Emerging Technology

Revealed: The eight towns and cities Google Australia reckons are doing digital best

Myriam Robin /

Regional and suburban Australia has trumped the nation’s largest central business districts and population centres in the second annual Google eTown awards.

Google this morning revealed the state winners of its awards, which reward at the cities, suburbs and towns where local small businesses make the best use of the internet.

The tech giant used its own internal data, as well as insight from a survey commissioned from research firm Ipsos and sent to local small businesses, to identify the digital marketing methods small businesses in the area were using to grow their business.

The winners of the awards were smaller cities or suburbs of major cities, where local councils and businesses had made a concerted effort to bridge the tyranny of distance and compete with the central cities using the online tools available to them.

Last year, Google Australia’s head of local business Claire Hatton told SmartCompany, the winners had higher population densities.

“Now though, it’s about the town’s real assets – its small business owners and employees.”

The winners show the importance of local councils taking a lead, Hatton says.

“Many of the winning towns and cities had a council that was very active in education – in helping people understand the digital opportunities.

“A good example of that was Port Phillip’s council, who ran business development programs as well as an online portal for small businesses.

“And a lot of the councils themselves have really invested in digital and see it as a competitive advantage. Holdfast Bay, for example, has invested in a dedicated role for the council’s social media.”

Port Phillip, located in Melbourne’s South, was the Victorian winner. Port Phillip mayor Amanda Stevens says she isn’t surprised her community was singled out for its web-savvy.

“The City of Port Phillip has run extensive business development programmes and launched an online portal to support local businesses to grow. We also know from our research that businesses are most interested in training in marketing and having an online presence, so we also hold regular events with digital innovation thought-leaders to bring that knowledge to the area,” said Mayor Stevens.

“Port Phillip also has one of the most highly-educated communities. Couple that with our biggest age group being 25-34 year olds, and you have a young community thoroughly engaged in new ideas and technology.”

One of the businesses in Port Phillip is RPS The Board Store, a specialist wind and kite-surfing store that’s been operating in the area for 23 years.

Its owner, Andrew McCredie, said that digital marketing and sales channels meant he could get his equipment to a far wider range of sport enthusiasts than ever before. “We find that customers conduct a lot of research before they come into the store, so when we have sales or a new product we’ll start targeted search marketing and make sure everything is up and ready online.

“Recently we sold a snowboard 10 minutes after posting it online, as that particular customer had been waiting for someone to stock it locally.”

For small business owners, the awards emphasise the importance of becoming digitally-savvy, Hatton says.

“Small businesses have a real competitive advantage now that the internet is there.

“But consumers are still ahead of business. Small businesses need to understand that this day, having a digital presence is like having a phone.

“Whether you’re a boutique hotel, beautician or surf school, if you’re not online you’re missing out on a direct line to thousands of potential customers.”

The state-by-state winners

  • Cockburn, WA
  • Darwin, NT
  • Port Phillip, VIC
  • Holdfast Bay, SA
  • Launceston, Tasmania
  • North Sydney, NSW
  • South Canberra, ACT
  • Sunshine Coast, Qld

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Myriam Robin

Myriam Robin is a reporter for SmartCompany and its sister site LeadingCompany. She has degrees in economics, international studies and journalism. She likes writing about businesses taking risks and doing new things.

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