New .IE Tipping Point Report
According to new research from .IE, as many as 6 in 10 Irish SMEs do not take any particular steps to protect customer data or don’t know how to, despite 75% of consumers saying that they are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat concerned’ about the security of their personal information when shopping online. Just 15% of SMEs said they use a firewall or antivirus software, while only 11% use two-factor authentication. Just 4% said they trained staff in cybersecurity best practice.
Preparing for the post-Covid era
While Ireland is now free of virtually all Covid restrictions, there won’t necessarily be a rapid return to the normal economy of pre-pandemic 2019. The pandemic, directly and indirectly, through digital technology and changed sociocultural priorities, has altered many consumer and business behaviours.
The .IE Tipping Point report shows that the pandemic has accelerated Ireland’s move towards cashlessness. 62% of consumers said they were using cash ‘significantly’ or ‘somewhat less’ since the start of the pandemic.
Surprisingly, increasing cashlessness is universal among all generations—and older people are now the least cash friendly. 66% of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) said they were using cash less often, compared to 58% of Gen X (1965-1980) and 62% of older Millennials (1981-1990).
Despite this, as many as 25% of all Irish SMEs still only accept cash payments, a figure that rises to 35% among businesses with 1-5 employees and 38% among SMEs with a premises in Dublin.
Sustainability and the environmental friendliness of a business’s product and supply chain remain a priority for consumers. Almost 80% said it is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat important’ that the product they order online is produced and delivered in a sustainable way, a figure that rises to 90% among younger Millennials (1991-1996).
The Covid consumer
55% of all consumers will prioritise online shopping in 2022: 16% will do most of their shopping online, while 39% said they will shop for necessities in-store, such as groceries, but buy most other things online. 45% of all consumers plan to do most of their shopping in-store.
Digital-first shopping preferences are particularly apparent among younger consumers. Just 29% of Millennials will do most of their shopping in-store in 2022 (compared to 45% of the total sample) while 33% of Gen Z consumers (born 1997-2012) will do most of their shopping online (compared to 16% of the total sample).
Consumers continue to view international retailers as more competitive on price and range, but they consider Irish SMEs to be more trustworthy and more reliable and to have better delivery services.
The Covid SME
Exactly three-quarters of SMEs have a website. Just over a third (34%) have an online store—of that figure, 8 in 10 sell directly through a store on their own website.
Half of SMEs have invested in their online presence since the start of the pandemic. In the majority of cases, this has resulted in improved sales. Among investing SMEs, 30% said they are busier than before the pandemic and 36% have been able to maintain the same level of pre-pandemic business.
Just over half (54%) of SMEs are planning a significant digital investment in the next 5 years, with most focusing on launching a new website (23%), improving their existing one (15%), or building a dedicated app (13%).
Read .IE’s new report in full: .IE Tipping Point 2022: Irish e-commerce and digital business in the post-Covid era