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Google plans to double Irish exports by helping small businesses online


THE ONLY WAY IS UP: Google VP Ronan Harris points the way to the stars

THE ONLY WAY IS UP: Google VP Ronan Harris points the way to the stars

THE ONLY WAY IS UP: Google VP Ronan Harris points the way to the stars

Google is planning to double the rate of Irish exports by getting more small and medium businesses trading online, according to Google vice president Ronan Harris.

Google's sprawling operations in the heart of Dublin's Silicon Docks is now the nerve centre of the online giant's push to boost growth by getting more businesses to embrace digital sales. "We'd be the global hub on export expertise now," he said.

"All the statistics we have and the ones done by third parties suggests that if you have a business and embrace digital as a route to market - and you set up a website to connect with customers -that you'll grow your exports twice as fast. So my challenge should be that every business in Ireland has a website and if they do then exports should grow twice as fast," he told the Sunday Independent.

Google has set up a "global export team" which now advises its customers on how to export. There are three different types of clients, he says.

The first group are businesses that have never exported. Google supplies these clients with search data that shows if there's demand for their products overseas. For example, an Aran jumper firm could see how many times the phrase 'Aran jumper' is searched by consumers from Osaka, Japan - indicating demand and a potential new market. Simple steps such as translating a website into Japanese could drive sales.

Secondly, Google advises businesses that already export into some regions to find out if there is demand in other markets. Free online tools can highlight potential new countries or markets for trade, by evaluating customer behaviour or search trends.

Thirdly, Google can help firms that already export globally to find and refine new markets or product sets. It could be something simple like showing that Nigerian customers search for green Aran jumpers more than any other type of product.

Harris highlights the case of a Spanish systems integration company, which was already trading well, primarily in Spain. Google tools revealed that many searches for similar products were been done in South America - where Spanish is the dominant language. It led to the Spanish firm opening up a new sales office there and developing a huge international trade.

Crunching data can also give customers new opportunities for product development. In late 2011, searches for 'Ombre hair', a two-tone dyed haircut began to spike. "Ombre came up in a search trend. We investigated. The only way you could get Ombre hair was to go to the hairdresser and spend a packet to get your hair done like that."

So Google went to a major beauty company with the analytics, showing details of demand in the US, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Canada. It led to a whole new consumer product line being created by the cosmetics group.

Over 2,000 companies, large and small, have come through the doors of Google's Silicon Docks offices to find out how to export better or sell more to Irish people.

"Our figures suggest Irish consumers spend between €4bn to €6bn on ecommerce - but 70pc of that is overseas because they aren't finding the services here, or else are getting better value there," he said. "So there is a massive opportunity for Irish companies to capitalise on this.

"About one-third of businesses that go online for the first time get new export customers in the first six months through online channels."

The biggest sectors for export are retail and travel related businesses although the B2B sector is growing.

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"If you don't have a digital window you are letting yourself down. At any time of the day I can find you someone, somewhere in the world who is searching for your product."

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