Irish businesses are seriously behind the curve compared with their UK and European counterparts in terms of capturing revenue earning potential from the internet, a senior Google executive has warned.
Recent research by the .ie Domain Registry (IEDR) revealed only 66pc of Irish firms are online and only 21pc of these have the ability to handle e-commerce transactions.
The number of firms with the ability to actually handle e-commerce transactions has grown a marginal 3pc since 2000.
In other words, while the biggest godsend to business in the 21st century – the internet and online commerce – has gone from strength to strength, Irish firms and policymakers have been asleep at the wheel.
Speaking at a joint event Google/Small Firms Association at Google’s European headquarters in Dublin, the director of online sales at Google Ronan Harris said that if business growth is to be achieved, no business can afford to ignore the revenue earning potential that the internet holds for their business.
“Obviously, Google is known as a search engine but from our European headquarters here in Dublin we also work with thousands of businesses across Europe helping them to make a successful business online,” Harris said.
“Some are struggling to survive and Google wants to help Irish business to overcome these difficulties and to achieve the same kind of success as their European counterparts.
“An important first step is the creation of a website, it can take just 20 minutes to get a website, but we have seen people getting a significant volume of new sales from their new websites and how it can connect them to customers online searching for the products or services they sell.”
Google also warned that many companies think once they have a website they can sit back. They forget that the website is the shop window, they then have to attract customers into the shop, using tools like search engine optimisation and online advertising will help businesses to turn an online query into a sale.
Google says the message is simple: companies that don’t have an online presence are missing a huge opportunity.
Being part of the conversation
One SFA member that made the leap online and is reaping the rewards is MicksGarage.ie, Ireland’s only car parts and accessory website which was set up in 2004 by two Mayo brothers, Michael and Ciaran Crean.
They noticed a 100pc increase in sales month-on-month and over the first year of trading volume sales increased tenfold. They launched into the UK market in November 2005 and the business continues to go from strength to strength.
“Despite the conservative nature of the auto business, we decided to take our business online,” said Michael Crean, managing director, MicksGarage.ie.
“We could see both consumers and the trade were searching for better value online so we wanted to be at the forefront of this.
“Lately, we’ve noticed that discussions on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and Boards.ie feed into searches for the products that we sell. Using Google Adwords we are then placed to capitalise upon online referrals”.
He explained: “For example, the current cold spell in Ireland sparked online discussions around accessories for driving in the snow and we quickly sold out of tyre snow socks, which are super-strong textile socks that you slip over the drive wheels to provide the grip you need on ice and snow.”
Avine McNally, acting director, Small Firms Association, said the internet will be a key driver of economic recovery with SMEs in particular harnessing opportunities it presents.
“We are working to ensure that our members are best placed to move their business online and take advantage of this still relatively untapped business resource,” McNally said.