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									S ME e B us ine s s Cas e S tudie s


         Blarney Stone
 This case study is one of a series produced by Enterprise Ireland to meet the need for in-
 depth eBusiness cases relevant to the needs of our client base, the majority of whom are
  small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in manufacturing or internationally traded services.

    We in Enterprise Ireland hope the case studies not only illustrate the relevance of
  eBusiness to traditional Irish businesses, but also highlight the problems and pitfalls the
case companies experienced and the solutions they adopted to overcome these problems.

    These cases are only one of a range of eBusiness resources provided by Enterprise
 Ireland. Most of the other resources can be accessed through our eBusiness webpages
                            www.enterprise-ireland.com/ebusiness
 Here you can access more cases, “how to” guides about eBusiness and related topics,
   details of solution providers, access to our free eBusiness e-zine and discussion forum,
                  eBusiness events guide and links to interesting reports etc.

  We wish to thank the participating companies for their cooperation in the preparation
                        and publication of these case studies.

     Many of the case studies are about participants in our eBusiness Acceleration Fund
  Initiative under which grants of just under £10 million were made available to 102 Irish
   companies to encourage the early implementation of significant eBusiness projects. The
 funding for these grants and these case studies was provided to Enterprise Ireland by “The
Information Society Fund” which was established by Government to progress the objectives
                  of the Government’s Action Plan for the Information Society.
                                                                                  blarney-stone.com


Turning            Grey        into        Gold

The allure of the grey pound - the spending power of senior citizens in their golden years has attracted many a
company attempting to tap into and capitalise upon the fastest growing demographic sector. But, who could have
predicted that a small Irish company, manufacturing figurines, would, in 2001, have amassed an avid following of
over 36,000 customers in this marketplace. Customers so passionate about their collections, that they are turning to
the Internet in order to indulge their passion for buying, swapping and selling online with fellow devotees. Made
possible with a grant from Enterprise Irelands Accelerator Fund, Blarney Stone Enterprises now boasts Ireland’s
busiest commercial site selling Irish goods (www.blarney-stone.com).



1.     Background

Upon set up in 1987, Blarney Stone Enterprises produced various gift ideas manufactured from blarney stone.
However, since 1994, the company has primarily focused on the design, manufacture, distribution and export of
Irish-themed, collectable figurines – each piece carrying a genuine piece of blarney stone and having an original
“Luck of the Irish” coin attached. These include The Finnians, a range of forest dwelling creatures; Telltale Teapots
comprising a whole village of teapot characters; and a humorous collection of golfers known as The Masters,
amongst others. The company carries a product range of some 1,400 items at any one time. In an August 2001
diversification, the company started to offer a select range of Irish goods from other local suppliers.

The production quality of the figurines has been maintained at a consistently high level. While being made from
resin, they have a traditional clay “look and feel”. The stone is cut from Starch Hill quarry in Killard, less than a mile
from Blarney Castle – home to the famous Blarney Stone. The castle’s stone is reputed to bestow the ‘gift of the gab’
upon anyone kissing it. The figurines’ raw stone is shipped to Asia, where the figures are cast, hand painted and
packaged before being returned to Ireland. Every individual character is conceived and designed by the founder of
Blarney Stone Enterprises, Declan Fearon and ‘brought to life’ by the accompanying endearing tales written by his
wife, Camilla. To add to their charm, each figurine arrives with a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ with which the buyer
can register both themselves and their newly acquired friend with the Official Collectors Club.

The husband and wife team of Declan and Camilla Fearon wholly own Blarney Stone Enterprises. The company
has an extremely flat structure with the large majority of the 36 staff engaged in logistical operations such as
packing and shipping of product. The other three executives are Niall Geoghegan (Finance Director), John Ebbs
(Sales Director) and Alison Fox (Purchasing). Two full time employees have been hired to solely handle electronic
orders and queries.

Blarney Stone Enterprises has continually innovated, bringing new characters into the product range and as a result
keeping their customers’ interest levels buoyant. In an effort to increase the desirability and collectibility of the
figurines, the company has a ‘retirement policy’ whereby certain characters are deleted from the product range
before demand wanes. This policy has fuelled a booming secondary market with increased demand and prices for
‘retired’ characters.

It is the hands-on approach taken by the directors that has set this particular giftware company aside from the
competition. Each customer is regarded as a ‘friend’ and is always referred to on a first name basis - as are the
staff. Any returns are replaced without dispute and a great emphasis is placed on establishing relationships with
individual collectors. The Finnians collectors’ club has a 36,000 strong membership, each member having registered
with the Blarney Stone Fine Arts Guild. Members of the guild are periodically advised of other products and special
releases. The collectors club, established prior to their online initiative has allowed the company to build up a strong
database, on which to draw future marketing and campaign data, containing information on individual customer
tastes in collectables, their demographics and full contact details (including email).

The company’s marketing strategy has always been enterprising. Recently they launched the Finnians Gabbette, a
monthly hard-copy fanzine, designed and written in-house to promote The Finnians and other product ranges. It has
proved to be a successful tool in keeping the customer base warm: detailing topical stories/recipes; new product
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      launches; and web-based services. Declan’s natural enthusiasm for, and energy in, promoting his company has
      been a major factor in its rise. He has achieved this “without spending one penny on marketing”. This imaginative
      approach is illustrated by his success in having a large piece of his authenticated blarney stone used by the
      American Football team of top US college, Notre Dame. The team takes the piece to all games where every player
      touches it, for luck, just before kick-off.

      The high quality of Blarney’s production and design was recognised, when in 1997, they became the first Irish
      company to win the ‘Best Sports Figurine’ award in the US, with a Golfing Finnian. Beating off prestigious
      competition from established players such as Disney and Lladro.

      Customers at home in Ireland appreciate Declan’s personal touch and attention to detail. It’s not even unheard of
      for him to meet his customers and deliver orders personally! The Blarney Stone team drops in to stores in order to
      ensure prominent product placement and quickly identify any fluctuations in sales figures. Declan keeps his finger
      on the market’s pulse through regular visits to retail outlets to check out point-of-sale displays and you may even find
      him re-stocking display units! Attention to detail, customer satisfaction and innovative marketing, coupled with a
      continuation of their imaginative designs, have led to excellent brand awareness for the company.

      In the company’s early years, the Irish market was the main source of revenue. The most popular outlets were
      selected to maximise exposure to the tourist market, particularly US travellers. These included duty free outlets in
      Dublin and Shannon airports, Stena Line Ferries, Irish Ferries, Blarney Woollen Mills and busy tourist shops across
      the country.

      The export market was always an obvious target for an expanding Blarney Stone, wishing to satisfy the growing
      global appetite for ‘celtic’ goods. Their success in capturing overseas retail customers was recognised by the
      winning of the prestigious ‘DHL Worldwide Express, Exporter of the Year Award’ in 1999. This honour recognised
      the company’s success in developing a sizeable export market in record time. The percentage of sales revenues
      from exports now represents 50% of turnover and is forecast to grow even further.

      The company is currently exporting to fourteen countries world-wide with its main markets being in the United States
      and the United Kingdom.



      2.     ‘E-nabling               the      business’

      In order to expand their reach, Blarney Stone commissioned a group of web designers to build their first web site,
      which was launched in 1995. That first site promoted the Finnian product range and, importantly, included a facility
      to buy online. However, it was not without teething troubles as Declan Fearon remembers: “During the first year no
      sales were received from the site. We discovered that the buy online feature was deficient and when we tried to
      purchase the function didn’t actually work! That’s how backwards we were then – the site up for a whole year and
      no one realised it was faulty!”

      These problems were subsequently addressed by enlisting the help of another web design firm and, in 1996, the
      new commercial web site was launched www.blarney-stone.com. This time it worked and worked well. The main
      functions of the site were to provide a comprehensive product catalogue so that customers could view each product,
      and to promote new figurines. Customers could add products to a ‘shopping cart’ before proceeding to the ‘check-
      out’ to make the purchase. Two new employees were hired specifically to manage the 1,500 weekly emails and
      fulfil orders.




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In order to extend the marketing
capabilities of the site, the management
and design was outsourced to Dublin’s
Solomon Solutions (www.solomon.ie).
The resulting new design was far richer
in marketing tools and comprehensive in
functionality:

        • users could now browse
           through the whole of the
           immense product range and
           buy online
        • new products were promoted
          immediately upon availability
        • upon log-in, the location of
           the user would automatically
           be recognised by the system
           and all prices and currency
           would convert to the appropriate local rate
        • users were able to partake in chat room discussions with other interested collectors

The volume of online purchases has grown steadily too, with 7,500 Finnians bought from the site in
2001(www.finnians.com); the site also generated an additional 6000 enquiries. The other sites,
www.telltaleteapots.com and www.fungolfers.com, have also been very busy.

Who could have foreseen the blue rinse brigade in chat rooms and on message boards buying, swapping and
selling goods? It has been a remarkable achievement to capture the mind-set of this age group, persuade them to
take up their mice and join in with the Internet revolution. New products were promoted on a separate section each
month to keep the attention and interest of customers.

From the giftware sites, Blarney Stone has managed to build a database of over 36,000 customers. Information
detailing, name, age, location and buying behavior has proved an invaluable marketing tool to direct the
company’s business operations:

        • statistics detailing the most popular products assists in the design of new figurines and the frequency with
          which new models are launched
        • location data highlights where retail outlets should be concentrated
        • age information allowed marketing campaigns to be accurately pitched
        • promotions could be tailored to match the buying history of individual customers.

The decision to embrace the Internet radically altered the business systems of Blarney Stone in three different ways:

        • it provided a channel through which they could sell directly to the customer with margins significantly
          higher than their traditional distribution networks
        • it provided a wonderful way in which to get closer to their customers and provide feedback in order to
          design what people wanted to buy
        • it cut distribution overheads by greatly enhancing their ability to co-ordinate a global fulfillment and
          distribution network




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      Blarney Stone had already demonstrated the capability to sell its own manufactured goods online and has an
      ‘Operational Fulfilment Centre’ to package and ship individual orders. Accordingly, the decision to diversify and sell
      other suppliers’ goods online seemed like a natural progression.

      “Irish goods sold overseas have, in the past, only included small collections with no real depth to their range. After
      receiving countless enquiries for other Irish goods, such as Celtic Crosses, the company decided to fuel this global
      appetite for anything Celtic,” reported Declan Fearon, before adding: “We got two buyers from Blarney Woollen
      Mills. They were amongst the best people in the country, buying for one of the busiest tourist shops in the country.
      They knew what sold and who supplied it, so they were best positioned to select and manage a range of quality
      Irish gifts from a group of local suppliers”. Subsequently Blarney Stone opened a buying office in Cork and
      embarked upon their journey to launch the brand, “Buy From Ireland”(www.buyfromireland.com).

                                                                                    Initially Blarney Stone looked at
                                                                                    outsourcing the whole project, from
                                                                                    management through to design, hosting,
                                                                                    telesales and fulfilment. As each
                                                                                    element was explored the costs started
                                                                                    to rise dramatically. A telesales centre
                                                                                    would have cost IR£400,000 a year
                                                                                    with two seats permanently allocated to
                                                                                    Blarney Stone’s own products. A
                                                                                    fulfilment centre would have cost 10%
                                                                                    of turnover. Faced with these daunting
                                                                                    numbers, the company concluded that
                                                                                    the only way to bring this project to
                                                                                    successful fruition would be to do the
                                                                                    majority of the work themselves.

                                                                                    Declan and the board took a long look
      at all their options and, as they had no marketing budget to promote the project, decided they had to house the
      products on an existing site, already popular in the US market. After searching for the most appropriate channel, the
      company signed up to a commercial revenue sharing scheme with Nua who ran www.localireland.com.
      (A commercial revenue sharing scheme is a common arrangement whereby a percentage of profit from direct Internet
      sales is taken as commission from the hosting site). Starting life as a community-based publishing project,
      www.localireland.com grew and evolved from being a source of high quality, up to date information on Irish
      culture, tourism and genealogy. In 1998, Eircom, Ireland's largest telecommunications company, invested
      IR£4 million in the ‘Local Ireland’ project, seeing it as a keystone development in their ambitious ‘Information Age’
      project portfolio.

      Blarney’s idea was to use the existing traffic on the www.localireland.com site and lure them into the
      www.buyfromireland.com section. However, Nua had very specific requirements regarding functionality and design
      for partner sites hosting web catalogues. The deal turned sour when, after spending over IR£50k changing their site
      to suit Nua’s specific instructions, Nua went into liquidation.

      But rather than admit defeat, Blarney embarked upon another course of action – it was decided that this time they
      would deliver as much of the project as possible themselves. However, they were still short of the required capital
      required to market the site. Every creative means imaginable would have to be used by Blarney Stone in order to
      create www.buyfromireland.com. To oversee the project Blarney Stone employed the services of a project manager
      within Solomon Solutions. The initial role was to set up the servers and databases and subsequently project manage
      the design process and the roll out of the site. In return Solomon Solutions received equity in the company - their
      experience in such roles proved invaluable to the project. Specifically Solomon Solutions were able to draw up a
      plan detailing the site’s requirements and timescales. They managed the development and roll out process on a
      daily basis – spending time managing details that Declan didn’t personally have time to oversee.


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                                                                                 blarney-stone.com


The first money saving idea was to employ the services of a group of software engineers known personally to
Declan from his time at the University of Glasgow. A unique deal was struck whereby the engineers would come to
Dublin to work on the project. During weekends they were housed, fed and ‘watered’ in Temple Bar and during the
week they worked for free. Both parties enjoyed working and playing hard, so this deal was a win win situation for
all involved. The techies got to spend the weekend in the vibrant Temple Bar district and Blarney Stone got the
services of some very high calibre software developers to build and test their site. A very ingenious arrangement
indeed!

In order to save time and, more
importantly, money, the functionality of the
Finnians site was replicated but given a
new ‘look and feel’. Blarney Stone had, in
the interim, employed an in-house graphic
designer who supplied all the graphic and
front-end artwork.

It was vitally important for Blarney Stone to
incorporate their excellent customer
relations policy within the new site.
Features designed to ‘smooth over’ the
whole shopping experience were added
to it:

         • again, as soon as a customer
           logged on, their location
           would be recognised and all
           prices would be displayed in their local
           currency matching nearby retail outlets
         • with all stock being held in Dublin, orders could be
           shipped the same afternoon with a ‘10-day delivery promise’
         • to ensure availability, the site has a built in functionality whereby if stock of any particular
           item falls to below 10%, the item automatically disappears from the front end
         • as all orders were shipped via UPS an automatic link to the carrier company’s own online tracking
           system was provided in the case of any customer querying the status of their deliveries in the event
           of any delay
         • a “call me back” button was provided to link back directly with Blarney Stone’s telecentre. If a customer
           has a query they want answered straight away, they fill in a message box and the site generates and
           sends an SMS message back to the company’s telecentre staff. A staff member calls the customer
           immediately to resolve their query. The company bought a bulk batch of SMS messages from a local
           telecom operator to facilitate this feature of the site. This was one of the first instances of SMS being used
           in customer management on an Irish run site. Messages run at about 4 per week and are expected to
           rise in volume as the site grows. Blarney Stone bought 10,000 SMS messages at discount to cut the
           costs of this initiative.

A new factory was fitted out in Churchtown, County Dublin, with the company occupying two units consisting of
2,000 square feet on two levels. These premises were the base for all aspects of company business. Operations
involved the packaging, labelling and bar coding of boxed figurines and the new stock of Irish made products
promoted on www.buyfromireland.com. A telecentre was located on the ground floor to manage all enquiries.

New suppliers were courted and sourced before commercial agreements were drawn up. Products were purchased
wholesale and sold at prices that matched those of the local retailers in each individual geographical district. This
had two effects; firstly retailers were placated by not being put into a competitive situation with the site and,
secondly, margins for US exports were retained due to the favourable exchange rate between the Irish Punt and the
US Dollar.
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      “Surprisingly many of our suppliers had little or no existing presence on the web. Either they had just a home page,
      a poorly functioning site, or nothing at all,” said Declan. “This inspired me further as I realised how ahead of the
      game our company was. More and more suppliers were enthused to be part of this launch and enlisted our help in
      promoting their products through our own channels.”


      “ This inspired me further as I realised
                                                          Currently buyfromireland.com promotes goods from over 100
      how ahead of the game our company                   different and diverse suppliers. Buyfromireland.com has a policy of
      was. More and more suppliers where                  only supplying quality Irish goods made in Ireland and has turned
      enthused to be part of this launch and              away more suppliers than it has selected in order to maintain their
      enlisted our help in promoting their                exacting standards.
      products through our own channels.”
                                                              Once the site was fully operational it received between 15 and
                                                              20 credit card orders per day. With these ‘plastic transactions’ the
                                                              company employs a straight forward fraud detection process. Each
      order is manually scrutinised in order to check for the familiar warning signs. Declan Fearon advised “Look for orders
      of high value or multiple quantities of the same item, delivery to third party addresses, hotmail email addresses. Then
      check the card number of any suspicious orders and ring the credit card company to see if it has been reported
      stolen, if it still looks suspicious don’t ship the order, it’s that simple. We have had several attempts at fraud.
      Employment of this security policy has been sufficient in protecting us against this type of theft.”

      Blarney Stone has yet to have a ‘charge back’ from any credit card company. This manual process does take time,
      but the diligence has paid off with no loss to date. The company had looked at alternative commercial credit
      approval systems offered by Irish institutions, but they proved too expensive and unworkable with the client base they
      were dealing with. “They wanted too much information about each customer, passport numbers etc, it would have
      turned away legitimate customers wanting to buy online,” protested Declan.

      Blarney Stone obviously wanted to host the site in Ireland but found hosting companies charges to be up to 200%
      more expensive than their counterparts operating in the United States. All the company’s sites are subsequently
      hosted in California with Pair.com. This arrangement has proved inexpensive and efficient with the availability of 24-
      hour remote access to the hosting servers for any site modifications and upgrades.




      3.     Additional                 technology                 Initiatives
                                                                                                                     CRM
      Like all companies, Blarney Stone is always looking for ways to improve efficiency in its
                                                                                                       Customer Relationship
      business operations. Having successfully launched sites to promote its own manufactured          Management is an information
      products and third party Irish products, it started to look at other available technologies      industry term that refers to
                                                                                                       computer systems which help an
      to drive the business forward.                                                                   organisation manage its customer
                                                                                                       relationships in a systematic way.
      The focus on forming and maintaining hands on customer relations had already proved              CRM seeks to create one central
                                                                                                       view of a customer by optimising
      to be a major winner for the company. To carry this ethos forward and effectively                how information is shared
      manage its ever-growing population of customers and suppliers, Blarney Stone looked              between departments and to
                                                                                                       provide employees with the
      at a range of Customer Relationship Management (See CRM Sidebar) solutions. CRM                  information necessary to know
      software would allow the company to hand over the management of their existing                   their customers and understand
                                                                                                       their needs.
      customer databases to complex profiling and powerful marketing products.




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                                                                                      blarney-stone.com


“The prices we were                  After reviewing various products and looking at pricing, the company decided that much
being quoted for                     of what a CRM solution could provide, was already engrained in their marketing and
                                     business practices at a fraction of the cost. “The prices we were being quoted for CRM
CRM solutions were
                                     solutions were way beyond our budget, it just didn’t make sense,” reported Declan.
way beyond our                       “Our existing approach to our customers had served us well and we felt that automation
budget, it just didn’t               of this process would not provide the comfortably close feeling our customers enjoy. I
make sense,”                         had a request last week from a judge in Boston, asking for an Irish made blue linen
                                     shirt. His email was not responded to in 5 days and he demanded a response
                                     reminding us that we were supposed to be his friends!”

Achieving that level of rapport with customers, would not be possible with an automated CRM system, so the
company decided to continue with a manual response to enquiries. The database is also used as a source of
information when proactively building marketing campaigns and targeting specific customers with tailored
promotions. The company has a policy of not sending unsolicited emails to its customer population, it does however
monitor individual buying trends and forwards promotions it feels may be of interest to their customer base.

Blarney Stone has also looked at software to automate their inventory and purchasing processes. Again their existing
procedures, although labour intensive, are sufficient to deal with the existing levels of stock movement and shipping
requirements. Each week’s levels are manually recorded and sent to the buying office to replenish stocks.

Furthermore, keeping the personal touch with their supplier network allows the buyers to closely            Search Engine Optimisation
monitor relationships and act immediately regarding any issues that may arise.
                                                                                                         Search Engine Optimisation
                                                                                                         allows a company’s web site to
Blarney Stone did have to employ the services of an outside agency to finely tune their site             have more exposure on the
                                                                                                         Internet. When users are looking
and ensure its inclusion on major search engines. They selected Webbusters                               for products, like those offered by
(www.webbusters.com), an Internet services provider based in Dublin who provide web                      Blarney Stone Enterprises, they
                                                                                                         would use Search Engines such
development, usability, virtual webmastering, online marketing and email marketing.
                                                                                                         as www.google.com or
Webbusters modified the site to optimise its exposure to the most popular of the web’s search            www.yahoo.com. Blarney Stone
engines (See Search Engine Optimisation Sidebar).                                                        want their products and web site
                                                                                                         to appear at the top of the search
                                                                                                         results rather than buried under a
                                                                                                         plethora of other sites.
                                                                                                         Optimisation ensures they have
                                                                                                         more exposure to potential
Webbusters conducted an in-depth environmental analysis for Blarney Stone, examining the                 customers.
giftware marketplace from both a local and global perspective. Key competitors were also
scrutinised, along with their strategies and activity in the online environment. This provided a
crucial base going forward for the formulation of an effective eMarketing strategy. Using an in house method to
                              measure the visibility of the web site across the major search engines and directories,
           Impression
                              the site was modified in order to provide a high rank with popular search engines such
                              as Google.com and Yahoo.com.
 The term impression, in web
 advertising, refers to the number
 of times an ad is viewed. Some      Blarney Stone also invested in banner advertising with Ireland.com and has profited
 web sites will rotate between a     from a steady stream of interest. For the last week in September 2001,
 series of banner ads. Each time
 someone views this site and your    buyfromireland.com received 545,7000 page impressions (See Impression Sidebar).
 particular ad is on display, the
 impression counter for this ad is
 updated. Programs such as
 Central Ad, can keep track of all
 ad impressions and how many
 times they were clicked on by
 users.




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      4.     Outcome

      The success of Blarney Stone’s adventure into ecommerce and especially their diversification into
      buyfromireland.com, would not have been possible without the generous assistance given by Enterprise Ireland.
                                                       Using moneys from the Accelerator Fund, Blarney Stone were able
      “I truly believe that the company                to plan, manage and build their web sites. “I truly believe that the
        wouldn’t be in existence today if we           company wouldn’t be existence today if we hadn’t received this
                                                       funding,” remarked Declan, “It might not seem like a whole lot of
        hadn’t recieved this funding”
                                                       money, but if you’re an SME and receive a grant in preference to
                                                       a loan, it makes your bank manager very user friendly”. The
      financial aid broke the back of what would have been a pretty horrendous up-front cost for Blarney Stone. In
      addition, their bank was more willing to lend additional funds to finalise the project.

      In conjunction with the involvement of Enterprise Ireland, the
                                                                            “Funding required all aspects of our
      process of applying for funding proved invaluable in streamlining
      the company’s ecommerce initiatives. “Funding required all
                                                                             business to be documented and
      aspects of our business to be documented and presented to              presented to Enterprise Ireland - a
      Enterprise Ireland – a procedure that added a high degree of           procedure that added a high degree
      discipline to the process. It allowed us to really streamline our      of discipline to the process. It
      business practice,” commented Declan. With a grant of
                                                                             allowed us to really streamline our
      IR£77,000, Blarney Stone were able to launch a site that now
      sells more Irish goods than any other site in the world.
                                                                             business practice.”


      5.    Lessons            Learned            and       Advice           for     Other          Companies

      Declan Fearon has now amassed a great deal of experience in the development, launch and promotion of
      commercial web sites. Now working, in his spare time, as a consultant advising others of both the pitfalls and
      smoothest routes to launching similar initiatives, he advises:

              • only sell products to an existing customer base, don’t try and create a market - use one that is already
                thriving. Otherwise, before you make any sales, your marketing costs will escalate. Many companies
                have an insufficient depth in their product ranges to attract a global audience. If it is not a known brand
                you already have your work cut out
              • the value of the orders should be such that the margins make sense when considering site
                maintenance and shipping costs
              • the item should not be an enormous object of low value where the cost of making and shipping
                it won’t provide an adequate return
              • the product should be robust enough to withstand transportation, because if it can break, it will break
              • ensure the availability is there, customers don’t want to wait six weeks to take delivery of goods
                ordered on the Internet
              • if you do have a limited customer base and a small product range, it is worth considering using another
                Internet channel to sell your products, rather than investing in money to build your own site. Building a
                fully functional site that operates as a successful sales tool for your business is a costly and time
                consuming exercise. Piggy backing onto an existing popular web store vastly reduces these overheads.
                (Note piggy backing will usually involve some form of revenue sharing scheme, coupled with less
                freedom to alter the look of your site)
              • one thing to bear in mind is that a site that doesn’t work perfectly can be very frustrating for customers.
                So, if you are going to build it, build it well and mind it like a child.




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Declan has also noticed the price sensitivity of goods sold on his      “If the site remains unchanges for
web sites, “any promotional offers always get an amazing                 any period of time, interest drops
response, people love to think they are getting a bargain”. Blarney
Stone Enterprises strives to maintain the dynamic nature of its sites
                                                                         accordingly. We have to constantly
by continually updating the material. “If the site remains               promote new offers, detail new
unchanged for any period of time, interest drops accordingly. We         products and offer discounts to
have to constantly promote new offers, detail new products and           avoid interest waning”
offer discounts to avoid interest waning”, he warns.

Moving from a strictly retail sales model to an expansion via the Internet can be a bumpy ride. There is a fine
balance to be struck when starting to promote products on your own online store. Retailers can often feel like their
markets are being jeopardised and companies would be wise to avoid the predicament of going into competition
with their own retail network.

The value of placating retailers has always been a priority for Blarney Stone. From the conception of the company,
retailers have enjoyed the personal touch along with customers. Long standing relationships with personnel at retail
outlets have been nurtured over a period of many years and it was important to Blarney Stone to carry this over
once sales volumes increased on their web stores. One way of achieving this was to detail the location of each
retail outlet on all sites with a feature to automatically highlight the customer’s nearest store.



6.     Future         Plans

Blarney Stone looks forward to running its two distinct operations namely the manufacture and sale of its figurines
coupled with the supply of ‘everything Irish’ to the consumer market place. It has no plans to create more sites than
those that exist today, but to concentrate on greater brand recognition for the Finnians and buyfromireland.com

The company hopes to become more sophisticated in its use of information technology by finding ways of closely
monitoring sales trends in order to extract more orders. It recognises that customer loyalty was, and always will be,
the most effective guarantee for return purchasing. Their growth can be attributed not to what they sell, but how they
sell it and, how they maintain the interest of their customers. Future plans include the introduction of time critical
product offers, such as surprise of the day and an Internet “happy hour”, where for one hour each day, customers
can enjoy preferential discounts.

Their mission is to capture the largest audience for Irish products in the world, a feat they are getting close to
achieving. In its first two months, buyfromireland.com had secured 350 individual orders for goods priced between
$75 and $200 with 50% of its customers from the US and 50% from the rest of the world.




                                                                                                                         9
Irish          Office              Network


Office           Telephone                              Fax                   Address




Enterprise               Ireland


Cork             +(353 21) 800 200                      +(353 21) 800 201     Rossa Avenue, Bishopstown, Cork.

Donegal          +(353 74) 69800                        +(353 74) 69801       Portland House, Port Road, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal.

Dublin           +(353 1) 857 0000/808 2000             +(353 1) 808 2020     Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

                 +(353 1) 857 0000/206 6000             +(353 1) 206 6400     Merrion Hall, Strand Road, Sandymount, Dublin 4.

                 +(353 1) 857 0000/808 2000             +(353 1) 808 2802     Wilton Park House, Wilton Place, Dublin 2.

                 +(353 1) 609 2150                      +(353 1) 609 2151     35-39 Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4.

Galway           +(353 91) 735 900                      +(353 91) 735 901/2   Mervue Business Park, Galway.

Kerry            +(353 64) 34133                        (353 64) 34135        57 High Street, Killarney, Co. Kerry.

Louth            +(353 42) 935 4400                     +(353 42) 935 4401    Finnabair Industrial Park, Dundalk, Co. Louth.

Sligo            +(353 71) 59700                        +(353 71) 59701       Finisklin Industrial Estate, Sligo.

Waterford        +(353 51) 333500                       +(353 51) 333501      Industrial Estate, Cork Road, Waterford.

Westmeath        +(353 902) 87100                       +(353 902) 87101      Auburn, Dublin Road, Athlone, Co. Westmeath.




All Enterprise ireland staff can be contacted                                                          at:
first name.surname@enterprise -ireland.com




Written by Lisa Wilkinson on behalf of TecBrand for Enterprise Ireland.
www.enterprise-ireland.com/ebusiness




The programmes of Enterprise Ireland
are co-funded by the European
Regional Development fund.

								
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