New Zealand's second lockdown is a wake-up call for Kiwi businesses to go digital, the head of a website agency has warned.
New Zealand owned agency Zeald built and set up 600 free websites during the last Covid-19 lockdown and has had a rush of new enquiries recently.
"We have been doing this for 20 years but during the last lockdown we saw an immediate need to help other businesses go digital," Zeald founder David Kelly said.
"There are a lot of small businesses that don't have a lot of capital and can't afford thousands to set up a website so we are doing it for free."
Zeald has committed to giving away free eCommerce websites for the foreseeable future through its Get ECommerce Movement (GEM) initiative.
The usual build and setup costs are wiped and the only cost to a business in the first 12 months is a 2 per cent success fee on transactions.
"That way there is no risk for a small business and they only pay if they are successful," Kelly said.
The uncertainty of Covid-19 meant businesses needed a digital presence, Kelly said.
"This latest blow has come as a shock, but it proves we simply can't be complacent, even when it looks like we're getting a handle on Covid 19," he said.
"We will be operating in an uncertain trading environment for some time to come, and small businesses need to prepare digitally."
Online trade was "crucial to business survival" and those not offering contactless payment options or click and collect services during alert level 3 would be in trouble Kelly said.
For the owners of Popped, a small gourmet popcorn business, a new website was their only chance at survival.
Before Covid-19, husband and wife team Edrich and Grizelda Andrade sold their sweet treats at festivals, markets and foodshows.
"We were busy at the markets and festivals every weekend and we were content with that, we were busy," Endrich said.
"Then Covid-19 hit and all of that closed and we honestly looked at closing the business."
Instead of shutting up shop the couple looked at setting up a website for online orders but couldn't justify the $2000-$5000 set up fees quoted.
"Then we heard of Zeald and went from there," Endrich said.
"It was easy to do and it hasn't cost us anything apart from the 2 per cent fee, which is absolutely fine."
The couple also has their business on Chooice - another New Zealand initiative to promote Kiwi-owned businesses online.
Chooice - born of a Facebook group called NZ Made Products started by Auckland businesswoman Sarah Colcord - now has more than 500,000 followers.
"We were promoted by Sarah Colcord on Chooice, so that has been good for sales as well," Endrich said.
Sales at Popped weren't quite what they were pre-Covid but Andrade was hopeful.
"Covid was a reality check that we needed a website and we have been able to do it without spending a lot of money."
David Kelly wanted small businesses that were reluctant to set up a website to take the first step.
"It's not as intimidating as it might seem and it gives people a way to connect to a business during lockdown," he said.
"Businesses are realising this is going to go on for a lot longer than we thought and they need to adapt and do things differently."