The Covid-19 pandemic has changed so many things in Ireland. One of the things that has changed that affects us the most is that people are shopping online in greater numbers than ever before, but a new report from the IE Domain Registry reports that Irish SMEs are not online to meet this demand.

According to a new report called “Tipping Point: How e-commerce can reignite Ireland’s post-Covid-19 economy” Irish consumers are now more comfortable than ever shopping online. It shows that a majority of Irish consumers – 52% – want to continue to do the bulk of their shopping online – even when the pandemic is in the past. It’s changed online shopping attitudes permanently.

Despite this, there are some rather worrying data in the report. Only 21% of Irish SMEs have actually invested in their online presence since the pandemic started. This seems low to us, as we’ve seen growth in small businesses coming online for the first time. Currently, only 25% of Irish SMEs are selling online at all. This number is far too low.

We think it can be much higher, and in the new climate, it absolutely needs to be higher.

That’s why Blacknight has launched two major new products in recent months. The first is our new shopBuilder product, which makes it incredibly easy for a small business to start selling online in minutes. The other is our ‘Build My Website‘ service, where for a small fee, we will build you a simple website to get your business online.

Consumers have to be able to find you online, even if they just need to get your phone number or your email. If they can’t find you online in a climate where many don’t want to come into the premises, you might as well not exist at all.

This is the most illuminating stat: “As many as 48% of consumers would continue to do the bulk of their shopping in physical stores. 52% would engage in some form of online shopping. Only 11% would do most of their shopping online, while the remaining 41% would do a combination of both shopping in-store for necessities but online for other products. It is clear that a “blended” shopping approach is preferred by consumers.”

This is why you have to get online yesterday.

There’s no denying that Covid-19 affected the economy greatly. But the Irish economy is still there, waiting to be unleashed. The Irish tourism industry has been hit particularly hard by Covid-19 but this is a great time to revamp your Irish travel-themed website and get your business ready for when travellers return – because they will return.  People will still need to buy their essentials and they want to do it online. Other reports have indicated that people are also investing in their homes and buying consumer electronics in record numbers. Many of them are either starting this purchase journey online and ordering online or researching then visiting a physical store when they absolutely have to – but spending as little time in-store as possible. Your customers need information in advance, make sure you’re online to give it to them.

You have to be online.

But the report is very clear: “Most Irish SMEs still don’t sell online. Despite the majority of Irish consumers turning to Irish SMEs for online shopping, 79% of small businesses said that they had not invested any money whatsoever in their online services since the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed, only 25% of all SMEs sell online in any capacity.”

The most disturbing thing from the report is that – because of this lack of Irish business being online, consumers are using retailers based outside of Ireland simply because they have the information, the products and ship to Ireland. This hurts all Irish businesses! But consumers are trying very hard to rely on Irish business.

According to David Curtin, the Chief Executive of IEDR: “Sustained online spending has been one of the few good news stories for Ireland’s Covid-19 economy. Our research shows a swing in online retail sales away from international retailers, which have traditionally dominated Ireland’s €16 billion annual e-commerce spend, to Irish SMEs. This is an important milestone. Despite the Covid-19 crisis, consumers have continued to spend online. They are now looking closer to home for retailers that they trust and know are reliable. Most significantly, they simply want to support Irish businesses through an immensely challenging period. This swing, welcome as it is, is not necessarily a permanent one, and this an important point for business groups and the government to consider as the country begins its economic recovery. ”

Key phrase there – “This swing is not necessarily a permanent one” – if Irish SMEs don’t get online and reach their customers, they’re really going to miss out on the eCommerce revolution happening right now.

So, take some time and develop your online strategy, figure out what you need and then get in touch with Blacknight so we can help. Blacknight have been running a series of webinars about getting your business online, which you can view for free here.