Twelve months ago I handed in my notice at a UK digital marketing agency and packed my bags to explore the wider world in which we live.

After several months in Asia, touring temples and burning on beaches, I settled into a digital marketing role in Queenstown, New Zealand.

It was actually the appeal of a ski season that attracted me to this buzzing town, but I was fortunate enough to have a skill set that was useful to local businesses.

Now the winter is over and the snow all gone, I thought I would share a few reflections on the digital industry in New Zealand and on how, in my experience, it compares with that in the UK. 

1. SEO practices lagging behind

It is fair to say there is still lots of black hat SEO going on across the world, but I was surprised how common it seems to appears in many Kiwi agencies.

Latterly, my employer in Queenstown gave me the task of finding an agency to carry on the work that I had started and, in doing so, even looking as far afield as Auckland (New Zealand’s largest city) I noted a plethora of proposals talking about directory submissions as a fundamental practice and social media as the means to directly obtain ranking.

As my search went on, I did find some reputable, content-driven agencies, I was just surprised how difficult they were to identify, with black hat SEO practicing agencies appearing quite prominently.

Perhaps this reflects the paucity of international businesses in New Zealand, with a lack of access to leading services it becomes difficult to compete against the larger Australian and global businesses, though I could be wrong.

Regardless to whether there is a correlation here, there is an obvious opportuntity for white hat agencies to market themselves and benefit from inbound channels to some degree. 

2. PPC is cheap again!

Having previously been working on PPC accounts in competitive markets in the UK, it was refreshing to suddenly experience such affordable CPCs and CPLs. I noted this across a range of advertising platforms.

Particularly in Queenstown, there is still a significant reliance on traditional advertising techniques, so for the few who are investing in digital, the results they are achieving are exceptional.

Inevitably, this will change with time, as more competitors become involved, but for the present, it all provided an interesting contrast to my previous experience in the UK. 

3. Improving infrastructure will drive fast growth

Without doubt, tourism is one of New Zealand’s largest markets. But as a largely unpopulated rural island, there is only limited internet availability.

Indeed, most establishments still charge for Wi-Fi usage, and as a result, many tourists often remain unconnected while on vacation there.

However, with cheaper mobile data providers gradually becoming available and reception coverage improving, this will surely all change before long.

An improved infrastructure is also likely to create a much bigger digital tourism market and tourism businesses are already developing their interest in this.

A tipping point will come when more tourism businesses shift their marketing budgets from offline to online and begin to reap the benefits of attribution and measurable return on investment that they have hitherto been denied.

4. Consumer behaviour seems slightly different, for now

Without wishing to sound disparaging, I sensed that, in general, New Zealanders  are less preoccupied or absorbed by technology as their counterparts in other countries.

Not only are Kiwis very comfortable talking to the person sitting next to them on the bus, but hitch-hiking remains one of the most common forms of transport.

Perhaps with the further development of communication systems, this will all begin to change soon, and online grocery shopping will become the norm in New Zealand too.

However, I rather hope it doesn’t as I’ve enjoyed receiving recommendations from other travellers rather than through TripAdvisor and being impressed upon by clothing retailers to try on the jeans, to ensure they fit well, before deciding whether or not to purchase them!

If you found this interesting, you may want to check out Econsultancy’s State of Digital Marketing in Australia and New Zealand report which looks at the Australasian digital industry in more depth and discusses it’s future.