Chief Executive, .IE
Irish businesses must work hard to capture the attention and sales of consumers whose behaviours and attitudes have been irrevocably altered by COVID-19.
Ireland is emerging from the pandemic, but for SMEs there will be no return to the normal of 2019.
The latest Tipping Point report from .IE, the managers of Ireland’s trusted online .ie address, shows that the attitudes of Irish consumers and SMEs to e-commerce and digital business are now heavily influenced by new digital technologies and sociocultural priorities.
The website’s role is changing
Before COVID-19, many businesses were content to use their website as a type of digital brochure listing only basic information, such as opening hours and contact information. Now, SMEs are repurposing their websites into fully functioning e-commerce hubs, active centres for sales and growth.
Of the SME’s that are e-commerce-enabled, 55% noted an increase in their online sales over the past two years, with more than a third recording a sales increase of more than 51%.
Businesses with a dated or non-transactional website should prioritise an update in 2022.
Digital natives are the tastemakers
In 2022, 45% of all consumers plan to do most of their shopping in-store —but that figure drops to just 29% among Millennials. This year, 16% of all consumers say they will do most of their shopping online, rising to 33% among Gen Z.
As purchasing power shifts to these generations over the coming decade, businesses that fail to accommodate their digital-first preferences with better online experiences will lose out to more agile competitors at home and abroad.
Consumer preferences are fluid
Digital technology changes quickly—and consumer expectations with it. The .IE Tipping Point report shows that consumers are increasingly interested in paying for goods and services with a digital wallet and willing to use augmented reality technology to ‘try on’ or sample certain products, such as clothes and furniture.
Digital doesn’t stop at a website or online store. SMEs must continue to invest to meet consumer needs and avoid stagnation. International retailers will be more than eager to snap up Irish customers frustrated with a lack of innovation at home.
Cybersecurity is non-negotiable
The research found that 75% of consumers are concerned about the security of their data when shopping online. However, as many as six in 10 SMEs take no particular action to protect their customers’ information or don’t know how to.
A single cyberattack can be devastating, potentially destroying valuable assets and ruining customer trust. Businesses should prioritise preventative measures, such as updating their antivirus software or using a password manager.