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The languages of NZ stories

Knowing your customer is a vital part of maintaining a successful small-to-medium business. Every person is different. No two customers are the same. And how you speak with them – including the language you use – can make a big difference in securing repeat business. 

" Understanding Chinese culture and basic Chinese language will be an important factor for our future prosperity." - Jack Hou, Head of Migrant and Asian Banking, ANZ 

That is an insight Aotea Gifts director Donald Hanson has kept uppermost in his mind during his time working in New Zealand’s tourism industry. It is an industry that has seen rapid growth in visitors from China.

“It’s really important to be able to communicate with the customers in their home language, so that they can better understand what they are buying, why they are buying it, what the benefits are for, and if they are gifting it to others that they can explain it,” he says.

“The story and experience is often as important as the physical product itself.”

Chinese Language Week is a NZ-led initiative aimed at encouraging people to learn more about Chinese language and culture.

ANZ is a supporter of the initiative, now in its third year, which has a focus on strengthening business between the two countries.

NZ stories

ANZ’s Managing Director Commercial & Agri Mark Hiddleston says Aotea Gifts is a perfect example of an NZ business telling NZ stories in the language of their largest number of customers.

“To understand a language is to understand a culture” Hiddleston says. “Speaking to Chinese customers in their own language enables NZ companies to communicate on a deeper, more informative level, as well as understanding the customers and their needs better.”

ANZ’s Head of Migrant and Asian Banking, Jack Hou says businesses are “increasingly recognising that more Asian tourists and local customers want to be able to speak in their native language.”

China vies with Australia each year to be NZ’s biggest trading partner. NZ has two-way trade of around $NZ24 billion with each nation.

China is second behind Australia as NZ’s largest source of tourists.  Around 400,000 Chinese visited NZ last year, spending $NZ1.65 billion.

That compared to 1.4 million Australian visitors, who collectively spent $NZ1.75 billion.

NZ’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)  has forecast that by 2023 Chinese visitors will spend $4.3 billion annually, compared to just over $3 billion by Australian visitors.

Future prosperity

“China is an increasingly important market for New Zealand exports and a growing source of tourists. Understanding Chinese culture and basic Chinese language will be an important factor for our future prosperity,” Hou says.

Aotea Gifts’ Hanson says the people who work in their stores are ambassadors for NZ.

“The people in our stores with the language skills are actually at the front line of the best that New Zealand can offer to the world,” he says.

The company manufactures many of its own products – “we have a leather scourer in the South Island,” Hanson says.

“The knitwear comes from a range of places around New Zealand, the honey comes from Northland”

The sale of NZ made goods in its stores helps provide employment for more than 1,000 people in the wider supply-chain, Hanson says.

Most Chinese visitors to New Zealand also visited Australia as part of the same trip. The insights provided by businesses like Aotea Gifts are valuable on both sides of the Tasman.

“There is a really important point that the language skills which New Zealanders and immigrants have create jobs in the New Zealand supply chain,” Hanson says. “Without it we are losing capabilities as New Zealand.”

Tony Field is a bluenotes contributor

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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