OPTIMISE e-Commerce and Web Development Fund launched

Knowledge gap and lack of financial supports prevent SMEs going online

  • IEDR’s OPTIMISE Fund 2016 launched to help SMEs get  e-commerce ready
  • 1 in 4 SMEs still without a website or any online presence at all
  • Greater focus needed to ensure SMEs don’t get left behind, as Irish consumers spend almost €6.5 billion online

A lack of know-how and resources are viewed by SMEs as significant barriers to having an online presence, according to research carried out by the IE Domain Registry (IEDR). The findings were highlighted at the launch of IEDR’s annual OPTIMISE Fund for 2016.

The 2016 Fund, which was launched at the Mansion House in Dublin by top Irish chef and leading food entrepreneur Domini Kemp, supports Irish SMEs and micro-enterprises in enhancing their existing online presence and in becoming e-commerce enabled.

Optimise 2016 
Pictured at the launch of IEDR's 2016 Optimise Fund: David Curtin, CEO IEDR, Domini Kemp, Optimise Brand Ambassador and Luke Carton, Founder of 2015 Optimise winner CleanFreaks.ie.

Now in its sixth year, the OPTIMISE Fund encourages and enables Irish SMEs or micro-enterprises to make greater use of existing web technologies and upgrade the e-commerce functionality of their websites.  

Overcoming Barriers to online trading

According to recent research undertaken by IEDR, the company which manages Ireland’s .ie domain, more than one quarter of SMEs (28%) said that the lack of technical ability and financial supports are holding them back from transitioning online and engaging in e-commerce. This figure dovetails with the fact that one in four Irish SMEs still do not have a website, or any online presence whatsoever.

Furthermore, the vast majority of Irish businesses are still not equipped to take and process consumer sales online. Of those with a website, only 35% of Irish SMEs can process payments online and just 42% can take sales orders online. (Source: IE Digital Health Index, November 2015). 

Speaking at the launch of the OPTIMISE Fund 2016, David Curtin, Chief Executive of IEDR, said:

“All stakeholders - Government, business community representatives and the tech industry - must become more co-ordinated in their approach to helping SMEs see the value of trading online and enabling them to do so. There are a lot of valuable initiatives being undertaken to get businesses online, but they need to be more focussed on removing barriers for SMEs. We need to show SMEs the value of embracing e-commerce and work shoulder-to-shoulder with them to improve their online offerings. If we don’t, there is a risk that a two-tier economy could emerge between innovative, customer responsive and probably more profitable SMEs with an online presence and those SMES without one.

OPTIMISE Fund helping drive sales offering online

“Online spending by Irish consumers rose by 17% to €6.5bn in 2015 and online consumer spending in Ireland is forecast to hit €21bn by 2020 (Source: Visa Europe, February 2016). We need to empower all SMEs to tap into this opportunity.

“Over the last six years, our annual OPTIMISE Fund has enabled us to award close to three quarters of a million euro worth of shoulder-to-shoulder website development and training services to 75 Irish SMEs and micro-enterprises looking to improve their digital presence and engage in e-commerce. However, we all need to re-double our efforts.

“SMEs are the backbone of our economy, the strongest driver of job creation and the most important sector in terms of balanced regional development. So it’s critical that we address this issue as a key part of any national job creation strategy,” added Mr Curtin.

The Fund is designed to help drive Irish businesses’ sales offering online. Since its inception in 2011, the OPTIMISE Fund has provided funding to 75 Irish SMEs and micro-enterprises to improve their web and online sales capabilities. With the OPTIMISE Fund 2016 valued at €150,000 on direct and indirect activities, IEDR is confident that demand for funding amongst the business community will be significant again this year.

Top Irish chef and leading food entrepreneur Domini Kemp is this year’s OPTIMISE Fund ambassador. Addressing guests at the official launch, she said: “Every business, regardless of industry, can benefit from having a website. Your website is often the first port of call for new or potential customers. It can act as a calling card, a mission statement, a shop front and a digital marketplace; there are so many more opportunities for growth when you have an online presence, whether it be to broaden consumer bases or tap into new revenue streams. Businesses that don’t have an online sales presence are at a considerable disadvantage to competitors that do. It’s also a major frustration for customers, for whom buying online is now the norm.”

Businesses who want to improve their online sales capabilities and optimise their websites are encouraged to apply to the OPTIMISE Fund 2016 by logging on to www.iedr.ie/optimise for further information.

For further information contact:

Amanda Glancy, PR360      01 6371777/087 2273108; amanda@pr360.ie

Nuala Ryan, PR360               01 6371777/083 421 2733; nuala@pr360.ie

You can find more information on Optimise at: www.iedr.ie/optimise and the link to the online application form is at: http://bit.ly/228338v. It’s a very straightforward application form and should take no more than 30 minutes to complete. The closing date for applications is the 8th of April but this may be extended closer to the time.

Hear what our customers have to say: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oi5aldPWqM

 All applications to the Optimise Fund 2016 will be reviewed by an independent judging panel of business experts before a shortlist of 32 is announced. A public vote will select 10 of the final Fund winners with an additional 5 being selected by the independent judging panel. 

This year’s judging panel is chaired by Conall O’Móráin (Today FM’s Sunday Business Show) and consists of Keith Bohanna (Near Future), Alan Sherlock (IBEC) and Ronan Smith (AIB).

About IEDR

The IEDR is the official registry for .ie internet domain names and it maintains the database of .ie registered domain names.

The IEDR originated as a spinout from University College Dublin, becoming an independent, separate limited company 15 years ago in July 2000. Under the terms of the Companies Acts, it is defined as a public company.

The IE Domain Registry (IEDR) is responsible for the management and administration of Ireland’s official Internet address .ie, in the interest of the Irish and global internet communities.  The IEDR operates the domain name system (DNS) for the .ie namespace, facilitates a dispute resolution service with WIPO and operates a public ‘Whois’ lookup service for .ie domains.

The IEDR is a managed registry which means that there are policies and procedures governing the registration of .ie domain names. New applications are reviewed to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of registration. This contrasts with dot.com or dot.eu where there is no manual review, and the domain applied for will be automatically registered – once the name is available.

Only the IEDR can administer and manage the .ie namespace. These roles and responsibilities are undertaken as a public service.  The IEDR liaises with government departments, governing bodies, trade associations and abides by internet best-practice principles while still operating as an independent public company.

The IEDR’s mission is to provide unique, identifiably-Irish domain names along with registry and related services to the local and international internet community.

A .ie domain name requires a connection with the island of Ireland and a legitimate claim to the chosen name.

A .ie domain name has a number of distinct advantages when compared against alternatives.  These include: letting consumers know that a business is Irish; giving customers a greater sense of security particularly when buying online from a known local business; and providing more choices of desirable names, as a .ie is more likely to be available than a similar .com.

Irish businesses can now register one- and two-letter .ie domain names for the first time, with up to 676 possible two-letter domain name combinations available. These uniquely memorable names are highly valuable and we expect a hotly-contested auction process for many of the names.