Cantillon: Government efforts to get more businesses online appear to be failing
Tens of thousands of small firms in Ireland do not trade online
The Government is to provide grants of up to €2,500 to encourage SMEs to build an online presence, with statistics showing just 23 per cent of small companies engage in e-commerce sales.
The “trade online” vouchers announced as part of the National Digital Strategy this week, aim to get 10,000 businesses online for the first time, and a further 2,000 small firms trading online.
Research conducted for the strategy found tens of thousands of small firms in Ireland do not trade online, losing valuable opportunities including larger markets, increased revenue and better market intelligence as a result.
But will the vouchers work? For just two years ago, the Government launched a “Getting Irish Business Online” campaign to help businesses with no online presence set up a website for free in less than 30 minutes.
The campaign, which was a partnership between Google, Blacknight Internet Solutions, An Post and the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs), hoped to target the large percentage of Irish SMEs with no website or online presence.
At the time Google research showed almost 60 per cent of Irish commercial SMEs did not have an entry in an online directory, while 40 per cent did not have a website.
This is despite the millions of euro being spent by Irish consumers shopping online every year. In fact, due to the lack of websites among Irish businesses, some 70 per cent of the €3.7 billion that Irish consumers spent online last year went out of the country.
While 23 per cent of Irish enterprises do currently engage in online sales, only a fifth (21 per cent) of their total sales are generated this way. This means 140,000 Irish businesses don’t yet engage in any form of e-commerce at all and 50,000 don’t even have a website.
You have to wonder whether the last campaign to get businesses online really was all that successful.