Retailers miss out as 9 out of 10 Irish adults bought online in the last year

23 Jul 2015

90pc of Irish adults bought online in the last year but 91pc of SMEs don't do e-commerce. Some €700k an hour is spent by Irish consumers.

The digital economy is alive and kicking in Ireland with nine out of 10 adults making purchases online in the last year. But Irish firms are missing out because 91pc of them don’t have e-commerce capabilities.

New research from Deloitte shows Irish consumers are no longer using the internet to simply source information. Engaging with businesses and other consumers, as well as sharing experiences, is becoming an increasingly important part of the purchasing decision and the majority of consumers under the age of 35 put most of their trust in anonymous online consumer reviews.

Clothing and footwear (49pc), hotel and accommodation (46pc), transport services (44pc) and books, music and games (42pc) are amongst the most popular items purchased online.

The digital high street could eclipse the traditional high street

But this jars with the reality that 91pc of SME websites have no e-commerce capabilities, an IEDR report revealed in April.

So, in effect, money is either going online to savvy retailers or in most cases leaving the country to fill the coffers of overseas web retailers.

Earlier this month Taoiseach Enda Kenny said as much as €700,000 is spent every hour online by Irish consumers, which indicates high street retailers are faced with the stark prospect of either embracing digital or shutting up shop.

The Deloitte research as part of its 2015 Consumer Review indicates that consumers are researching heavily and comparing various business websites before buying goods.

Over half of customers visited websites of businesses selling similar products. Some 35pc of customers read online reviews while 32pc spoke to in-store staff. Some 26pc of respondents said the internet was the most common primary source of information followed by radio (24pc), friends or family (13pc), shops (12pc) and social media (10pc).

“For businesses, no longer is it sufficient to simply maintain an online presence,” said David Hearn, partner with Deloitte.

“Customer engagement needs to evolve further. Old established patterns can no longer be relied on, and businesses need to rethink about how they engage with consumers. Do they actively engage in online conversations taking place in external forums? Do they just monitor online content as a way of gaining customer feedback?

“Although this new landscape can appear daunting it cannot be ignored and the rewards for those who get it right, and for those up-and-coming businesses who are seeking to challenge the incumbents, are clear,” Hearn said.

Grafton Street Dublin image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years