Ignore tech trends and nimbler, hungrier rivals will eat your lunch

9 Apr 2009

Survival of the fastest is the newest game in town, the head of online sales at Google has said, as firms that ignore technology trends and shifts in customer behaviour are finding their markets eaten into by nimbler rivals.

Addressing the first in a series of online marketplace workshops organised in conjunction with the Small Firms Association (SFA) at Google’s European headquarters in Dublin, the director of online sales and operations at Google, Ronan Harris, warned businesses to keep up with the latest trends.

“Survival of the fastest is the new game in town,” Harris said. “It is the companies that ignore trends such as technological advances and shifts in customer behaviour that are finding their markets eaten into by nimbler, hungrier rivals.

“Nowhere is this more evident than the internet, where new, smarter businesses taking advantage of the online marketplace are carving out successful businesses and threatening their longer-established high-street competitors”.

Harris pointed out that there are 1.5 billion web users worldwide, with some 23pc of the global population having access to the web.

“This group produces 90pc of the world’s GDP. In Ireland alone, there are 1.6 million Irish internet users who are buying online regularly,” Harris said.

According to Harris, physical goods to the value of €300m were purchased in Ireland in 2009, and online transactions – including travel, financial products and gambling, but excluding online banking – totalled €2.5bn.

As well as this, the internet, he said, has eclipsed friends and family as the top source of direct purchasing advice.

“Companies that don’t have an online presence are missing a huge opportunity,” Harris warned.

The assistant director of the SFA, Avine McNally, said that previous recessions led to an explosion in entrepreneurship.

“I have no doubt this will happen again,” she said. “We have already seen how willing consumers are to embrace the digital age. It is now up to businesses to respond in kind by quickly grasping the opportunities presented by the internet. The SFA is working with Google to ensure that Irish SMEs are well placed to make it happen.”

She continued: “In many sectors, advances in technology are opening up new opportunities and driving down costs. One of the benefits of doing business on the web is that physical location is not a barrier to success.

“Irish companies are no longer hindered by our distance from mainland Europe – a marketplace of more than 460 million consumers. Language is no longer a barrier, as English is the predominant language of the internet, but, more importantly, there are free translation tools available that can be embedded into a company’s website.

“Providing our members with the toolkit to do business online will help drive future business success,” McNally said.

According to Harris, many companies fail on the internet because they fail to advertise their presence effectively. “Consumers are migrating their buying power to the internet and successful companies are the ones that are positioning themselves to secure this business.

“However, 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. 

“The toolkit available includes search engine optimisation to make sure the website has a strong presence on Google Search, using Adwords to advertise your presence online and tools such as analytics to track visitor traffic to the site and identify potential sales leads.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are important now as Ireland seeks to recover from the current recession. The internet will be a key driver of our economic recovery, with SMEs in particular harnessing the opportunities it presents,” Harris said.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Ronan Harris, director of online sales and operations, Google