31% of Irish SMEs bet their survival on scaling globally

Close to one-third of Irish SMEs believe that their businesses will not survive unless they trade internationally.

Irish SMEs that sell their products or services in international markets generated €240,000 in the past 12 months.

Those surveyed that don’t currently sell internationally, but are planning to do so in the future, estimated that the move would generate €122,728 annually for their business, according to PayPal’s latest ‘Business of Change’ report.

“For over 20 years, we’ve been a trusted partner for Irish entrepreneurs and e-commerce businesses”

The report found that SMEs in Ireland that sell online appear to be experiencing a growth period, with 96% seeing an increase in online sales over the past 12 months. A similar proportion (95%) are feeling optimistic about the growth of their business over the next year.

Going global a priority for Irish SMEs

There is a fundamental alignment on the urgency of scaling into international markets.

50% of SMEs surveyed are already selling to international markets, with 30% gearing up to follow suit within the next year.

While many think Ireland is strategically positioned to seize the opportunity of global markets, 31% of SME owners believe their very survival hinges on international expansion.

The primary impetus behind international expansion is the belief that Ireland is strategically positioned to seize opportunities in global markets (41%). However, a significant 31 per cent of those surveyed indicated that their survival hinges on international expansion.

Not surprisingly, 34 per cent of SME owners prioritise delivering an improved customer experience as a crucial factor for business expansion—second only to providing high-quality products or services, which garnered 38 per cent. Rounding out the top five priorities were adopting emerging technologies, utilising online marketplaces, and ensuring affordability of products or services, each at 32 per cent. 

While there is a general feeling of optimism, almost a quarter of SME owners (23%) cited poor purchasing processes for customers as a top barrier to future business growth. Meanwhile, more than a fifth (22%) identified that they lack the skills or resources to fully leverage online platforms.

As well as internal factors, external trends most impacting SMEs in Ireland that sell online are:

  • A rising demand for more payment methods (such as buy now pay later and digital wallets like PayPal) – 40%
  • More people wanting discounts, promotions and deals – 38%
  • Customers wanting more convenience (such as click and collect, and package tracking) – 37%
  • Three in 10 (30%) are concerned with the trend that fewer people are converting at checkout – more browsers than buyers.

Future tech investments

Looking forward, the vast majority (92%) of SME owners prioritise technology investment for their business’s future growth. Nearly a quarter (23%) desire to allocate resources to Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning, while 21 per cent plan to invest in Virtual Reality experiences.

Regarding specific areas earmarked for investment within the next year to bolster expansion, 38 per cent plan to prioritise enhancing their online presence. Following closely are investments in marketing (33%), additional shipping/delivery capabilities (32%), team expansion (32%), and social commerce (31%).

27% intend to invest in e-commerce capabilities, with secure payment methods and international sales processes on the agenda for 26 per cent of SME owners surveyed.

“For over 20 years, we’ve been a trusted partner for Irish entrepreneurs and e-commerce businesses,” said Jonas Breding, general manager, PayPal Northern Europe.

“We recently launched PayPal Complete Payments, our most advanced offering in the market. Our comprehensive solution fosters growth, provides advanced fraud protection, and streamlines cross-border trade, empowering entrepreneurs to thrive.”

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