In October we held a conference specifically aimed at online retailers called “8 Ways to Sell More Stuff” (read a review here). The feedback was very positive and we hope to produce more events in this style in 2011.
In the meantime here is the first of some of the presentations that I recorded on the day. I didn’t manage to record them all (sorry Michael Kane!) and it may be a while before I have an opportunity to tidy the other few up but there should be plenty for you to mull over in this podcast below.
This is Andrew Draper, Co-founder of Manpacks.com sharing his experience of launching not only a new online business in the last year but a business with a unique business model.
The headline sponsor of “8 Ways to Sell More Stuff” was An Post and one way you could sell more stuff is by checking out their new site ILoveShopping.ie.
Internet Growth Acceleration Programme (iGAP) to help Internet Related Companies Win New Business Opportunities
Ireland’s growing number of internet related companies are set to receive a major boost to their growth development prospects with the launch today (Tuesday 29 September 2009) of the Internet Growth Acceleration Programme (iGAP). Developed by Enterprise Ireland in association with the Internet Growth Alliance (a business led initiative supporting the international growth of Irish e-businesses) this new Programme for high potential Internet companies will provide them with the tools and skills to develop and execute aggressive international growth plans and scale their business. Recruitment for the Programme, which starts in November, is now underway.
The focus of the Internet Growth Acceleration Programme is on Internet related companies with global growth potential and the ability to meet critical growth milestones. The Programme design is specifically geared to add significant strategic and business value to companies in both B2B and B2C markets with practical learning modules, support from implementation coaches, access to business advisors and industry networking. Industry experts and experienced Internet entrepreneurs will cover topics including monetizing the business, revenue models, marketing, customer acquisition and retention and preparation for funding – all key elements of a business strategy for growing Internet companies.
Speaking at the launch, Jennifer Condon, Manager of Enterprise Ireland’s Software Division, said:
“Enterprise Ireland’s new Software Strategy, as part of the Government’s Smart Economy blueprint, sets out to develop and grow a thriving set of high-value, innovative, research-intensive Irish Software companies. The aim of the software strategy is to position Ireland’s software industry to maximise its opportunities in the “New Software Economy”. This New Software Economy is driven by the growth of the Internet and changes in the software value chain. It is characterised by user demand for greater flexibility, global delivery and cost effective solutions.
“The Internet is providing opportunities for new business models as seen in Internet based start-ups and new delivery channels such as Software as a Service. These new business models favour flexible, innovative SMEs by giving them access to international markets via the Internet. The Internet Growth Acceleration Programme aims to position Irish Internet related companies to maximise their potential in this new market environment and is specifically designed to address the needs of innovative companies specifically those developing Web 2.0 type applications.”
Speaking on behalf of the Internet Growth Alliance* Colm Lyon, CEO of Realex Payments and founder of the Internet Growth Alliance said:
“The development of the Internet Growth Acceleration Programme is a great example of industry wide collaboration at work. All the stakeholders in the Irish Internet Industry believe in the opportunity and the global potential the internet has to offer Irish businesses. With all the relevant industry associations and some key business advisors working together we see the emergence of a very important building block – the iGAP. This programme will give Irish internet entrepreneurs access to worldwide and local expertise. It is comprehensive, focused and intensive in its construction. In addition it will offer Irish Internet Entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet and get to know many other people in the same industry – both experienced and emerging.
“The business advisors of the Internet Growth Alliance are delighted with the development and look forward to working with both Enterprise Ireland and the participating businesses as we identify and support Irish Internet businesses that will scale globally.”
This programme is a core part of Enterprise Ireland’s recently launched four-year strategy for the Irish software industry, which aims to drive the sector’s revenues to over €2.5bn by 2013 by capitalising on changes in the global software market. Outlining the importance of the Internet sector in this strategy, Jennifer Condon went on to say: “Internet based businesses will form an increasingly significant part of Ireland’s Software sector. Enterprise Ireland is working closely with our industry partners, in particular the Internet Growth Alliance, the Irish Software Association and the Irish Internet Association, to bring about sustainable change and growth in the sector. This programme is one of a number of initiatives to support these Internet companies in their drive to develop their businesses and grow globally.”
More about the Internet Growth Alliance
*The Internet Growth Alliance (www.alliance.ie) was established by a consortium of Irish entrepreneurs in conjunction with the Irish Internet Association, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Software Association, the Institute of International and European Affairs, Web2 Ireland and the Digital Hub. The mission of the Alliance is to accelerate the development of Irish Internet businesses and the Internet Growth Acceleration Programme is at the core of its strategy.
The clampdown covered 369 websites selling six of the most popular electronic goods to consumers in the EU – digital cameras, mobile phones, personal music players, DVD players, computer equipment and game consoles. It covered 200 of the biggest websites selling electronic equipment in the EU as well as more than 100 websites which were targeted on the basis of consumer complaints. The results of the checks carried out in May this year show that 55% of the websites investigated showed irregularities in particular relating to: misleading information about consumer rights; misleading information about the total cost of the product; or incomplete contact details for the trader. The initial checks by national authorities will now be followed by an enforcement phase when companies are contacted by national authorities and required to correct their websites or clarify their position. At this first stage, three countries – Iceland, Latvia and Norway – have published names of the websites covered by the investigation (see MEMO/09/379 ).
EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said: "We targeted websites selling electronic goods because I know from my own mail bag, and we know from the level of complaints coming into European Consumer Centres that these are a real problem area for consumers. We discovered that more than half of the retailers selling on-line electronic goods are letting consumers down. This is a Europe-wide problem which needs a European solution. There is a lot of work to be done in the months ahead to clean up this sector, Europe’s consumers deserve better."
The electronics goods market
The value of online retail sales of consumer electronic goods in Europe is ca. € 6.8 billion (2007), and about one in four EU consumers who ever bought anything online bought an electronic product (including cameras). More than a third of complaints regarding online sales handled by the European Consumer Centre Network in 2007, concerned the purchase of electronic equipment.
The sweep investigation
In May 2009, national enforcers (co-ordinated by the European Commission) checked websites selling electronic goods for compliance with three crucial EU consumer laws: the Distance Selling Directive, the e-Commerce Directive, and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (see MEMO/09/379 for more details).
The sweep investigation focused on 3 key areas:
1. Contact information for the trader: Under EU law, there must be complete information about the name, geographical address and email address of the trader.
2. Clear information about the offer (total price and clear product description): Under EU consumer law the online traders must provide clear information about the characteristics of the product, as well as the total cost (including taxes), all extra delivery costs and payment arrangements. The final price to pay must be the same as stated in the information provided before the purchase.
3. Clear information about consumer rights: Under EU law, consumers must be provided with information about their EU "right to return" i. e. a good bought at a distance can be returned within a minimum of 7 days without giving a reason. The investigation also checked the accuracy of additional information provided about consumer rights e.g. warrantees, refunds.
The results of the sweep investigation were as follows:
55% of the 369 checked websites showed irregularities which are being investigated further. 13 % of the problematic sites will require cross border co-operation between national authorities. The most common problems found were:
Misleading information about consumer rights (66% of problem websites) Buyers were either not informed at all or misinformed about their "right to return" – the right to cancel an order bought a distance within a minimum of 7 days and return the product without giving a reason. For example, they were told that the trader would not accept the product back, or that they could only have credit rather than cash refund. In other cases, consumers were misled about their right to have a faulty product repaired or replaced for at least 2 years after the purchase (e.g. they were told that they only had this right for one year).
Misleading information about the total price (45% of problem websites). For example, information on the extra delivery charges was either missing or difficult to find. The extras were then added only at the final payment stage. Some other websites went as far as promising "free delivery" or an "all inclusive" deal, even though delivery charges were in fact applied.
Missing or incomplete contact details of the trader (33 % of the problem websites). Details of the trader’s name, geographical address or e-mail address were missing or incomplete, so that they could not be contacted in case of problems.
What happens next?
Traders will be contacted by the national authorities and asked to clarify their position or correct the problems identified. Failure to bring a website in line with the law can result in legal action leading to fines or websites being closed. The EU wide enforcement results will be presented by mid-2010.
Samples of good and bad websites selling electronic goods:
This is a guest post from Ann Donnelly of O’Mahony Donnelly E-Business Development who are IIA Members based in Clonakilty, Co. Cork
This week there was a big buzz online about an article posted on Tech Crunch “The Time Has Come To Regulate Search Engine Marketing And SEO”. In the opinion of the anonymous guest author: “Due to Google’s dominance — and the fact that it controls such an enormous amount of consumer behavior through paid and organic search listings – the company in essence governs commerce on the web.” This is a topic that has come up time and again over the past few years in webmaster forums and search industry conferences, but in many cases the complaint comes from those that are looking for short cuts to get results through search engines or those that are focusing on one aspect of online marketing success instead of developing a full, well rounded online marketing plan.
A small number of these people are using techniques that some would consider unethical to promote their own websites, or are using these techniques to provide such services to others. Some are using ethical techniques, but using dishonest or hard sell marketing to promote their services. This sort of behaviour happens across all industries (we all trust used car salesmen, right?), but in our industry the consumer is particularly vulnerable, as he often feels he doesn’t have the technical knowledge and doesn’t listen to his own common sense – and there is such an enormous amount of bad advice out there.
It may sound harsh, but those people that have knowingly chosen these methods will probably laugh at what I am saying here and will continue in the same manner, full throttle, and may get very rich from it. On the other hand, I have met a number of people in the industry that honestly feel that these are legitimate methods and don’t see that they are limiting the type of results they will get from their businesses. Why do I care about these people? Their behaviour causes consumers to distrust the industry as a whole. A customer that has had a bad experience shopping online will avoid shopping online again. A business that has gotten poor results with their website because the web developer they chose was inexperienced, will just feel that online marketing won’t work at all for them.
There are also a large number of young men and women, as well as those recently made redundant, that are starting up their own businesses and are looking to those of us already established in the industry for guidance on the way to go with this.
It’s up to each business owner to decide what sort of methods he will use. Do you want to sign on a large number of customers that will use your services once or over a short period of time or do you want to develop longer term relationships built on old fashioned, good service and hard work?
If you choose the first method and are tricking people into signing up for your services, not providing good value and are not getting results for your customers the bad news will get around quickly enough and you may end up out of business. This is especially true with so many people using social networking web sites. News of bad service travels much faster than good reviews.
Are you providing the best products and services? If not, are you providing better value for what you do? Do your customers fully understand what they are getting for their money? Take a look at your business and see if you can develop a business model that’s good for your customers as well as for yourself.
Let’s go back to “Big, Bad Google”. They state on their Corporate Overview page: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” They do this by providing “an easy-to-use free service that usually returns relevant results in a fraction of a second.” Looking just at the search side of Google’s businesses the changes they have made over the years have all focused on returning “relevant results” not because they are really nice guys, but because that is what makes people come back to use the Google search engine again and again. Focusing on this has brought about the “dominance” that is resented by their competitors and search marketing professionals that are looking for short cuts to success.
This resentment is even stronger now that Google AdWords have brought financial success as well. Google has made their products and services easy to use, with full documentation and helpful videos. They now have staff speaking at most industry conferences and using social networking tools to more fully communicate and assist users of all of their products.
This shows the importance of setting the right mission statement for your business and, once you have done this, maintaining your focus on that mission to bring best results for your business. What do you want to achieve in your business? Are you looking to just make a living or are you looking for greater satisfaction in helping others achieve their business goals; or do you need to be the best (in number of sales, awards, publicity)? Are you looking to build up your business to a point where you can sell it on to another bigger business? Your goals are going to be based on the type of products/services as well as what your personal needs are. I am not judging any of these goals, just saying that it’s important to define them and remain focused.
By developing the best mix of products and services with the right pricing structure you then have a business that is financially viable and, hopefully, lucrative with a base of happy, loyal customers (as well as happy, loyal suppliers) that are with you for the long term and referring you to their friends and colleagues – working with you to build a successful business that is around for the long term. Just have a look at “10 Things Google Has Found to Be True”.
Her business O’Mahony Donnelly E-Business Development specialises in Search Engine Placement &
Offering a full line of Online Marketing Services:
– Web Design & Development
– Shopping Carts & Payment Processing
– Search Engine Placement
– Email Marketing
– AdWords Campaign Management
– Social Networking (Blogs, Forums, etc.)
– Online Customer Service
Damien Mulley is running another innovative competition to find the best Search Engine Optimiser in Ireland. The competition has become known as the Geansaí Gorm Competition. (although I think it is being spelt “geansai gorm” without the accent. I’m sayin nuttin! :)) This phrase was chosen so as not to pollute the rankings of actual businesses because it was unlikely that there are many trying to sell geansaithe goirme online (bang goes the Spailpín Fánach’s line in blue jumpers…)
The competition runs until 3pm on December 1 2008 so if you are really good there is still time to get ranked in Google for geansai gorm. I’m really looking forward to seeing the resuls. I’ll be keen to see how much social media helps the winner or whether the purchasing of AdWords helped. I’ll keep you posted on the results.
Now I’m off to sell all the mentions above of geansai gorm to the contenders… 😉
On the 1st September last Google launched Chrome, their take on the web browser. Their motivation according to their graphical (though somewhat previous) press release was that browsers today are simply a conduit for most people to get at the web applications they are using online like email, photo applications, colloboration applications, customer relationship management and tracking application to give some enterprise oriented examples. Therefore browsers should be stripped down and fast, fast, fast.
I had some initial difficulties installing Chrome on Vista (solved by saving then installing rather than running the install directly.) Although I found a number of queries from other users on Google Help Forums having the exact same issue, I couldn’t find a fix. I have it installed now and like many others I miss my add ons that I have installed in my IE and Firefox browsers most especially and surprisingly my Google toolbar!
I will collate some other more knowledgable reviews and post links here but I would love to read or link to your reaction to Chrome so please leave comments below. In terms of doing business on the web, while the figures still have to come in on the take up of Chrome, there is no harm in checking that your own site or sites for which you are responsible work in Chrome. I have no doubt that Google have a cunning plan to get us all on Chrome sooner rather than later!