With consumers here set to spend over €100m online over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more than two-thirds of SMEs aren’t ready to cash in on the bonanza.
According to a report by IE Domain Registry (IEDR), the company responsible for the management of Ireland’s official internet address, only 28% of SMEs can process payments on their websites, despite Ireland’s e-commerce market being worth €9bn in annual sales.
The report also found that just 32% of SMEs can take sales orders on their websites and only 35% can accept bookings or reservations online.
“It is alarming that in 2016, only one-third of SMEs can sell or take payments online,” IEDR chief executive David Curtin said.
Failing to take advantage of the growing €9bn online market would have “long-term consequences for Ireland’s economy”, he said.
Rural communities, in particular, could be damaged because they rely more than most on the jobs of SMEs. Mr Curtin said consumers were spending more online, yet businesses were not in a position to do business with consumers.
“With Christmas less than a month away, and an appetite among Irish consumers to spend locally, SMEs are missing out on new customers,” he said.
Despite a lack of e-commerce facilities, over four-fifths of SMEs said their websites were important or very important for driving growth in sales. Consumers are increasingly willing to spend online, according to the survey, with online spending having increased 41% over the last two years. And many consumers plan to buy online over the Christmas period, IEDR said.
While 85% of consumers would prefer to spend on an Irish website, the low engagement in e-commerce by SMEs here is making it difficult for customers to spend their money.
The study also found that 72% of SMEs reported a positive impact from using social media, while 97% said that social media had increased awareness of their business.
However, there are infrastructural deficiencies and support issues that can only be addressed through collaboration between industry and government, because of the limitations of broadband coverage, the IEDR said.
“IEDR calls on the Government to work with e-commerce stakeholders and to provide more supports to hard-pressed small business owners.
“Improving access to digital skills training and practical workshops on e-commerce is particularly important,” Mr Curtin said.
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