RedBalloon rethinks New Zealand, plots new markets

RedBalloon-adventure-screenshotOnline experience retailer,, is looking to expand its New Zealand presence by reinvigorating the business approach to include a local team and new website.

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Speaking to Inside Retail Weekly last week, RedBalloon CEO, Nick Baker, said the business has been in the New Zealand market for a number of years but has never made a legitimate play to grow the business across the Tasman.

“The reality is with the NZ market, if you’re going to be serious you have got to have somebody over there who understands it and understands the products,” Baker said. “The natural inclination is to think it’s exactly like the Australian market but New Zealand has its own vagaries, its own differences and things that work so we needed somebody that’s an expert in NZ and understands that. It was time for us to make that investment because we saw there is great demand for the growing attraction New Zealand has to offer.”

Former Tourism New Zealand employee, Adam Hughes, has been appointed regional product and partnerships manager and will be based in Rotorua for the first six months while he grows the local experience portfolio.

Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) Chairman Denis Pierce has also been assisting RedBalloon with their New Zealand efforts and future strategy. “I have spent my whole career selling the excitement of visitor experiences to both the New Zealand and Australian markets,” said Pierce. “This is an overdue and exciting progression for RedBalloon that will bring exciting and valuable new business to New Zealand shores. RedBalloon will quite quickly have an unparalleled range of compelling and unique experiences based on what we’ve seen.”

RedBalloon has been in New Zealand for 12 years, launching the business in December 2003, two years after founding directors Naomi and Peter Simson established the Australian business. RedBalloon works with over 1000 suppliers, lists over 3000 experiences and gifts and overlooks multi-million dollar marketing expenditure which sees website traffic of over 7.5 million annually.

Currently there are 207 products available in New Zealand with the objective of doubling this figure by June. “We’re now in a position where RedBalloon is moving towards live availability, so we want to appeal to the 1.3 million Aussies who arrive in New Zealand every year,” said Baker.

RedBalloon’s New Zealand audience accounts for six per cent of the existing business, with Baker looking to significantly increase this figure to ‘about 15 per cent.’ “The odd thing is even though we have done very little to NZ, it’s carried on so we haven’t lost in the last number of years,” said Baker. “In fact we finished 2015 about 3-4 per cent up on the previous year so it shows me despite us doing nothing, there’s still business out there and RedBalloon has got a footprint over there. By putting additional resources into and taking a very good hard look at it we can really make it into something far greater and far more relevant to NZ’s market than it’s been before.”

2015 saw RedBalloon launch a new Australian website with “the real test in December” which saw 23 per cent growth over the corresponding period in the previous year. “We had very significant growth over and that was in part fuelled by a much better site,” said Baker.

The current website will also be relaunched in April 2016 offering a state-of-the-art user experience and showcase for the experience providers.

As part of the revised NZ strategy, Baker says the company is looking looking for local suppliers to come on board. “RedBalloon take a great deal of effort choosing, curating and on-boarding new suppliers to ensure they become part of the RedBalloon family,” said Baker. “It’s important to note that we’re not just after the big operators. We also want to talk to the smaller organisations who cater for specialist experiences or passion areas. We have the ability to raise the profiles of smaller organisations,” said Baker.

Baker said RedBalloon will monitor how New Zealand performs in 2016 before looking at other international markets- with different offerings to the Australian market to be announced in “three to four’ time.”

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