Irish retailers must embrace digital commerce to compete globally

Irish retailers must embrace digital commerce to compete globally

The pandemic has led to consumers seeking more products online and from abroad, as evidenced by PayPal’s Cross-border Insights 2021 survey

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9th October, 2021

Contactless. Seamless. Cashless. Borderless. These words can all be used to describe the current payments landscape, but there is nothing less about it; in fact, the way people are being empowered in this space is delivering much more of a customer experience.

As was the case for all sectors and facets of life, the pandemic immediately transformed how people shopped for goods and services across the globe. Unable to go to non-essential stores, they went online. Recommended to avoid cash, they bought items online or via their digital devices. Limited in supplies, they looked beyond local retailers.

Now, despite eased restrictions and more freedom of movement, it seems that the accelerated dominance of mobile shopping, cashless transactions and cross-border commerce is here to stay. The real question is: are Irish retailers prepared?

Consumer behaviour

The 2021 PayPal Borderless Commerce Report found that 22 per cent of consumers have become more comfortable with cross-border shopping since the pandemic, while 26 per cent expressed an intent to start shopping or shop more with international websites throughout 2021 and heading into 2022. In other words, necessity has shifted the boundaries of shopping and people are now prioritising what they need or want over where they buy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the global report also indicated that people are using a wider range of digital payment methods and increasingly adopting digital wallets as they look to make purchases online and internationally, with an ever-growing preference to shop via mobile devices.

Of course, this isn’t just a trend elsewhere in the world. Irish consumers too, as shown by PayPal research conducted last year, are turning to cross-border shopping. In fact, 88 per cent of consumers purchased something from a website from outside Ireland in the previous 12 months and over half (56 per cent) expected to buy more products than before from international retailers during the next 12 months.

Irish consumers spent more with websites outside of Ireland compared to those in Ireland (€385 compared to €357). This gap could widen, unless retailers take action and address the areas which are driving Irish consumers to buy from abroad – the top reasons being better prices, more choice and better availability.

A unique moment in time

Irish business and sellers who want to diversify their business model and tap into cross-border growth may remember the old adage that out of great change comes great opportunity. The historic events of the last year accelerated eCommerce from every angle: general adoption, mobile usage, spend and future intent to spend, cross-border sales, omnichannel, social shopping and infrastructure. As the world catches its breath, Irish businesses can seize the moment.

Providing more choice is something that business owners can address. Not only can they look to enhance their product range or offer a wide range of delivery services that are efficient and cost effective, they can also offer more choice in terms of trusted payment options and channels through which purchases can be made.

Until they do this, local businesses will continue to miss out on the potential of the digital, global marketplace and the growth of consumer retail – which Enterprise Ireland stated was up by 6.1 per cent last year and proves that it’s not a case of whether people are spending, but where.

Growth potential

According to Enterprise Ireland, Britain remains Ireland’s largest export market, in spite of its having contracted by 3.8 per cent in 2020. It accounts for 29 per cent of total exports and €7.51 billion. The eurozone is also rising in prominence, now accounting for 23 per cent of exports – double what it was a decade ago.

As figures indicate, today’s marketplace is no longer local – its global or ‘glocal’, a bit of both. While that might be daunting for some local businesses, it offers a vast opportunity for those willing to embrace it. If Irish merchants are to attract customers from their own and other markets, they need to adapt their approaches and engage people in new ways.

That means offering a digital commerce platform, a streamlined checkout experience and a secure payments process – giving customers more choice and better service. It also means thinking about every step in the purchasing process right through to delivery methods, shipping costs and taxation charges for international orders.

Following another challenging year of lockdowns and reopenings, and as we approach Black Friday and Christmas – the busiest shopping period in the calendar – Irish retailers have never been in a better position to empower consumers and drive business growth, both at home and abroad.

By enhancing the customer experience and grasping this digital opportunity, they have the potential to not only take full advantage of the seasonal spending boom and finish the year on a high note, but ultimately to set themselves up for sustained growth and success in the future.

Ipsos conducted the online Mori PayPal Cross-border Insights 2021 survey, with 13,000 consumers interviewed (aged 18+who purchased online in the past three months) across 13 markets (December 2020 to February 2021)

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