Almost three-quarters of consumers say they will not feel comfortable shopping on their local high street until the Covid-19 crisis is better controlled.
According to The Tipping Point report, Irish e-commerce and digital business in the Covid vaccine era, published by .IE, just 23% of consumers are currently fully comfortable shopping on their local high street.
The report, which is the second in a series of reports analysing consumer and small and medium-sized enterprise behaviour and attitudes since the pandemic started, found that 28% will not feel comfortable until Covid-19 cases are much lower than they are now.
27% are not comfortable until vaccines are available to the general adult population, not just at-risk groups. Some 16% say they would prefer to wait until the Government confirms that social distancing and masks are no longer required, while 6% say they will never feel comfortable shopping in-store on their local high street ever again.
Overall, just 45% believe that life will return close or completely to pre-Covid normality by the end of 2021. The other 55% believe that life this year will be more or less the same as life in 2020, or even more restricted.
David Curtin, chief executive of .IE, said: “While vaccines offer Ireland a way out of lockdown, until a critical mass is reached and the population is immunised, our economy and society are set to remain in a state of flux. This flux is accelerating major trends in how consumers spend and how SMEs sell their goods and services.”
Some 68% of consumers reported spending more online in 2020 than they did in 2019. Looking ahead, 58% will prioritise online shopping over in-store shopping in 2021, up from 52% last year.
Around 42% of consumers said they will do most of their shopping in stores this year, down from 48% in 2020. Among consumers who say they will do most of their shopping in physical stores in 2021, 61% said it is more convenient.
International or Irish Retailers
The 2020 report, published last summer, showed that 53% of consumers reported doing the majority of their online shopping with Irish SMEs since the start of the pandemic, compared to 47% from international retailers.
The 2021 report shows that this figure has now swung back to international retailers, with 49% now saying they have done the majority of their shopping with Irish SMEs since the start of the pandemic.
“Irish consumers want to support local businesses through a difficult period, but SMEs can’t expect that goodwill to last forever,” said Curtin. “A stable, long-term e-commerce strategy cannot be built on crisis solidarity alone.”
Curtin also stated that Irish SMEs have a number of ‘unique, competitive advantages that consumers recognise and value, namely trustworthiness, reliability and delivery speed. SMEs need to focus on these factors, on honing the customer experience online and off, rather than trying to undercut overseas retailers on price and range.”
Almost a third of SMEs now claim to sell a product online in some way, either through a website or third-party platform, up from 25% in 2020. Almost nine in 10 of that group say they have noticed an increase in their online sales numbers since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The number of SMEs that have invested in their online presence has increased dramatically since last year. Now more than half claim to have spent money on improving their digital platforms, with most either launching or improving their website.
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