In the Future, Your Customers Won’t Want to Talk to You. #39 #cong16

By Jane Leonard.

The future is now. 

Our customers don’t want to talk to us. 

They want an effortless experience where they use their phone or the web to access the information they want. 

However, Irish companies don’t believe this. Especially Small and Medium sized companies. 

Irish businesses are still not engaging in e-commerce, despite the majority of Irish consumers buying and transacting online.

They are still focusing on face to face or telephone channels. They do not even consider Google as a way to attract customers. Many don’t even have a web page. They do not connect their customers with the potential offered by the web. 

Despite this fact, conventional wisdom in most Irish SME business is that customers value the personalised face to face experience. They focus on looking after the customers who come into their store, who struggle to find parking or who make time during 9 to 17:30 to call to their business. 

 They tell me that people want to come to their store and poke though the rails or search the shelves for what they want. The retailers believe the customers don’t mind paying for parking or pushing a buggy down the street. Paper bags; customers love them, great for the environment, sure the bags may fall apart in the rain but isn’t that part of the shopping experience. 

71% of Irish consumers find it “extremely frustrating” when a business is not online and 3 in 4 say they are more likely to purchase from a business that is online. Ireland may be home to many of the big internet companies, including global online marketplaces such as Amazon or EBay, but many of our domestic small and medium enterprises are lacking an online presence and are losing out on potential business

Many SME’s believe that online selling, that’s for the big guys, our customers do not want that, they want the real experience. 

And Yet, The Irish shoppers are world leaders for international online shopping – research from PayPal indicates, 86% of Irish internet shoppers - an estimated 1.9 million people -  have made overseas purchases in the last 12 months. The average cross-border shopper spent €964 on international online purchases in the last year.

Irish consumers are savvy online shoppers - they know where to find the best choice at the right price, and they’re not afraid to look abroad to get it. We need to encourage more Irish businesses to get online, offer more choice, and start bringing some of that €1.8 billion home to the Irish economy.

According to Irish Tech News

"There’s also a whole world of new online export opportunities for Irish businesses, retailers and budding entrepreneurs who are willing to grasp them,"

New research from PayPal has revealed that Irish consumers are the most active international online shoppers out of 29 countries surveyed. The global study by Ipsos looked at online cross-border shopping—referring to any purchase made on a website from outside Ireland—and included a representative sample of 810 Irish adults. It found that 86% of Irish internet shoppers (an estimated 1.9 million people) have made overseas purchases in the last 12 months. The average cross-border shopper spent €964 on international online purchases in the last year. In total, Irish online shoppers will spend an estimated €1.8 billion on products from international websites in 2015—with an expected growth of 16% to more than €2 billion in 2016.

Reasons given by online shoppers for their purchases abroad hint at a lack of access to goods online in Ireland, along with unfavourable prices. 78% of cross-border shoppers said they shop in other countries to get can get better-priced goods, while 73% said that they shop abroad to purchase items that are not available on Irish sites.

Much of Ireland’s international online spending is done on UK websites. Out of consumers in 29 markets surveyed, Irish-based online consumers are the most likely to shop on UK sites after UK customers themselves. With a total estimated spend in the UK in 2015 of €931 million, almost three quarters (74%) of online shoppers made a purchase on a UK site in the past 12 months, compared to an international average of 14%. A further 38% bought an item from the United States in the last year, while 26% said they purchased a product from a Chinese website.

Despite the high incidence of international online spending, other countries’ eyes are also on Ireland. The UK is Ireland’s biggest export market  for online goods, with an estimated 1.3 million British people shopping on Irish websites in the past year. India and Germany are the next most likely to purchase Irish products, with an estimated 500,000 from each country making online purchases here in the last 12 months. A further estimated 400,000 French people turned to Irish sites to make purchases in the last year.

The research from PayPal also estimates that mobile shopping will have grown by 65% in Ireland this year to €1.4 billion. Growth will continue to be rapid with mobile shopping set to almost double to €2.7 billion by 2017. Furthermore, 40% of Ireland’s online shoppers have used a smartphone to make an online purchase in the past 12 months.

The total online spend—including mobile—by Irish shoppers is estimated to have grown by 23% between 2014 and 2015 to €4.3 billion. This is expected to grow again by 18% to more than €5 billion in 2016. Mobile is playing an increasingly vital role in commerce .Growth in mobile transactions is currently running at sixty five per cent and Irish businesses need to take advantage of this enormous opportunity.

The mismatch of how customers want to buy and how Irish SME companies think the customers want to be buy is delivering a poor customer experience and increasing customer frustration. This frustration is impacting on customer purchasing options and driving people to buy online.  

These SMEs tend to segment their customers into “face to face “customers “web” customers or “telephone “customers. They do not appear to understand that many customers are channel switching and only that they only switch channels when they do not get what they want from the first channel. 

Think how you booked your accommodation for cong16. Most will have booked online and only picked up the phone when the website lacked the relevant information. It is easier to Facebook message a store and ask if they stock a brand than it is to pick up the phone. 

Yet, if you arrive at any town in Ireland and search on google for best restaurant or best hotel or even what to do during your stay you will find no listings or out of date website listings. 

Irish retailers and service providers are ignoring this tranche of potential customers and are missing out on a major opportunity to grow their business in a cost-effective way. 

Louise Phelan, Vice President of Global Operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa, PayPal, echoes the need for this change, “Our research shows that now is the time for Irish businesses and retailers to really push their e-commerce offerings and bring revenue lost to international online sales back home.

But it is not just one way shopping. 1.3 million British people shopped on Irish websites in 2015. India and Germany are the next most likely to purchase Irish products, with an estimated 500,000 from each country making online purchases here in the last 12 months. A further estimated 400,000 French people turned to Irish sites to make purchases in the last year.

Among those companies without a website, over half – 55% – said they had no intention of building one in the near future. 60% of offliners said there was “no need” to have a website within their industry; 35% said that they didn’t have enough time to build one; and 9% said they lacked expertise.

Yet, according to figures from the Department of Communications, small businesses experience a 21 per cent average increase in sales when they move their business online

Small scale, low budget initiatives are needed to give these businesses a leg up to the digital world. It will not happen as quickly as we would like but it will not happen at all without our help. 

We as social media, digital savvy people here in a small town on Mayo need to consider how do we help the SMEs to stay in business, grow their business and create more employment. We cannot just abandon or ignore them. 

Cong has proved how a small village in an island in the far side of the Atlantic can have impact across the world. Both Abraham Lincoln and Peter Drucker have been credited with saying that If we want to predict the future the best way is to create it. I can’t think of a better time to start than now. 


© Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie