New Zealand is a country that, at the mere mention of its name, inspires images of vast landscapes, Hollywood-level sceneries, and diversity. The country is especially known for its deeply ingrained Māori roots, making it one of the most culturally rich countries in the modern world. Majority of its 4.80  million population speak English, which is the dominant official language. Other official languages are Māori and NZ Sign Language.

The country is developed and ranks highly at the global scale in terms of quality of life, health, education, protection of civil liberties, and economic freedom. Digital is also a growing industry, but certain global trends have yet to penetrate the New Zealand market. However, marketers should still pay attention to trends on the global scene and be quick to implement them in their strategies to stay ahead of the game.

With the country’s 93% internet penetration rate, commitment to digitalization, the dominance of Google, and wide use of social media, the digital marketing industry presents a rich site for both local and international businesses to thrive.

This article will discuss New Zealand’s digital marketing environment, its biggest channels, industry challenges, and opportunities, as well as the best possible ways on how to reach the Kiwi audience.

Digital Landscape in New Zealand

According to We Are Social and Hootsuite’s 2019 Global Digital suite of reports, New Zealand has a 4.80 million population with an internet penetration rate of 93%. The count for active social media users is currently at 3.60 million which has increased by +3.5% since April of last year. On the other hand, the number of mobile social media users have remained unchanged at 98% of the population.


Kiwis spend 6 hours and 3 minutes on the internet daily, increasing by 8 minutes from last year’s 5 hours and 55 minutes.. An hour and 45 minutes of this is allotted to social media, which has also experienced an increase of 2 minutes.


Voice search is burgeoning in New Zealand’s search landscape. As of January 2020, 27% of users have used voice-initiated search, and more studies predict that this will continue to grow. It must be noted, however, that nearly half of the population used ad-blocking tools in 2019, which might equate to some resistance to online advertising. Thus, marketers should devise more targeted advertising strategies to address this perceived setback.


New Zealand consumers also actively participate in e-commerce activities, such as online shopping. Eighty-eight percent of consumers were found to do initial research online for a product or service to purchase, while 70% visited an online store on the web. Despite the prevalence of mobile, only 37% purchase via mobile, compared to more than half of the online purchases still made via desktop.

Marketers should, therefore, anticipate the shift of e-commerce activities to mobile by optimizing their websites for mobile and prioritizing the improvement of load performance.


Biggest Channels

Here are some of the biggest channels in New Zealand that digital marketers should be aware of.



Although not technically a social media platform, the video-sharing website has grown to function like one, making it a very powerful channel for digital marketing. It is also holding the top spot for the most active social media platform in New Zealand. As of January 2020, We Are Social and Hootsuite report that 88% of New Zealand’s internet users regularly access the site.

Paired with Google AdWords, marketers can use YouTube as a platform to further optimize their campaigns to cater to specific audiences. One example of this is Burger King New Zealand’s “Pre-roll” campaign which will be discussed further in the article.

In 2020, the top searches in YouTube New Zealand included “song,” “Fortnite,” and “music.”


As in most countries, Facebook maintains as one of the most popular social media platforms in New Zealand with over 3 million active users. According to Nielsen Online Ratings report last June 2018, Facebook alone reached 61% of Kiwis in a typical month. Therefore, with the rise of social media traffic in the country, Facebook becomes an important channel for attracting more attention to businesses in New Zealand.

As Facebook continues to improve its targeting capabilities, businesses can have the ability to market to specific audiences as well as potential customers. According to a report by Pure SEO, a New Zealand-based search specialist agency, SE and social platforms like Facebook currently show an inclination towards paid advertising. However, brands must ensure that it is aligned with their target audience’s behaviors and interests.


A crucial channel for improving local market share in New Zealand is the inclusion of Google in marketing strategies. According to Pure SEO, Google is the long preferred primary search engine platform by Kiwis, with over 97% of searches in the country conducted in Google as of 2019. Additionally, Google’s market share is significantly higher compared to its market share in countries like the US and the UK.

To optimize their SEO campaigns on Google, marketers in New Zealand should be aware of Google’s constant algorithm updates and implement Google AdWords for tailored advertising, which will be later discussed in detail. Additionally, marketers with off-shore audiences should focus more on optimizing their sites for Bing and Yahoo, which provide more value for backlinks compared to Google. This means that link building is an important part of any strategy revolving around Bing or Yahoo-focused SEO campaigns.

Trends and Opportunities

For businesses, tapping the New Zealand market can open even more opportunities for digital marketing, especially with the government’s steady push towards digitalizing the country and the citizens’ positive reception towards innovation. As of 2020, here are some of the best trends and opportunities that digital marketers should implement into their business strategies.

Mobile Marketing

In 2016, Google announced that it was going to test its mobile-first index, which would gear its new algorithms to prioritize mobile versions of a website’s content for its performance rankings. The shift to mobile officially started last year, leading marketers to modify their websites and create mobile-friendly content.

Also last year, Pure SEO released its digital marketing report which revealed that the country experienced a 39.6% increase in mobile phone searches from January 2016 to December 2017. According to the report, Google searches via mobile phones were about to overtake other devices such as desktops and tablets, the latter two having seen a 4.9% decrease in 2018. This is further reflected in the rising mobile browsing analytics rates, which have reached over 50-60%.  Furthermore, the number of mobile sessions for 2016 to 2017 has steadily increased, with an average year-on-year growth of 34.7% in mobile usage.

Aside from the popularity of smartphones, the report also associates this rise in mobile search rates to voice initiated searches such as Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. Therefore, marketers must structure keywords to the new format required in voice search such as using shorter keywords that are tailored to a more conversational tone.

In addition, customers will only stay on a website so long as it gives them a generally “good” user experience. Thus, marketers must take time in improving mobile page load experience, especially since Google has added this as one of its ranking factors for search results last year. Once a consistently high percentage of mobile traffic is achieved, they can take it to the next level by implementing AMP or accelerate mobile pages, a Google-backed project that improves the load performance of websites on mobile devices.


Voice Search

Voice search is starting to disrupt the global search landscape. Over 20% of all search is currently voice initiated, and it is expected that this trend will continue to grow over the next few years. In addition, Google has stated that voice search comprises about 20 to 25 percent of queries on the mobile app and on Android devices.

Even with smartphones, search behavior is seeing a growing shift to voice search through popular hands-free voice control interfaces like Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Its unique answer-to-question format and fast response time allow users to make their queries while performing other tasks, which is why voice search is typically used when users are performing other tasks that keep their hands and eyes busy. Therefore, voice search is extremely appealing, not to mention convenient, to consumers accustomed to an on-the-go lifestyle.

Marketers must expect that the near future will be dominated by these screen-less type devices. Some ways to optimize content for voice search are anticipated for long-tail keywords and to localize search queries since it is expected that consumers will more likely target local businesses. However, voice search is currently considered as unfamiliar territory, so marketers must be keen on observing its current trends to catch current and future opportunities.

AI and Chatbots

Artificial intelligence (AI) is making its rounds across the New Zealand online landscape through chatbots. With chatbots, businesses can provide 24/7 customer support and engagement, directly influence customer’s buying decisions, and ultimately increase the chances of sales. This will also help businesses address complaints and issues at a quicker pace, showing customers that their feedback is indeed highly-valued, which further elevates customer satisfaction.

Perhaps the most important feature of chatbots this year is that they have to be personalized. In line with the trend of a personalized user-experience, customers certainly do not want to talk to an unfeeling robot. The more chatbots seem human-like, the more chances for the conversation to successfully drive value or for the customer to make a purchase.

In 2017, Air New Zealand launched its chatbot called Bravo Oscar Tango or Oscar for short, which helped customers with commonly asked questions through the airline’s website and mobile app. As a result, customers had a more personalized experience when making their queries compared to the traditional searching on the Frequently Asked Questions section online. With more and more usage, the chatbot became more conversational and accurate in answering the questions.


Social Media Marketing

Social media is a very important part of the online landscape in New Zealand, which is why it is integral for marketers to use this as a focal point for their business marketing strategies. Research from Colmar and Brunton shows that 90% of Kiwis between 18 to 39 use social media and even extends to older audiences from the 60-64 age bracket at 70%. Furthermore, 66% of the social media internet population are from the 65-69 age group, and 58% are those over 70 years old.

However, social media for Kiwis is not only for connecting with friends and family members. It is also widely used as a vital space for securing job opportunities, finding purchase recommendations, and generating brand engagement. In fact, a report from Vodafone 4G Network states that Kiwis are avid social media users, with 24% of users using their 4G devices to check social media apps at least 20 times a day.

In terms of ads, marketers must understand that with the aforementioned resistance from users, tailoring strategies to the behavior and needs of their target audience will generate more success. All in all, it is undeniable that social media has an invaluable function in digital marketing and has the potential for more growth.

Video Marketing

With 94% of Kiwi users watching videos online and the popularity of YouTube, video content marketing is one of the best ways to reach the New Zealand online market. Although linear television is still used in the country to a certain extent, most of these consumers come from older generations, and even this number is steadily declining. More and more consumers are making the switch to Internet-delivered video content, specifically through the mobile format.

According to a 2018 research by Hubspot, a developer and marketer of software products for inbound marketing and sales, YouTube experiences a 100% rise in mobile video consumption every year. The report also states that 92% of mobile video consumers participate in video-sharing. Additionally, 64% of consumers are more likely to purchase online after watching a video.

One of the most popular trends in optimizing video marketing strategies is through targeting with Google AdWords, which can play ads that are tailored to specific content and keywords before the video on YouTube plays.

For Burger King and ad agency Colenso BBDO New Zealand, this strategy was used to create the Pre-roll campaign, which is made up of 64 variations of the same ad that are customized to play before specific YouTube videos. Riding on the trend of consumers’ general dislike of pre-roll ads, the campaign ads admit to being ads themselves while bemoaning and relating to the inconvenience that the viewer must be feeling. These videos would also refer to things in relation to the video that the viewer had actually wanted to watch in the first place, such as film trailers, music videos, and even “graphic animal attacks.” Through this, the ads also managed to reference Burger King’s stunner meal deal.

With young men in New Zealand as the target audience, the campaign focused on tailoring keywords and content to the most trending and popular videos in the country as points of advertisement.


Digital marketing in New Zealand has not yet reached its full potential but continues to grow steadily. The country’s online landscape is looking at a shift towards mobile, thus revealing a pressing need to prioritize optimizing mobile-friendly content. Other opportunities in penetrating the New Zealand market present themselves in voice search, artificial intelligence, social media marketing, and video marketing. With the right channels and the use of platforms like Google AdWords, campaigns such as SEO and PPC will achieve the most success among consumers and in reeling in potential ones. With this, the New Zealand market has many opportunities to grow and increase traction for its digital marketing sector.

To learn more about online marketing in New Zealand, contact us today at Info Cubic Japan.

Featured Photo from Shutterstock

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