Online retail giants force NZ businesses to implement digital strategies

Kevin Fitzsimons, founder of Element Digital Consulting.
Monique Ford/Fairfax NZ

Kevin Fitzsimons, founder of Element Digital Consulting.

An aspiring musician turned businessman is urging firms struggling with the digital revolution to get up to speed before it's too late.

Kevin Fitzsimons, who spent his younger years touring with a band in Ireland playing for Guinness, believes Kiwi businesses are at risk of missing the boat.

To combat that, he moved back to Wellington to set up Element Digital Consulting to help businesses become digital savvy.

"The big boys are coming – we've seen Amazon announcing that they're moving into Australia and a lot of retailers will be very worried about that. They should be. And that's just one example.

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"Some New Zealand businesses are doing digital well, but I think our geographical isolation means businesses sometimes do not feel the sense of urgency that businesses in other parts of the world are responding to."

Fitzsimons started the company about two years ago, after deciding his music career wasn't going to work.

He moved from Ireland to London and began working with a big digital agency, before starting his own consultancy company.

"I happened to get to the UK at the same time the first big wave of social media for business was really breaking... and it was fairly clear that this trend was not going to go away – in fact it was more than a trend, it was changing the way we were communicating, and quite quickly."

As a result, businesses needed to focus on getting up to speed, as doing nothing would have dire consequences for the organisation and the country's economy, Fitzsimons said.

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"The world has changed. There are very definite economic arguments for businesses to be digitally savvy. It's a question of evolution – businesses must adapt or die...

"You need to have a vision and you need to have a goal you are working towards, but you need to be flexible enough to adapt to an environment that is changing very quickly so you do need a plan."

The biggest challenge running a consultancy company was the lack of education, meaning Fitzsimons had to spend time helping businesses understand why digital strategies were important for the company's future, he said.

"It's really important for businesses to understand that digital is a lot more than a Facebook page or a website, so it's caused a fundamental shift in our culture and the way that people live and work.

"So you need to, as a business, understand how that impacts everything that you do, not just the things you see around you – social media and those kinds of things."

A key part of that was encouraging businesses to get used to working without the full picture, he said.

"Businesses need to become accustomed to the idea of using the minimum information they need to move forward rather than waiting till they know 90 per cent.

"By then it is likely to be too late – the digital world will have moved on."

Some of the company's clients include Spark, Workbridge, Callaghan Innovation, and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

 - Stuff

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