will pay a fee from $5 a month, depending on the level of functionality, and the cost of renewing a domain name.

Clare said Westpac has made a "modest investment" and hopes the initiative will help small firms look beyond their immediate regions and grow their customer base.

Westpac is not treating the offering as a direct marketing campaign, but hopes to start conversations with its rivals' customers, Clare said.

Ian Blair, Westpac general manager of business banking, said SMEs account for about 30 per cent of the country's employment and 40 per cent of gross domestic product, and a lot of them are missing out on new distribution channels by not being online.

"If we can help 10,000 smaller businesses get online this year, that will add a huge amount of value to New Zealand," he said.

- BusinessDesk

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