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85% of Irish SMEs expecting growth according to latest Virgin Media Ireland research

New research from Virgin Media also showcases social media usage differences between Dublin and Cork

Small and medium-sized enterprises in Ireland are confident they will grow in the coming years, new research has revealed.

The study by Amårach Research, on behalf of Virgin Media Ireland, found that 85% of the 200 SME leaders questioned are expecting good growth across the next 12 to 24 months.

All of the business included in the Virgin Media Research employ between one and 12 people and 37% expect growth in employment as well during that period.

Some 58% of firms are hopeful of a revenue increase while 54% expect productivity to be boosted as well.

“When growth forecasts translate into hiring intentions it is good news for everyone,” explained Gavan Smyth, Vice-President for Business Markets, Virgin Media Ireland.

Recognising the value of being online

He added that businesses across Ireland are also “recognising the value of an online presence” alongside e-commerce opportunities.

Virgin Media found that 74% of Irish SMEs now have a business website, of which 36% are capable of offering e-commerce services.

Overall, it means that 27% of SMEs are now selling online – far above the average for the European Union of 18% – while 68% of business websites are optimised for use across multiple platforms.

Firms with e-commerce sites said that around one third of sales came via this medium, showcasing its potential for businesses.

Reliability was seen as the most important factor relating to broadband services, followed by speed and cost.

The Virgin Media survey revealed a mixed set of results in relation to social media usage and its impacts on businesses in the SME sector.

While an average of 55% of firms have a Facebook page, that figure drops to 23% for Twitter and 26% for LinkedIn, while other sites such as Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat were even lower.

Cork lags behind Dublin for SME social media usage

Some 38% of firms using social media suggested that it didn’t contribute to business growth, while there was widespread variation between cities in terms of usage as well.

For instance, Facebook usage in Dublin was 64%, compared to just 47% in Cork. The latter was found to lag behind on LinkedIn and Twitter as well, with 32% of Dublin SMEs on both sites, compared to 23% and 13% of Cork business respectively.

Mr Smyth suggested that a lack of resources could be limiting SMEs, adding that some dedicate as little as four hours a week to social media which is not enough to impact the bottom line.

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