Small businesses will find silver lining in recession, Google says

21 Sep 2009

There’s a school of thought out there that once the recessionary dust settles, small businesses will be the ones still standing. This is a view made all the more peculiar and compelling because a company of Google’s gigantic scale is saying it.

“The silver lining of this recession is that small businesses which traditionally would not have survived are turning to the global online marketplace and are not only surviving but expanding their businesses,” according to Ronan Harris, director of Online Sales and Operations, Northern and Central Europe, at Google.

“These businesses are the backbone of their local economies and their success is critical to growing any green shoots emerging.

“Economic difficulties have in the past provided a platform for an explosion of entrepreneurship and we are seeing this online.

“Well-run and adaptable companies are staying focused on their customers and are themselves changing to meet their needs. They are following their customers online and growing revenues as a result,” he said.

“Speed, not size, is the critical success factor,” Harris added.

Harris was addressing more than 100 leading internet entrepreneurs from throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa attending the Above & Beyond advertising summit at Google’s European headquarters in Dublin last week.

At the conference, Google experts shared key industry and market insights on the business potential in the online marketplace in 2010.

“While trading conditions globally will remain tough in 2010, the trend we have seen in 2009 where online sales have held up strongly relative to the high street should continue. In the UK for example, online sales rose by 15.7pc in July, compared to a 0.4pc increase in sales volumes on the high street (National Statistics Office).

“This growth in online sales is being replicated across Europe and in emerging markets in the Middle East and North Africa, where online sales volumes are increasing in line with the availability of mobile technologies.

“In Ireland, according to market research firm iReach, physical goods to the value of €300 million were purchased online in Ireland in 2008 and online transactions (including travel, financial products and gambling, but excluding online banking) totalled a staggering €2.5 billion that year. So the opportunity for future growth for SMEs remains the online marketplace,” said Harris.

Google silver lining

Google silver lining

By John Kennedy

Photos: Some 200 internet entrepreneurs from across Europe attended Above & Beyond, an advertising innovation summit at Google’s European Headquarters in Dublin this week.

Pictured are, in the main photo, Cecile Repetti, Google, with Olegs Kunicins, Brandosab AB, Sweden.

Centre photo includes John Herlihy, right, vice-president, Global Ad Operations Google, with Georg Roben, from Jochen Schweizer, Germany, and Stacey Ludlow, UK Car Group.

Bottom photo shows Ronan Harris, right, director of Online Sales and Operations, Google, with, from left, Ville Komppa, Directa, Finland, and Sara Kjelstrys, Schibsted Classified Media, Benelux.

Photos by Nic MacInnes.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years