Twenty one leading online retailers and sector experts and an Irish government employee met in Dublin. This round table took place on the evening of 9th October for an exchange of experiences on the topic of cross-border online trading. The three instructive presentations by Geoff Scully (Littlewoods), Jorij Abrahams (Ecommerce Europe) and David Field (Eason) led to a good deal of discussion. The outcome: despite the many obstacles there are almost limitless opportunities.
The event is part of a major series of round tables in different cities in Europe. This first round table in Dublin was organized by Etail Excellence Ireland, Ecommerce Europe and E-Commercefacts.com. Those attending included representatives of Google, Mothercare, Butlers Chocolate and Horkans.
Online turnover in Ireland currently stands at 3.8 billion euros; the aim is to increase this to 6 billion by 2016. But, according to Geoff Scully, a board member of EEI and CEO of Littlewoods Ireland, 75 percent of online sales in Ireland currently goes to overseas traders. What is the problem? ‘For one thing, at present there are no postcodes in Ireland. This leads to high delivery costs and increased risk of fraud. Other obstacles are inadequate data protection regulations and a shortage of appropriately trained manpower’ said Scully.
But there is also reason to hope: online sales by Irish traders are currently growing at a rate of 20 percent. ‘Yesterday the government passed a law that provides for the introduction of a very efficient postcode system’ Geoff Scully stated. This would prepare the ground for Irish traders to ‘win back’ Irish customers’ e-commerce spending.
But there are great opportunities in cross-border sales, as Jorij Abraham, research director at Ecommerce Europe emphasized, with the help of facts and figures from the latest studies carried out by the pan-European sector association: ‘There are currently 1 billion online shoppers worldwide’. Worldwide, cross-border sales account for goods to the value of 40 billion euros. Online traders should also seek opportunities in emergent nations: ‘Turkey for instance is very advanced in terms of commercial use of social media.’
Multi-channel as a weapon against Amazon
Eason, Irish booksellers steeped in tradition, ensured their survival by means of pro-active adaptations to the dynamic trading climate: in 2011 the company set itself the goal of becoming Ireland’s biggest bookseller. To be able to compete with Amazon, they had to be distinctive. To this end Eason made skillful use of their network of 60 branches, positioning themselves as a multi-channel retailer. In their so-called ‘E-Stores’ customers can even download E-books. As head of marketing David Field stressed, ‘As well as being an innovator in the digital world, Eason aims to be an interactive platform which involves its customers.’