The Friday interview: Patrick Bates, Webtrade

21 Dec 200741 Views

New research from Webtrade shows that 65pc of Irish firms view the internet as important to their business. Patrick Bates (pictured) is Webtrade’s managing director.

Are Irish business websites behind their international counterparts in sophistication?

Yes and no. It’s a fine line for a lot of companies. Many are still finding their feet and their site is effectively a brochure for the company. Others, however, appreciate the importance of putting fresh content on to the site at least weekly. Our research found that 55pc of Irish companies update their site at least once a week. In the early days of the internet there was a big rush by companies to get online, they all needed a website. But in reality few are actually trading online. The recent winner of the Golden Spiders Cullyandsully.com, the food and pie company, isn’t selling goods online but it is using the web as an important marketing tool and information resource with fresh, fun content.

Do Irish businesses invest enough in web design?

One thing we struggle with when advising companies is getting them to invest in design. There is a lot of reluctance. They need to invest in a content management system and update their sites regularly. Another innovative thing companies can do is put YouTube onto their site to show company videos. Big brands are fine and probably don’t need a design budget. But smaller companies could invest more. It’s true for any industry. You’ll gladly pay the builder but there’s a reluctance when it comes to the architect.

How do Irish brands compete online?

US companies in general have always been further ahead. But Irish brands still compete very well. It’s still a relatively young industry and finding the best way to get your message across online is hard. Irish firms are relatively good at it. We are increasingly finding that the responsibility for the company website falls into the hands of the marketing department than the IT department. The web is a marketing tool and should be used that way. Irish companies could do better, but they are making fantastic strides.

What advice would you give a company that wanted to market and sell online?

Always know your target audience and how to capture them. If you were selling pensions for example, you need to aim for an audience of 20 and 30 year olds. If you’re selling to teenagers, for example, you probably would need to employ the latest technologies like YouTube and Bebo in your plan.

The mobile web is coming back into vogue a decade ago after the WAP hype. Will it work this time?

Seven years ago everyone was anxious to get in on the mobile end of things but the technology wasn’t ready.
Eventually the mobile web will take off and people will be doing things like watching TV on their phones. But I would say that most Irish SMEs won’t be investing in the mobile web in any meaningful way in the next 12 months, or even the next 24.

By John Kennedy

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