Some 27pc of Irish SMEs now have e-commerce capabilities, above the EU average of 18pc, according to new research commissioned by Virgin Media Business and carried out by Amarach Consulting.
Almost three-quarters of SMEs in Ireland now have a business website and, of these, 36pc are e-commerce enabled, which means 27pc of SME websites are e-commerce enabled.
In addition, more than two-thirds (68pc) of those with a business site have it optimised to work across a variety of different platforms, such as laptops and smartphones.
The survey involved direct interviews with 200 business owners of firms employing between one and 12 employees.
“It’s clear that Irish businesses are recognising the value of an online presence as well as the e-commerce channel”, said Gavan Smyth, vice-president for business markets at Virgin Media Ireland.
“Those companies with e-commerce-enabled websites reported that, on average, one-third of their sales came from that channel.
“This is a very important finding and is in line with the Government’s recent research in relation to its Trading Online Voucher scheme, which showed that businesses which had taken part had increased sales by an average of 21pc. While great progress has been achieved over the past two years in Ireland, we must continue to accelerate this trend.”
SMEs still struggling with social media
While the majority of firms (55pc) have a Facebook page, just 23pc have a Twitter account, and 26pc use LinkedIn either for corporate or personal purposes. However, almost four in ten (38pc) of those who do use social media currently don’t believe it has contributed to the growth of their business.
“This is an interesting finding and may indicate that SMEs have difficulty in realising the potential of social media due to a lack of resources”, Smyth added.
“Our research showed that the average amount of time dedicated to social media each week by SMEs in Ireland is just four hours. This is probably not sufficient to make a real difference to the bottom line for most businesses.”
Internet service reliability is now seen as the single most important factor when it comes to broadband service.
Speed and cost came in at second and third place respectively. Indeed, a high percentage (48pc) of businesses were unaware of the speed of their broadband connection.
“The fact that reliability is now so important for so many businesses is an indication of how much they now rely on the internet as a communications channel,” Smyth said.
“Businesses need to be connected and able to communicate with their customers. Speed and cost mean nothing if you cannot rely on the service.”
Uptick in economy means boost for hiring plans
Overall, the research found that Irish SMEs are strongly optimistic about future growth prospects and 37pc are expecting to increase their number of employees in the next 12 to 24 months.
More than half (58pc) of the companies surveyed are expecting their total revenues to increase while 54pc expect productivity to improve.
“These results are very encouraging and show that the recovery is now firmly established in the SME sector”, Smyth said.
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