An innovative programme started during the pandemic to help small businesses improve their on-line presence is set to continue to assist firms across the island of Ireland.
To date InterTradeIreland’s E-Merge programme has worked with over 1,000 companies from across the island. The programme provides up to €2800 of fully funded consultancy support to help businesses develop online sales and e-commerce solutions.
Project Manager Roisin Keenan says, “There’s huge demand for this service from businesses. They are hungry to learn more and to reap the benefits of reaching more customers at scale.”
Initially set up as a response to Covid-19, the programme is now seeing a strong response from firms who are moving into the recovery phase and want to capture consumer’s attention online.
Roisin continues, “Each business gets five days of dedicated support. They have an expert at their disposal to focus on a particular need in the business - be that online payment systems, security or website management.”
“Over 18 months we’ve helped over 1,000 businesses. If you add up all those days that equates to 19 years of support delivered directly to SMEs in just over a year and a half. That gives you a sense of how strong demand has been. It really has been a wide range of businesses that have applied, who now realise they need to be online.”
One firm that has benefited from the E-Merge programme is Filligans in Co. Donegal. The company has its own brand making handcrafted produce using traditional recipes. Its customers include hotels and delicatessens.
Willie Cremen one of the Directors, says, “We knew we needed to improve our web presence, all we really had was a brochure online. It really was time for us to get to grips with the digital world.”
Roisin adds, “Often a business knows what it wants to achieve online, it just doesn’t know how to go about it. E-Merge can really help because there is a structure and financial support in place to bring in the correct skills and knowledge. SMEs don’t have to go out and recruit someone themselves.”
Willie agrees, “We were very clear about what we wanted, but the advice and access to a digital specialist has been critical to setting up our online presence for success.”
He also marvels at the very direct access that it has given them to their customers, “Previously we would have received feedback at events, or from suppliers, but online it is at a much bigger scale. The customer insight we’re getting is priceless. A big change too is the amount of younger people who are buying from us. Revamping our online offering with help from InterTradeIreland’s E-Merge programme has been a stepping stone to the next generation.”
Roisin concludes, “The experience of Filligans is something that we’re seeing across the board. A lot of SMEs that have accessed the financial support of €2800 via the E-Merge programme say it has really helped open up their business to new clients, right across the island.”