Trading Online Voucher Scheme Tips #2: ThinkBusiness.ie Advice

Next in our series of articles about the Trading Online Voucher Scheme by the Local Enterprise Office in Ireland. We talk to John Kennedy from the Bank Of Ireland business resource site ThinkBusiness.ie.

If you’ve never visited ThinkBusiness.ie, we suggest you check it out for information that concerns Irish businesses.

For more information on the Trading Online Voucher Scheme read our blog post. For specific advice from the Local Enterprise Office please view our article.

What is the current state of Irish e-commerce in 2021 John in your opinion?

Better than it was certainly. At one stage only 1 in 4 Irish companies had an online payment facility. It’s improved a lot lately. Back in 2014 it was estimated that 70% of all e-commerce transactions left Irish shores. Nowadays it’s estimated that 60% of irish people buy from overseas.

The government started the Trading Online Voucher Scheme 5 or 6 years ago. They made it a big focus. Today companies such as Salt+soul, siar photography, ps i love you and many others are reaping the whirlwind.

Salt+soul used to do 70% of their business online. Now it’s 100%.

Multyfarnham cookery school did only 10% of their business online. Since the pandemic, that’s increased to 100%. So 100% of their revenue comes from the Internet. They received the help of their Local Enterprise Office in Westmeath.

How has the pandemic changed the way people do business in Ireland?

Online matters now more than ever. However, there are still disadvantages to shopping online though. Such as waiting weeks for goods to come from abroad. Then there’s Brexit and customs charges.

What would your advice be to business owners who are thinking about expanding their online presence?

Enquire at your Local Enterprise Office. Online marketing is hard. The Local Enterprise Office will help you with site, training and ongoing support. Take this opportunity with both hands.

A lot of shoppers and consumers won’t be going back to shopping offline in my opinion.

The bigger sister to the Trading Online Voucher Scheme is the Online Retail Scheme. So businesses should check that out if they don’t qualify for the Trading Online Voucher Scheme.

Has the Trading Online Voucher Scheme been a successful business-incentive program in your experience? How could it be improved in your opinion?

It could be improved by having more case studies coming to the surface. It’s a great thing that it exists at all. Anything that helps.

Which online tools should small business owners know about when beginning to trade online?

Pointy.com helps you bring all your inventory online. It’s an Irish company that was acquired by Google. They created a piece of hardware that interfaces with your Point Of Sale software. They help drive footfall to your brick-and-mortar shop.

Sharing your site to a local community group on Facebook is a good idea.

Shopify.com covers everything to building website, training, online promotions. It may not be your own website but allows you to trade online.

Also, some retailers display a QR code in their window for customers to scan and be taken to their website.

Which niches are in the best position to capitalise on the scheme and on online trading in general?

I would have thought it’d be clothes and physical goods. But really it’s people being inventive. Necessity is the mother of invention.

The ones that surprised me most were people who had something to train or teach.

What is your advice to business owners who are thinking about applying for the scheme?

If you don’t already have a relationship with your Local Enterprise Office. You should have. Start by enquiring.

Local Enterprise Offices are keen to help. Talk to them. See what’s feasible. 

How can business owners maximize their budget with the scheme?

Do your research. If you plan to spend on tools, courses and platforms. How does that fit in with your working capital cost?

People don’t have time, the problem is lack of time and trying to keep the lights on.

The Local Enterprise Office will direct you better in terms of what is a priority and what isn’t. 

Study other businesses and see what they invest in. Make sure you spend your cash on the right things. Web designers aren’t cheap. 

What sort of support does the banking sector (and BOI in particular) offer to SME’s that they should know about?

We did some work with Shopify, Pointy and the E-commerce Association before Christmas. Talk to your bank manager and check out what’s available. The banking sector is a key part in keeping the lights on. Do your research. 

Having taken on the government schemes is a string in your bow. The Credit Guarantee Scheme helps with funding if a business needs to expand. These are loans underwritten by the government.

Anything you’d like to add that might be important to readers?

Just that digital is the future. People are shopping online out of necessity and convenience. You can still have a relationship with your loyal customers.

Online selling means your business keeps selling while you sleep.

Conclusion:

A big thanks to John Kennedy from ThinkBusiness.ie for taking the time to share his experience.

Online trading is clearly the future and is here to stay whether you like it or not. Contact your Local Enterprise Office. Do your research. Start today.

If you would like to discuss any of these tips. Please leave a comment below.

For a free consultation about developing, marketing or designing a website or expanding your online presence. Contact us.

Trading Online Voucher Scheme Tips #1: LEO Advice

Article continuing our series about the Trading Online Voucher Scheme. For more info on the scheme and to see if you qualify. Read our blog post.

Our series will consist of interviews with participants of the scheme and with other business professionals that are tangentially connected with the scheme.

Today is the turn of Paul McGuirk. Head of Enterprise for the Local Enterprise Office in Ireland. Paul has some tips for people participating in the scheme or thinking about participating.

Let’s get started…

How do most businesses hear about the Trading Online Voucher Scheme Paul?

Most people hear about the scheme by word-of-mouth. From friends or their accountants. Either that or online. We also ran an Irish radio ad campaign to promote the scheme.

What do most businesses use the grant for?

The majority of businesses use the grant for developing or enhancing the website/e-commerce facility of their business. Some people only have a social media presence.

Others have a brochure site and upgrade it to fit an e-commerce, online booking and/or payment facility. Many use it for their Shopify or eBay subscription.

Also, many businesses apply and receive the grant twice.

Is the 90% grant over? Or will it return?

The 90% grant scheme ran from Apr – Dec 2020. It’s back to 50% now. There are no plans to bring back the 90% grant rate.

What do you wish businesses knew before applying for the grant? 

Participants of the scheme should first have a firm idea in their own mind of what they want from the grant.

For example, they should know which social media channels their customers use.

They should know how they want to drive traffic to their website. They might need to commission ongoing maintenance work for their website.

Having a strategy for driving people to their website is a must. They should also have a process in place for online ordering.

How can businesses maximize their budget?

To maximize their limited budget. Business owners should only spend 30% of their budget on social media.

They should be able to identify what they want on their website. Be able to prioritize what they want. They might want 5 or 6 things but only be able to afford 4.

Eg. They may wish to do some online training programs such as SEO, LinkedIn and Facebook training. The more they can train themselves the better.

What other supports does the Local Enterprise Office provide business owners?

Local Enterprise Office supports come in 3 parts.

  1. First the Trading Online Voucher Scheme.
  2. Next is ongoing online marketing training classes with experts eg. Facebook, SEO and Twitter training. 
  3. Finally, there’s one-to-one mentoring in running a business online.

What’s the best way to source a Trading Online Voucher Scheme services/partner? 

Ask around business colleagues, friends and relatives. The best method is through word-of-mouth.

What’s the key takeaway from the online introduction webinar?

Business owners should be able to understand what they want. Be able to define the 3 or 4 objectives that they want from this. It’s not just about creating a website and letting it look after itself.

Social media marketing, maintenance and driving people towards the website are all key ongoing factors.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Tips for participating in the Trading Online Voucher Scheme from the LEO Head Of Enterprise, Paul McGuirk.

The key takeaway in our opinion being that business owners should be as knowledgeable as possible about web marketing and their ideal customer in order to have a better idea of what’s right for their business.

One way to stay up to date with online marketing trends is to sign up for the Hahamarketing email newsletter below. Also, check out your local LEO office for more information.

Need help with your Trading Online Voucher Scheme application? Or just web advice in general? Contact us and we’ll be happy to give you a free consultation.

Grants For Your Small Irish Business

You may not be aware, but the Irish government is offering a grant of up to €2500 to Irish small businesses to get them selling online during COVID.

Businesses that have availed of this scheme before, are entitled to reapply. Thousands of Irish businesses are already availing of the Trading Online Voucher Scheme.

The scheme offers advice and training as well as cash. The Irish government wants to help more small businesses in Ireland trade online. Especially since the COVID outbreak. Since the scheme began over 5,000 small Irish businesses have received funding and over 12,000 have received training.

40% of Irish SMEs don’t have a website, and 68% of those that do have a website don’t have the facility to process payments online.

IE Domain Registry

Who is eligible for the Trading Online Voucher Scheme ?

Your business qualifies for this scheme if …

  • Your turnover is less than 2 million euros.
  • You employ no more than 10 persons.
  • You apply to your local Enterprise Ireland office.
  • You have been trading for at least 6 months.
  • You have limited or no e-commerce presence;

How does this help my business?

“Businesses that participated in the scheme reported that on average they saw their sales increase by 20%, with an 80% jump in sales leads and 3 in 5 exporting for the first time.”

https://www.localenterprise.ie/Discover-Business-Supports/Trading-Online-Voucher-Scheme-/

According to the relevant government minister….

“The Trading Online Voucher Scheme provides much-needed support in this regard and I am delighted that at least 3,000 small businesses will avail of it in 2019.”

Irish Government minister Bruton

Conclusion:

It’s important to note, Enterprise Ireland is willing to match 90% of the funds required to create your online e-commerce platform up to a value of 2,500€.

This is a really great deal that your business should seriously consider taking advantage of.

Contact your Local Enterprise Office in order to get started on your online selling journey today. Or alternatively, contact us and we’ll help you out.

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