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Smart connections online

Gisborne exporters have been urged to consider the importance of playing it smart digitally in the post-Covid era.

Dr Antje Fiedler and Dr Benjamin Fath from The University of Auckland were in Gisborne to present research findings looking at online and digital experiences in the world of business and trade, with a focus on Asia.

Dr Fiedler said the research had shown an increased importance being placed on personal relationships, and the importance of maintaining those connections through digital media.

That could include employing an Asia-based employee to maintain a personal, face-to face relationship between Kiwi businesses and their partners in Asia.

Dealing internationally through digital platforms also relied on the ability for businesses to test for competence — that meant web pages and social media should ensure potential new partners were informed of quality.

Things like government recommendations and certifications to show businesses were legitimate should be clearly visible, she said.

Research had also highlighted the need for visual aid, such as virtual and live web-cam or GoPro facility tours.

“It's important to use digital aides in a smart way to come closer,” she said.

“It's not a big investment and businesses now have a link to the end customer, which is very important.”

However, Dr Fath said there were potential pitfalls if Kiwi businesses did not “play it smart digitally” and take into account cultural differences with approaches to digital platforms.

While Kiwis might treat digital interaction informally, in places like Japan and Korea digital meetings were formal occasions — meaning something like attending a Zoom meeting late would be frowned upon.

The same could be said for having an informal background setting, such as a living room, for a video call.

Their research, covering about 30 companies, had demonstrated the importance of strong personal relationships with customers and partners overseas.

Many of those who went into the Covid-19 pandemic with strong relations and a positive economic outlook experienced “very strong growth” up to “impressive growth”, Dr Fiedler said.

“The rules of the game have really changed.”

The pair were in Gisborne as part of Export New Zealand's association with the North Asia Centres of Asian-Pacific Excellence, aimed at helping businesses to understand the emerging digital landscape in the Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean online landscapes.

DIGITAL AND IN PERSON: From left, University of Auckland senior lecturer Dr Ben Fath, Export NZ's Amanda Liddle, Wendy Gatley of Trust Tairawhiti and University of Auckland senior lecturer Dr Antje Fiedler. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell