Irish firms need to retail in detail in order to shine at e-tailing

8 Nov 2010

It’s a tale of two e-commerce markets, says IIA CEO Joan Mulvihill. Irish consumers are soaring in terms of buying online, but Irish businesses are not selling as much online as their international counterparts.

As Joan Mulvihill, CEO of the Irish Internet Association sees it, Irish companies have more reason than most to succeed online. Ireland is a small country reliant on exports and unlike its European counterparts, does not have large internal markets to sell into.

Therefore, e-commerce and the ability to sell online should be a godsend to the Irish business community.

“Irish people are spending more than their European counterparts but unfortunately Irish businesses are not selling as much as their counterparts online.”

Mulvihill says this has a lot to do with the fact that Irish people are still trying to get their hands on brands they can’t get in Ireland, such as Abercrombie & Fitch or The Gap, not to mention gadgets.

But Irish businesses need to start thinking outside the box and remembering that the core of retail is detail and proposition.

“What Dylan Collins is doing with is very interesting,” she says. “He’s taking a different slant on e-tailing and is getting people the products they want but can’t get locally in an affordable way.” Each day, the site features a product at lower price than mainstream or online retailers on the condition that a minimum number of people agree to buy it at that price.

She also cited the example of ManPacks, which sells underwear to men. “Men don’t want to go into stores to buy their socks and jocks, so what ManPacks did was come up with a unique angle on that service proposition and turned towards selling as a service.”

Another good example is Curious Wines in Cork. “They personalise everything, their database management is outstanding and of such a quality of information as to enhance the experience for the buyer.”

Mulvihill, who comes from a retail background, says the golden rule is having an understanding of the core proposition of what retail is all about – “retail in detail.”

“In fact – if you are e-tailing via the internet, you have access to more customer information in detail than you ever had before. The opportunities are enormous for refining your offering. Whether its selling electronic goods via Gruupy or underwear in ManPacks, if you provide people with what they want in a way they want it, they’ll pay for it.

“Curious Wines’ service proposition is outstanding, they can access unique wines and deliver via a service model that keeps customers coming back. Mick’s Garage is another example of a firm that has identified a genuine customer need for car parts and are outstanding at what they do.

“Retail in detail – the web provides you with the detail, quality and granularity of customer data to provide customers with what they want. It’s also about finding good niches. Puddleducks in Cork sells kids’ rain gear and have set a standard in winning repeat purchases. Repeat customers are the golden ticket in e-tailing,” Mulvihill said.