Google warns of e-commerce deficit


GOVERNMENT PLANS for an export-led recovery are missing a key ingredient because Irish businesses are laggards when it comes to e-commerce, Google has warned.

Ronan Harris, director of online sales for Google Europe, said Irish firms were a long way behind most of their European counterparts when it came to taking their businesses online. “The web should be the first line of attack for engaging with businesses overseas but at the moment it isn’t in Ireland and I’m concerned that we’ve missed the boat,” he said.

Google claims too few Irish websites offer multiple currency or multiple language translation tools, hampering their ability to transact overseas, something that businesses in other countries do as a matter of course.

“Small but advanced online markets like the Nordics automatically think about building a presence online to connect with their neighbouring markets, making it easy for people to do business with them. We’re not seeing that same level of engagement from Irish businesses,” said Mr Harris.

Mr Harris also claimed Irish retailers were losing out to overseas websites that offer a better online experience. Analysing the popular search words for clothes, for example, throws up a list dominated by British firms such as Marks Spencer and Next.

“Very often it’s UK players who create the relationship with Irish customers. We are far enough behind for it to be a problem,” said Mr Harris. “If we miss this boat completely then people will create relationships with non-Irish brands and Irish retailers will find it very difficult to win them back.”

Mr ‘Harris blamed the lack of e-commerce uptake on the State’s failure to invest in infrastructure earlier and on businesses that got “a little too fat and happy” when times were good.