Bord Bia, in partnership with Google Ireland, has today launched the Digital Food Hub, a new training programme aimed at helping Irish food businesses to maximize their online presence and sales.
Following an application process, 21 Irish food companies have been selected to participate in the inaugural seven month programme, which will include workshops, training modules and one-to-one mentoring delivered by Google digital experts at its European headquarters in Dublin.
The companies, representing dairy, meat, confectionary and chilled food sectors, range from large multinational players such as Kerry Foods and Cuisine de France to new businesses like The Little Milk Company and Elivar.
According to Bord Bia’s Tomorrow’s Shopper 94pc of shoppers in Ireland now purchase online. Mobile and social commerce are showing significant growth, facilitated by portable, handheld devices and speedier networks. Some 82pc of those surveyed had completed pre-purchase research on their smartphone. In addition, the use of social networks, such as Facebook, for purchasing goods and services represents a significant opportunity for companies.
“It is widely recognised that technology is one of the key drivers of change in terms of consumer buying behaviour,” said Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter. “Both brands and retailers need to think outside the confines of the ‘bricks and mortar’ store to build stronger and longer lasting relationships with consumers. Irish food and drink companies with the capability to collect, understand, and leverage specific consumer information using digital technology will be best positioned to deliver value added benefits to shoppers. This coupled with a multi-channel online presence, in the form of a proactive and comprehensive digital strategy, will create the optimum shopper experience and provide increased purchasing opportunities.”
The Digital Food Hub curriculum will include modules on website design, Google AdWords, tracking and measuring online sales via Google Analytics, online brand building and identifying export opportunities.
The programme outline was developed in conjunction with Google Ireland following a Bord Bia research study carried out last year with 12 Irish food companies that sought to identify the challenges and opportunities facing companies wishing to develop a trade online, and where additional support, advice, education and training is required. The study found that Irish food companies had taken some initial basic steps, but needed guidance on technology infrastructure, best practice case studies and training on how to build and develop in-house expertise.
“The Bord Bia study highlighted a number of barriers to both online selling and digital brand building for many in the Irish food and drink industry,” said Google industry manager Ruth McEntee. “Through this programme, we hope to address some of these gaps and develop skills within the industry in measuring and evaluating E-commerce sales as well as in video and social media communication. With online sales of Irish groceries at just 1.3pc, there is significant room for growth in terms of meeting current consumer demands and those of an upcoming generation who will shop online as default.”
Bord Bia said a second programme is planned for January 2015 following “extremely high” demand for the first one.