What. A. Night. Last night, TalentHub had the privilege of hosting some of the Irish eCommerce world’s best and brightest at our first #HubTalks event. Attendees packed the BoI Workbench in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square to hear how Ireland can recapture some of the whopping €4.5 billion that leaves these shores every year.
This money goes directly into the coffers of foreign retailers and #HubTalks was our attempt at examining exactly what Irish companies can do to get a larger share of the pie.
We had some incredible contributions from our three keynote speakers, Gordon Newman, head of Multichannel at Life Style Sports, Vinny O’Brien, an eCommerce specialist who has experience with some of Ireland’s most innovative online retailers and Ian Snipper, an eCommerce consultant who is currently working with Avoca on revolutionising their online offering.
I had the honour of getting things started and began by outlining the opportunities that exist in the Irish eCommerce space. Each and every day, €12 million leaves Ireland to foreign retailers. Our speakers last night spoke for roughly two hours. During that time €1 million left Irish shores.
It’s our position that a lot of that money can be recaptured if Irish retailers move to a digital-first viewpoint. At TalentHub we partner with a lot of Ireland’s top eCommerce players and so we know that the expertise and skills are here. It’s just a matter of aligning that with managerial and board level strategy – to ensure that ecommerce is given the priority it deserves and to really compete on a global level.
Even if we managed to recapture 10 percent of the Irish eCommerce activity that currently goes overseas – we’d be looking at a boost to the Irish economy of €450 million – and a possible jobs boost of 10,000.
One man who many in the Irish eCommerce ecosystem could learn a thing or two from, was our opening speaker Gordon Newman (pictured above) – Life Style Sports’ head of multi-channel. He’s helped Life Style, a company with a 40-year heritage in the sportswear business, grow to a situation where its online sales are experiencing huge year-on-year growth.
Newman began by saying that Irish eCommerce retailers have a lot to offer customers that can differentiate them from the foreign companies that serve Ireland, a lot of the time in name only.
“Irish customers love shopping online,” he said. “But if you look at the way they were treated by the main brands – they weren’t really being served in the right way. They weren’t getting the same price or delivery terms as customers in the UK. Ireland was seen as an extension of the UK and they are very different markets.
“Irish eCommerce companies can offer the best service, next-day delivery and a web-first experience to these customers that the UK companies just can’t.”
Newman says that the first thing that Irish eCommerce retailers have to do is to “get the basics right”. That forms one of the key pillars that Newman has implemented at Life Style. He said that for the most part, fulfilment is the be-all and end-all for Irish eCommerce retailers.
“The last thing you want to be doing is be packing bags in your boardroom at 2am in the morning if your fulfilment centre fails” he joked.
Life Style offers next-day delivery on all online purchases and have implemented such a digital-first mentality that their online store now receives preference over retail stores when it comes to stock.
But Newman says that it’s not a matter of pitting online against Life Style’s bricks and mortar stores – online and the stores must work together to deliver the best overall customer experience.
“We’ve actually found that our store teams are the secret sauce of our eCommerce success,” he said. “We’ve implemented a system whereby if a customer walks into one of our stores and the item they want is not in stock, they can purchase it there and then and they’re guaranteed to have the item delivered to them the next day.
“That way everyone is happy. The customer gets what they want. We don’t lose the sale and the staff member is still credited with the sale. Everybody wins.”
That buy-in towards becoming an multi-channel organisation is something that the entire Life Style team has bought into; from the store teams to the senior management.
Newman explains, “Making sure that everyone in the organisation backs multi-channel is key. We’ve been lucky that our board and everybody in management really sees the growth of eCommerce as being a key aspect of our business. It’s about being open to these ideas and we’ve been really lucky in that regard.”
Here at TalentHub, that’s something we see constantly. When we are talking to employees in particular, they always ask about the culture of the company we are placing them with. They see this as being crucial to their overall success in the role and that’s something that Gordon and his team at Life Style Sports are definitely getting right!
eCommerce specialist Vinny O’Brien (pictured above) was up next and he agreed with Newman’s point that fulfilment is one area where Irish eCommerce retailers can distinguish themselves from their international competition. “Companies have to realise that the process is not over when the customer clicks the buy button,” he said. “They need to offer Irish customers a better service than they can get anywhere else. That’s the key.”
O’Brien is a mentor for many Irish eCommerce companies via his work with Enterprise Ireland and he says that one disparity that must be addressed is the Dublin-centric nature of much of the development of Irish eCommerce.
“We have a really active eCommerce ecosystem here in Ireland. I work with companies all over the country, from Fenit in Kerry to Donegal and everywhere in between. We need to improve the infrastructure – particularly broadband – when it comes to these companies,” he said.
O’Brien gave advice to Irish retailers who are looking for grant support from government bodies and he says it’s all a matter of putting yourself out there.
“At a basic level, it’s ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. There are supports out there at every level, whether you are just exploring an idea or you’re getting ready for seed funding. People don’t realise it but Enterprise Ireland are the biggest VC [venture capital] fund in Europe. There are great supports out there. Sometimes the paperwork is a pain but it really is worth it.
O’Brien says that Enterprise Ireland offers more than just pure funding too. “There is a resource bank of market information that is hugely valuable. Companies don’t have to waste time and resources undertaking market research because in a lot of cases, this is information that Enterprise Ireland already have. One of the main benefits of getting access to Enterprise Ireland funding is that it allows start-ups to think about the future.
“Start-ups by their nature are focused on the day-to-day but by going through a process with Enterprise Ireland, they are forced to think about where they will be six, 12 or 18 months down the line.”
The event wrapped up with Ian Snipper (pictured above) , and he followed on from O’Brien’s theme of forward planning. Snipper is an eCommerce consultant who is currently working with Avoca in terms of improving their online presence. He says that many Irish eCommerce retailers have a “digital knowledge gap at board level. A lot of these retailers are experienced when it comes to traditional stores. If you were asking them to open a new store then they’d be fine with that but they are tentative about eCommerce.”
To alleviate board members’ fears about eCommerce, and particularly investment in eCommerce, Snipper advises that it’s important to do as much research as you can about any new technologies you plan to implement.
“If you are thinking about a new eCommerce platform then you should talk to the vendors of these technologies and see whether they offer everything you are looking for. If they do, you should then ask them what developers they have worked with in Ireland and who has done the most implementations here.”
Snipper went on to discuss how the new eCommerce platform pricing models are a lot more palatable to CFOs or ownership.
“The traditional model was to hire an agency to create the site and there would be a big front-loaded cost and it would take anywhere from three to six months to go live. The development cost would be huge and any enhancements or extras would cost extra.”
“Now though, we are at a stage where the best platforms offer a solution where they take three percent of revenue as a flat fee. Now this is a lot easier to justify as it comes out of profits. There are regular free enhancements and you get access straight away to a plug-and-play implementation of the best-in-breed technology. You’d think that this would be the only way, but some Irish companies are still sticking with the old way. That needs to change”.
At the end of the night we conducted a survey – taking advantage of the fact that we had the cream of Irish eCommerce in one room! We’ll have the results of that survey here next Wednesday so check back on the HubBlog and on all our social media channels to get the results!
Author: Morgan Cummins
Morgan is an experienced marketer who has been lucky enough to work in markets like Australia, the Middle East and Ireland over the last 15 years. He has experience in building new brands, running an ad agency and hiring the best talent for his clients.
Tel:01 634 4885