The Kaikoura Earthquake has highlighted just how important it is for businesses to build robust digital presences.

First Retail Group director Chris Wilkinson said Wellington businesses big and small fared better after the earthquake if they had a good online presence.

These were businesses which had built social media and website presences, as well as customer databases and the ability to sell products online.

Wilkinson said a survey of 80 businesses around Wellington showed about 60 per cent of those businesses had online presences, and did much better after the earthquake than the other 40 per cent.


"One of the big challenges obviously is that a lot of businesses haven't adapted to the new digital age," he said.

"One of the interesting things, particularly in the retail sector and indeed some of the hospitality sector, the ones that had a really strong grasp and capability around the likes of social media were instantly able to communicate their position to their consumers.

"Almost overwhelmingly they received a lot of support and good will back from the customers."

Having a digital presence was a "fundamental part of business resilience".

The 40 per cent of businesses that didn't have a digital presence were "left in limbo" after the quake, Wilkinson said.

"A lot of them are very frustrated because they realise just that need to have much more digital connectivity. There's a feeling like 'gosh, we should have done this.' It's a bit like 'we should have taken insurance.' "

Wilkinson said many of the 40 per cent struggled with being unable to contact customers effectively and update them.

For many of those businesses, their customers went to other areas for their needs and have not returned.

"I guess it really means that being digitally capable ... that needs to be basic hygiene for businesses now, not an option."

Wilkinson said building an online presence was not hard at all, and was "kind of low-hanging fruit in terms of investment levels, but it does take the capability and the willingness of the business to get in and do this".

Tech company Storbie helps other businesses set up online presences.

Chief executive Shane Bartle said one of its clients in Kaikoura had seen a significant increase in online sales right after the earthquake.

An online presence was key, Bartle said.

"It's incredibly important, just for business as usual, just being a successful business just as a physical retailer these days.

"If you have a digital relationship with your customer base, that means that in times of crisis you can call out to that customer base and tell your story, and customers really respond to that."