In the wake of the blueberry Hepatitis A outbreak, Tesco’s horsemeat scandal and live cattle exports, Australians have become increasingly cautious about what they buy and where it comes from.
This scepticism has led to increased demand for Australian organic food, with the industry growing 15.4 per cent over the past five years, according to the biennial Australian Organic Market Report. The industry is now valued at $1.72 billion and predicted to grow further as attitudes towards food continue to shift.
But it’s not just food products. Domestic travel is also on the rise. According to market research company TNS, overnight domestic travel grew by four per cent in 2013-14, turning it into a $53.7 billion industry. This has flow-on effects, with greater domestic tourism leading to greater spending in local businesses.
Statistics show Australians want to buy local – the question is, how can they search local? While the 1999 ‘Australian Made’ initiative was successful in helping shoppers find locally owned and grown products, the shopping experience of today is very different. The path of purchase has changed. Research from Vertical Measures indicates that nearly 93 per cent of customers use search engines before making a purchase.
So, in an era of online shopping, social media and peer-to-peer economies – how can Australian business boost their local credentials? A new digital innovation has an answer: geographically specific web addresses.
New .sydney and .melbourne web domains are giving Australian businesses the chance to share their local pride with the world wide web. They are – in effect – the golden kangaroo of the online world.
So, what does this mean for local business?
Registering with a .sydney or .melbourne domain gives a business immediate relevancy to the local community. It helps to bridge the digital expanse and situate a business not only in Australia, but in a specific region and community.
In order to register with the domains, a business must be located in either Victoria or New South Wales, or be serving the states. As Sydney Fish Market’s Stephanie Williams explains, “This makes it local, authentic”. Those who are searching for local products can use the .sydney and .melbourne web addresses as guideposts and virtual stamps of authenticity.
The new domains also give local business the opportunity to connect with a broader portfolio of Australian products and services. With iconic businesses like the Sydney Fish Market, Sydney Luna Park, Destination Melbourne and Eureka Skydeck already on board, the .sydney and .melbourne web addresses provide a context for each business. They position each website in a ‘neighbourhood’ of other relevant, location-specific businesses.
By building community ties and connecting to a wider vision of Australian offerings, local business – be it tourism, retail or hospitality – can capitalise on the growing demand for Australian products and services. More relevance means more opportunity, particularly in the digital environs. As Jim Stewart, founder of SEO agency Stewart Media, explains, Google already uses Top-Level Domains as part of its ranking signals. While the web address is just one signal, it could be the competitive edge that convinces a customer to buy from one business and not another.
But the benefits of the domain go beyond searchability. While increasing search rankings is crucial to lifting website traffic, it is also important for local businesses to have a strong brand image. The new domains immediately brand a business as local. Think .sydney; think Sydney: the web address is an instant link between the business and the market.
In an age where customers search the web before the shops, local businesses need to stay alert to how they can increase their relevance and influence online. The market for Australian products and services is there; it just needs clearer guideposts.