With growing consumer confidence in online shopping and trading, and legislation to regulate and protect ecommerce businesses, it is becoming more attractive to launch an ecommerce business and carve out success online. The 2018 Irish Online Economy report showed revenue at Irish ecommerce sites grew by 45% – a trend that looks set to continue for some time yet.
With so many ecommerce businesses out there, you will be wondering how to make sure your company stands out – and that you start bringing in revenue as soon as possible. There is a plethora of information available out there, and it can be overwhelming to know where to look. We’ve sourced the best guidance on offer to help you launch your successful ecommerce business in Ireland this year.
Sort out the paperwork first
It’s tempting to leave the so-called ‘boring’ tasks to later in the process, but don’t – get your company name registered, set up your business bank account, register for tax purposes and confirm the legal status of your company. Some recommend you don’t incorporate too early for tax purposes, but it’s always best to seek professional advice tailored to your situation.
Make sure you choose and secure your domain name, and register for barcodes and SKUs for all the products you have. Take this advice from a successful ecommerce business in Ireland and don’t learn the same lessons they did the hard way!
Choose the right CMS software
To ensure your visitors – and, hopefully, future customers – get a great user experience (UX), you need to make sure the website software you choose is right for your business. You will need to consider the scale of your business in the short and long-term, security requirements, data storage and usage, marketing and the kind of experience visitors should have browsing your site.
Ultimately, your website must be light and streamlined to ensure fast site speed. Google estimates that 53% of website visits are abandoned if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load!
With WordPress usage at an all-time high (and growing) as the choice of 26.6% of the top million websites on earth, it really is the obvious choice for most entry-level businesses, but naturally different business needs require different systems.
Make sure your site works well on mobile
You will also want to ensure your site is mobile-friendly, given how frequently we use our phones and tablets to purchase and browse online. Google is set to release a hugely important update to their algorithm this year – the mobile-first index – meaning Google will crawl and index the mobile version of your site first and foremost, and use that to determine whether you deserve to rank in search results for keywords your prospective customers are searching for when shopping online. Without a mobile-friendly site, it’s likely you will struggle to generate the traffic you are looking for – and without traffic there are no sales!
Image source: Pixabay (Free to use without attribution)
Make your checkout process user-friendly
You don’t want potential customers getting agitated with the checkout process and ultimately abandoning their purchases. Avoid this by limiting the number of steps a customer has to go through to make their purchase – for example, eliminate the need for them to set up an account. Make it as streamlined and simple as possible, with as few screens to click through as is practical. Users will remember having a great experience on your site and come back to shop again if the process is simple and user friendly.
An integrated marketing strategy
A business is almost non-existent without an effective, clear and streamlined marketing strategy. Integration is key to success when it comes to digital marketing. Your SEO should focus on keywords that convert in AdWords and pull ideas for your meta titles and descriptions from ad text that converts well. Your AdWords remarketing should target your email database and social followers as they have a higher likelihood to convert. Your social ads should retarget visitors who have come to your site through organic and paid traffic with dynamically generated images of products they looked at while on your site. The list of ways your marketing efforts can be synergetic is endless and will save you a lot of advertising euro!
It can be overwhelming and daunting to run and market a business from scratch. But with the right skills and qualifications behind you, it can be exciting. It’s a good idea to get an entry level qualification in digital marketing, with some of the very best course options available right here in Ireland from the world-renowned Digital Marketing Institute, headquartered in Dun Loaughaire.
Investing the time and effort into upskilling your digital skills in a fast-paced, comeptitrive eCommerce sector is a guaranteed step in the right direction to help give you the skills and confidence required to develop a well-rounded understanding of what makes a great ecommerce site and UX, how to develop a marketing strategy, and how each marketing channel feeds into the other.
Speaking on the launch Joan Mulvihill, CEO of the IIA, highlighted the scale of the opportunity for businesses and interns alike. “With €4billion being spent online by Irish shoppers the opportunity for Irish retailers is enormous. But 75% of that is being spent with overseas retailers so much of that opportunity is being lost. The challenge is not in convincing retailers to develop an eCommerce proposition but rather in enabling them with the skills and knowledge to execute it. This course is ideal for retailer owner/managers to build that knowledge. Likewise, many retail sector workers have suffered during the downtown. This combined Diploma and Internship is a great way to adapt your retail and merchandising knowledge to fill the increasing number of eCommerce manager positions”.
Gordon Newman is the Head of Online Sales at Life Style Sports and a member of the IIA Working Group. He expressed his own difficulties in filling ecommerce positions. “One of the most challenging aspects of my role has been finding the right people with the right skills. People think they have to be web developers or social media gurus but this just isn’t the case. We really need great process and merchandising people with commercial acumen and Customer focus. A broad understanding of retail operations is just as important for an eCommerce specialist as getting to grips with the technical components. It’s why we are so supportive of this Diploma course and also why we are one of the businesses looking forward to taking an intern and with our proven record of internal progression there is a very real prospect of a job at the end of it”.
Mulvihill added “For anyone wishing to avail of the internship, we would encourage them to send us their CVs as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this course is not covered by any government programme so course fees are applicable.”
Internships will be granted by the businesses directly and subject to their respective interview procedures. On a case by case basis, depending on organisation requirements and candidate suitability, some internships may qualify for Jobbridge.
This course has been designed by the Irish Internet Association and its leading industry expert lecturers and practitioners. It is delivered in partnership with Irish Times Training.
Course enrolment is now open and all details are available on www.iia.ie/eComDip
For further information, please contact:
Joan Mulvihill, Irish Internet Association: 01 5424154 / 086 389 7552 firstname.lastname@example.org
IIA eCommerce Working Group Members
Tracy Glynn…………………………………………..Realex Payments
Graham Merriman……………………………………Carrickane Consulting
Kevin Murray…………………………………………Nightline’s ParcelMotel
Gordon Newman…………………………………….Life Style Sports
The IIA in partnership with Irish Times Training are delighted to launch a brand new Diploma course in e-Commerce Management.
This Course covers everything you need to know to run a successful ecommerce business. Click here for more information.
Module 1: Planning your e-Commerce Customer Proposition
Lecturer: Ronan O’Brien of Zatori – The Costume Shop
Module 2: Business Planning
Lecturer: Fionan Dunne of CFO Services
Module 3: Effective Website Design
Lecturer: Gareth Dunlop of Fathom
Module 4: Driving Customer Traffic – PPC, SEO, Affiliate Marketing and E-Mail Marketing, Deals Management
Lecturer: Ronan O’Brien of Zatori
Module 5: Transaction Management
Lecturer: Bob Curran of Buy4Now
Module 6: eCommerce Customer Services: CRM – Relationships and Returns
Lecturer: Bob Curran of Buy4Now
Module 7: eCommerce Customer Services: Deliveries and Deadlines
Lecturer: Rory O’Connor of Scurri.com
Module 8: International e-Commerce: Translations & Transactions
Lecturer: Mark Rodgers of Cipherion Translations
Module 9: Metrics / Analytics
Lecturer : David Murphy of Amplify
Module 10: Content – Images and Copy
Lecturer: Fiona Ashe of FlasheForward Communications
Module 11: Mobile Commerce
Lecturer: Sian Gray, Mobile Marketing specialist (Nokia)
FREE Module : Breakfast Briefing Managing Customer Information: Your Legal Obligations as an eCommerce Manager from Gary Davies, Assistant Data Protection Commissioner
If you’ve got customer information on file you will need to know in what form and for how long you can store it. You will also need to know for what you may use it. You will need to be fully aware of your obligations as a retailer vis a vis Trading Standards etc.. This module is painful but necessary!
Commenting on the new requirements, the Commissioner stated “I am pleased that the Minister has introduced new legal requirements which recognise that the challenges to the maintenance of individual privacy are becoming increasingly complex in today’s electronic age. Individuals must be able to enjoy the benefits of new technology while at the same time remaining in control of their privacy. These new requirements give individuals new rights which my Office will enforce.
I particularly welcome the fact that the Minister has responded to public concern over data breach incidents by introducing strict requirements for service providers in this area with the ability for my Office to bring prosecutions where such requirements are not followed. I am also pleased that individuals can no longer be bothered on their mobile phones by direct marketers unless they have given their prior agreement.”
The main new requirements are:
- Compulsory notification of individuals and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in the case of data breaches
- More stringent requirements for user consent for the placing of “cookies” on electronic devices
- Stricter requirements for the sending of electronic marketing messages and the making of marketing phone calls
All telecommunications companies and internet service providers are now required to notify the Data Protection Commissioner of every data breach involving a subscriber. They are also required to notify customers in all cases where there is a risk their data may be accessed. Failure to do so can lead to prosecution by the Commissioner with a fine of up to €5,000 per instance. The Commissioner can also for the first time prosecute companies in this area for allowing a data breach with fines on indictment of up to €250,000.
Any company or website placing information, usually by way of what is known as a cookie, on user equipment (computer, smartphone etc) must provide appropriate information to the user and collect their consent except in limited circumstances where the cookie is strictly necessary for the provision of the service in question. In practice this means that websites placing cookies on user equipment that are not deleted when the user leaves their website must identify a means of obtaining user consent.
Electronic Marketing & Phonecalls
In a strengthening of the laws in this area, it is now an offence for any company or entity to phone a person on their mobile phone for a marketing purpose without having obtained their prior consent for such contact. The requirements now extend to all forms of marketing carried out by means of a publicly available electronic communications service – including, for example, the soliciting of support for charitable organisations or political parties.
One of the most popular features of our Annual Conferences every year are the breakout sessions. This year we’re mixing it up a bit and in addition to our usual practical breakout sessions we are holding three hosted conversations in the morning. These promise to be fascinating and a great opportunity to get your voice heard on the following topics:
- A conversation about collaborative innovation hosted by Amy Neale and Gary Leyden of NDRC
- Seán Baker, Irish Software Association Board and entrepreneur and Peter Finnegan, Dublin City Council host a conversation about Open Data and Open Government.
- Neil Leyden, Your Country, Your Call winner, will host a conversation about his plan for Ireland as an international content services centre.
In the afternoon we will be running 4 breakout sessions covering smartphone insights from Amárach Research, the reality of cloud computing with the IIA Cloud Computing Working Group, social media strategy with the Social Media Working Group and Ecommerce Best Practice and Emerging trends with Realex Payments.
Jonathan, you are running a breakout session on eCommerce at Open for Business, the IIA Annual Conference on the afternoon of May 12th in the Aviva Stadium. Which key areas are you going to be focussing on during these 2 sessions
The focus of our E Commerce breakout session will be Taking Your Business Online and the different elements that you need to take into account when developing your own E Commerce Strategy. Three speakers will present on different aspects of E Commerce to give the attendees an indication of what they need to do to get up and running successfully.
I’m going to discuss your online strategy as a whole including
- how to go about getting your Merchant Service Agreement,
- choice of web developers,
- what to look for in a Payment Gateway and how to combat fraud.
Bob Curran from Buy4Now will present on the different options available to businesses in E Commerce Platforms and Shopping carts and some tips on what to look for and best practice.
Aileen O’Toole of AMAS will look at the State of the Net and the importance of knowing what’s going on in the market around you, the emerging trends in E Commerce, spending patterns etc.
Realex Payments have been a great supporter of the IIA over the years, getting involved in the conference in some capacity every year; what are the biggest changes/ challenges you have seen for Irish businesses who are coming online or upping their online game in this time?
We’re always happy to support the IIA and the Irish internet sector! 🙂
In terms of changes, the biggest and most positive change has to be social media, a large majority of our merchants are now actively involved in Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn etc and have benefitted significantly from being involved in this area. Many of our merchants tweet specific deals, have discounts for consumers who like their product on Facebook etc, so social media has become an important sales tool for so many businesses. The ability to have frequent conversations with your online community offers an incredible opportunity, not just from a social engagement point of view, but from a commercial perspective too.
I think initially many businesses were a little reluctant to participate in social media, particularly those businesses operating in a B2B environment, but as times gone on, the likes of twitter and Facebook have become an integral of marketing strategies throughout the country, including our own!
If you have one piece of advice for an Irish business reviewing their ecommerce strategy in light of these new challenges what would it be?
Integration of social media with ecommerce has become a crucial element for every ecommerce business, for B2B as well as consumer companies. Whether it is integrating social sharing on purchases, offering special deals/incentives to followers or likes, adding facebook open graph to enable Facebook likes to see friends purchases on your ecommerce site or simply leveraging brand ambassadors who emerge on Twitter and Facebook, there are a wealth of opportunities for brands to enhance their ecommerce offering. It’s becoming more and more important for brands to have personalities, as people want to know and engage with the brands that they’re buying, integrating your ecommerce strategy with social media facilitates this process.
Thanks a million Jonathan! See you and everyone else on Thursday May 12th!
This is the second of the presentations from “8 More Ways to Sell Even More Stuff”, the IIA Conference for Online Retailers that took place in the Burlington at the beginning of the month. Please excuse the slow pace of releasing them – we’ll get there!
In this audio you will hear Conor O’Neill, CEO of Loudervoice, talking about how customer reviews can add credibility to your business and ultimately boost your sales.
C’mon he looks like James Bond: how could you not want to listen to a man as dapper as that!
|This event was sponsored by:|
Last week the IIA organised the second in a series of events for online retailers “8 More Ways to Sell Even More Stuff“. I plonked my digital audio recorder on the podium to capture the presentations to share them with you. You can also download the presentations from the Resources section of the IIA website (membership required).
This case study is presented by Darren Grant of OrganicSupermarket.ie who kicks off telling us that he opened The Organic Supermarket in Blackrock the day that the recession officially started. Their business plan was as he says, “A Celtic Tiger business plan” and so he had to think of another way to grow his company that didn’t require credit from the bank that wasn’t forthcoming. He looked to the internet to grow his catchment from 4.5k in the South Dublin area to potentially 4.5m across Ireland.
|This event was sponsored by:|
The latest issue of State of the Net is now available online. This is produced in conjunction with Amas and if you are in business in Ireland you should read it. Hard copies are available: just contact the IIA HQ!
This issue covers how Irish Marketers Use Digital, Children Online, Broadband Growth, Businesses Online, Trust Online, and Online Banking.
I’m all about online business at the moment (when am I not?!) but most especially online retail. If you’ve had your head stuck in the sand in the last few weeks you may not be aware that we are holding a conference for online retailers on Thursday, “8 More Ways to Sell Even More Stuff“.
So the reminder of the Information Society Statistics, Enterprise Statistics 2010 from the Central Statistics Office that only 23% of Irish Businesses surveyed are selling online made me gasp for two reasons:
- It’s shocking low.
- That’s a helluvan opportunity
If so few businesses are selling online that means there is space for many more especially in niche markets. Our two case studies at our event on Thursday for example, Garrendenny Lane and OrganicSupermarket.ie are cases in point. Both are niche in their own way and revel in it! I’m looking forward to hearing all about their online business (and how they mix it up with their offline businesses) on Thursday. I hope you can make it along too!
This is a guest post by Derek Traynor of AllMoto.ie, an IIA Member Company, republished with his permission from his blog. In it he writes about a subject dear to our hearts in the IIA: online retail and the knock-on effects of reputable online business for the economy. If you would like to ramp up your own online retail business, don’t miss our upcoming conference, 8 More Ways to Sell Even More Stuff, designed especially for retailers, whatever stage of the online game you are at.
OK firstly let me explain – this isn’t a story about my personal ‘Bedroom Efforts’ (I’ve another blog for that 🙂 ), it’s my opinion, as an etailer (online retailer), on the damage that small, online, bedroom based efforts cause to industry in general.
What I mean by ‘Bedroom Efforts’ is someone sitting at home, on a laptop, listing products on ebay, Amazon and similar, and ordering in stock as it sells. However, let me clarify, my issue isn’t with the sleepy entrepreneurs but rather with the suppliers who decide to sell product through them.
I’ve been harping on about this pet-hate for years now and I’m “happy” to report that in just the last month I’ve had three suppliers contact me with concerns over it – way to get with the times guys – but at least they recognize the problem. These suppliers are eventually requesting minimun retail prices on their products. I’ve no idea where they stand legally if challenged about anti-competition legalities but…. well who cares about that for the moment.
I’m sure a few people are now thinking, “but sure you’re a online shop – who are you to talk?”, but this is where most people are missing the difference: I’m a reputable online retailer, adding value to a customers experience. I do this by providing:
- product knowledge. We’re experts on what we sell and use this knowledge to only sell product that is good.
- product support. If our customers have difficulty with a product we’re there to help by phone, email and often in person at events.
- product backup. Did a purchase break or fall short of what a customer expected? We always repair and/or replacement based on the circumstances.
- stock off the shelf. When a customer buys something it gets shipped within 24 hours (over 85% of the time in my shop).
- a unique user experience. The customer always subconsciously relate to their experience of the product.
- a physical store where people can drop into in person if they want to.
Bedroom Efforts generally damage a product having little or no technical knowledge, no repairs, no returns policy, no parts backup and NO stock. The customer ends up waiting longer, buying ill advised and losing all if an issue arises. What is not seen here is the damage to the brand that was sold. Note to suppliers – one way to lose repeat business is to allow a terrible customer experience in the initial purchase.
The hidden damage goes further though. These bedroom efforts often make almost no margin and that’s fine as they’ve almost no costs. But the damage arises in the lost sale the ‘real’ retailer has lost. Don’t be misled, reputable online etailers have almost as many costs as your local shop (Google ads, website development, online presence maintenance, customer support, STOCK, rent, taxes, to name a few).
What also makes me laugh is that these same suppliers then complain about having trouble getting paid by their retailer network. Maybe it hasn’t crossed their minds yet, but, support your network of retailers. Note to suppliers – IT’S EASY TO GET PAID FROM PEOPLE THAT ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF MAKING A PROFIT.
Imagine this outside Victorias Secrets: “knickers, knickers, two for a tenner”
Chanel and Gucci don’t supply someone so they can set up a market stall outside Brown Thomas (Ireland’s exclusive department store) on a busy Sunday afternoon. Why do suppliers continue to sell to people who just list on Ebay, Amazon, etc, and provide no backup on a Monday morning?
Chanel and Gucci understand the principals of brand image and most importantly – making profit.
Thanks to Derek for that heartfelt post! If you are a member of the IIA and would like to share a guest post about doing business online (any aspect: it doesn’t just have to be retail!) please read our guidelines and get in touch.
The conference will focus on conversion and loyalty. Company websites, review sites, blogs, and social networks are converting customers from browsers to buyers, online and offline. Recent evidence from the Consumer Commerce Barometer shows that 27% of Irish people made a retail purchase online in the last 12 months. Not only are Irish people of all ages shopping online but they are using company websites to research their offline purchases: 49% of Irish people indicated that they have done this in the last 12 months.
“8 Ways to sell more stuff”, the IIA Conference for Online Selling, includes Irish and International speakers with a broad range of experience in both pure play and multichannel retailing. Also speaking will be a selection of companies who have developed enabling technologies for online retail.
Speaking about the upcoming conference, Joan Mulvihill, IIA CEO, commented, “The focus for all businesses these days is on sales and cost management. In response to this, the IIA are delighted to be hosting a conference on how retailers can drive sales and customer retention through the use of internet based technologies. The line-up of speakers comprises true experts in their respective fields of customer conversion and loyalty and we are particularly pleased with the mix of US, UK and Irish case studies. It is great as well to be showcasing the world class technologies being provided by Irish developers. This conference has been designed to appeal to both online and multi-channel retailers. We are delighted to have An Post as our headline sponsor as fulfilment plays such a pivotal role in the execution of an online selling proposition."
Keynote speaker Andrew Draper of Manpacks.com, a start-it, stop-it, change-it-anytime subscription for underwear, shirts, and socks will share his thoughts and ideas about creating a unique and compelling online experience. Speaking in advance of the conference he said, “I’ll be speaking about how by "Selling underwear on the internet for fun and profit" Manpacks has managed to go from zero to being a ‘real’ business in just 9 months using lean startup principles and from-the-gut decision-making based on real-time feedback and analytical data.
“By iterating quickly and optimizing our user experience we’ve been able to quickly test hypothesis and increase conversions turning potential customers into actual customers and making actual customers more valuable customers.”
Delegates at the conference will include online retailers, advertisers, web developers and designers and marketers.
More information about speakers, venue and exhibitors available at www.iia.ie/8ways