AUCKLAND: Alibaba, the Chinese internet giant, sees "significant opportunities" for ethnic communities in New Zealand to sell to middle-class Chinese consumers who are already well disposed to the country's clean and green image.

"We want communities in New Zealand to understand that their reputation for healthy products is the envy of many other markets across the world," said Piers Smulders, Alibaba's business development manager in New Zealand.

The status of New Zealand products and brands has been boosted in China by the activities of local Chinese entrepreneurs, he explained to Stuff, highlighting in particular those operating in the honey, wine, fruit, dairy, seafood, health supplements and skincare categories.

Smulders further observed that New Zealand had a very small consumer market but the internet allowed local businesses, no matter their size, to tap into China's 225m-strong middle class.

Advice on how best to do that came from a social media agency, UMS, founded by Chinese students who studied in New Zealand before returning home.

According to Jordi Du, UMS general manager, New Zealand, common errors revolve around translation and platforms.

"Directly translating English communications can not only create confusing communications; it can also misfire and result in culturally insensitive outcomes," he said.

Brands also have to understand the preferred mode of communication in each market. While WeChat is hugely popular in China, it's also popular with New Zealand's own 200,000-strong Chinese community.

This pattern is repeated with other nationalities – Korean Kiwis use Kakao Talk, for example, while Japanese Kiwis use Line.

"Companies wishing to target Asian Kiwis through Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp could come out empty handed with a number of other apps proving to be much more popular," Du noted.

An appreciation of these apps is vital for businesses as they are not only crucial to generating reach but, as they "have their own imbedded ecommerce platforms [they] are key drivers to ecommerce", Du said.

Data sourced from Stuff; additional content by WARC staff