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.
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.
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.
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