MYOB and Westpac launch initiative to get SMEs online

Free website and hosting for Kiwi businesses, but is it too good to be true?

Westpac and MYOB have launched an initiative to get New Zealand small businesses online, and using their services, by providing them with a free website, hosting, and domain registration. Research carried out by MYOB with Colmar Brunton shows 80 percent of New Zealanders look online to research products or services before purchasing them, but only 32 percent of New Zealand businesses have websites.

GetOnline.co.nz is free for the first year, and starts at $5 per month after that. It uses MYOB’s Atlas website builder to create pre-templated sites which are basic, but relatively easy to setup . Using a step-by-step setup wizard this reporter was able create a very basic brochure site in 10 minutes, but business owners can further customise the site and add e-commerce functionalities to them. MYOB says all layouts are mobile-optimised. MYOB partnered with Google in the development of MYOB Atlas, and says it has taken inspiration from Google Apps for Business for the GetOnline initiative. The GetOnline websites use Google Analytics for traffic monitoring, and are picked up in Google Places, which is Google’s business directory. MYOB says there are already mre than 400 websites created by Kiwi business owners using GetOnline, and it hopes to have 10,000 SMBs registered in the next year. According to MYOB, a similar initiative it has launched in Australia has 35,000 users. Westpac CEO Peter Clare says businesses looking to succeed in the future need to have a website, quoting the 30 percent increase in revenue as a result of online presence which is indicated by MYOB's research. "New Zealanders looking to export need to show their wares online to connect with customers overseas, and also to other New Zealanders who are increasingly looking to online to make their purchasing decisions," says Clare. Nothing free ever comes without a catch, and for the small businesses using GetOnline it could be getting locked into a Westpac/MYOB ecosystem. MYOB will be offering the reigistered businesses its various payroll and accounting software, to work directly with the inventory and management systems of the website, while the e-commerce solutions use Westpac's payment gateways. The very businesses Westpac and MYOB are looking to attract might not have the tech savvy to understand they could lock in their business into an ecosystem that might not best suit them later if they grow beyond a basic website. Computerworld asked MYOB’s NZ country manager Julian Smith what data liberation tools are available to users who outgrow or are disatisfied with the GetOnline service. “Firstly the business own their domain name. After the first year it’s their responsibility to continue paying for the registration,” says Smith. “Newsletter and customer information is kept in CSV files which can also be exported.” Neither MYOB or Westpac are taking responsibility for the behaviour and service of businesses using GetOnline, but say they reserve the right to boot a customer from the system if they breach the terms and conditions. As a part of the initiative, MYOB and Westpac are partnering with local economic groups and chambers of commerce to provide education to small businesses on selling their goods online.

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