Google’s Staying Ahead reveals appetite of SMEs for online sales

Google’s Staying Ahead reveals appetite of SMEs for online sales
Micheál Martin, Fianna Fáil leader and guest speaker, with Fionnuala Meehan, head of Google Ireland, at Google's Staying Ahead Roadshow in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork. Pic: John Sheehan.

By Joe Dermody

More than 10,000 Irish SMEs have already used Google’s new Market Finder tool to access new export markets, the company revealed at Thursday’s Staying Ahead Digital Roadshow in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork.

Ireland was only the third country in which Google has launched Market Finder, which companies can use to help them identify their best global market opportunities.

The self-service digital tool has also been a success in the USA and China.

It uses data from the SME’s own website and matches it with global consumer searches and other data to help each company sharpen their sights on optimum target markets.

Fionnuala Meehan, head of Google Ireland, said: “Companies with a strong online presence will grow twice as fast and employ twice as many people as those with a minimal or no web presence.

"Online sales represent a huge opportunity for everyone from traditional businesses to ‘born online’ businesses.

At present, only 17% of Irish businesses are selling online, so we see huge opportunities for Irish SMEs to be innovative within the digital marketplace and to become successful exporters of goods and services.

Google hosted the Cork Staying Ahead roadshow in partnership with Enterprise Ireland.

The roadshow is part of a programme which has seen Google provide training in digital skills to more than 60,000 businesses and individuals across Ireland.

Google is now partnering with Enterprise Ireland and Local Enterprise Offices to bring its Digital Garage to a number of regional locations over the coming months.

Thursday’s event in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was Google’s second tour of the popular roadshow.

Not unlike the digital garages, the 1-to-1 workshop format of Google’s roadshows offer entrepreneurs some up-close help with building their digital confidence.

The likelihood is that the Market Finder tool will enjoy a southern region boost after the Cork gathering.

Google’s goal is to harness the entrepreneurial spirit and nurture it in a digital context.

The online sales opportunities themselves are blind to whether the vendor is living in an urban or rural location.

“There are wonderful examples of people enjoying online sales success across all sectors and all locations,” said Fionnuala Meehan.

“Our focus in Ireland is all about encouraging companies to go global. We urge SMEs to start with ‘Google My Business’, which helps you to get your business found more easily on Google maps etc. And we go from there to helping businesses which are already online to perform better.

There is already a very strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cork and across Munster, with the likes of IT@Cork, the Ludgate Hub, Musgrave Group and Voxpro. A lot of businesses are excited about taking advantage of the huge opportunities available online.

“Kate Hyde of Glencove Group is one great example. A Cork native now living in Waterford, Kate’s hen and stag party business was born on the web.

"She decided to start working with Google to find the most likely global markets for her business. She started Glencove Group in her spare bedroom and now employs 20 people across Ireland and the UK.”

Fionnuala also cited the example of Skibbereen auctioneer Morgan O’Driscoll, who revolutionised not only his own traditional business but the entire Irish art world when he started holding his art auctions online — something completely unheard of in Ireland at the time.

Before adding the online wing, Morgan O’Driscoll used to host six or seven art auctions a year.

Last year, he hosted 16 auctions, 14 of which were online.

He has gone from selling art to people on his doorstep to selling to people in New Zealand, Australia and further afield. Last year, he sold art into 43 countries worldwide.

Morgan O’Driscoll said: “Overall, 35% of our lots in 2017 were bought by online bidders overseas bidders — predominantly in the UK, Ireland and USA but also as far away as South America and Africa.

"There was also an encouraging move in that over the past decade the average age of buyers has been 55-plus, but in the past year the age average has dropped down to 45-plus.

“I’d expect online auctions to continue growing in popularity as collectors realise the benefit of IT innovations such as online 360º viewing, which is ideal for sculpture.

"In 2011, we were the first Irish auction house to introduce online-only sales. Our auctions often sell 90%+ to buyers on five continents.”

Fionnuala Meehan added: “Morgan O’Driscoll is a good example of a small Cork business which has grown into a micro-multinational thanks to his online presence.

We encourage small local businesses to set their sights much higher. There’s every reason why they should think about developing a global footprint.

“That is also why we’re partnering with Enterprise Ireland to connect with these companies. They helped us to connect with the 10,000 or so Irish-based companies who have so far used Market Finder.

"That participation is proportionally much higher than elsewhere.”

The Cork Staying Ahead event brought together almost 300 SMEs from across Munster.

Google’s statistics show that over 90% of jobs will require digital literacy in the near future.

Small businesses with a strong web presence are growing twice as fast as those with minimal or no web presence.

With a web presence, new job numbers have also doubled.

More than 50% of web-aware businesses are more likely to sell outside of immediate region due to the additional reach online.

Recruiters, don’t ask the salary question

Employers and recruitment companies are being urged not to question job candidates about about their current salaries.

‘Earn Your Worth’ is an initiative that is calling companies and recruiters to stop asking candidates to disclose their salaries.

Joanne Lucy, MD, Mojor Players job agency
Joanne Lucy, MD, Mojor Players job agency

In the US, many states have already made it illegal for individuals not to be asked to disclose their current pay.

A survey hosted London-based job agency Major Players found that 98% of candidates feel they are not being paid their worth.

Around 66% of respondents also said refraining from asking the salary question would help women receive pay parity with their male counterparts.

Joanne Lucy-Ruming, MD of Major Players, said: “Potential employees should be assessed on their experience and skills not what they’ve been paid previously.”

Some 43% of company hiring managers said that they will now follow the ‘Earn Your Worth’ the initiative, while another 43% said that are very likely to implement the action.

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