.IE And Retail Excellence Web Health Report

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07 September 2023

.IE And Retail Excellence Web Health Report Highlights Need for Additional Government Funding and Supports to Help Retail SMEs Thrive Online

Key Findings:

  •  Adoption of User Experience (UX) features by retail businesses is low with just 14% of retail businesses offering a live chat function while only 18% show customer reviews on their website
  • With almost half of retailers selling online, 46% have e-commerce cart functionality while 41% are using a recognised e-commerce provider
  • Just 20% are utilising online ad tracking, leaving retailers missing potential opportunities to gain greater insight into their advertising performance
  • 91% of retailers have security certificate software however, only 22% have implemented CAPTCHA on their website

A Web Health Report produced by .IE, the national registry for .ie domain names, in partnership with Retail Excellence Ireland (REI), the not-for-profit company that supports over 2,200 Irish retailers, has shown that Irish SMEs are falling behind consumer e-commerce expectation. The .IE and Retail Excellence Web Health Report analysed the web health and performance of REI member websites across a variety of SME sectors including fashion and footwear; books and stationery; toys; DIY and garden; department stores; and health and beauty.


The .IE and Retail Excellence Web Health Report is a unique piece of research which focusses specifically on the areas of web analytics, user experience (UX), marketing, security and e-commerce. The retail landscape in Ireland is constantly evolving due to changing consumer demands and developments in technology. Irish retailers need to keep pace with this transformation, prioritising and enhancing their online presence to ensure future success and growth.


Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Neale Richmond said, “Having an online presence is vital for Irish retailers to ensure their success now and into the future. Not only does digitalisation improve the service for existing customers, but it also helps attract new customers both at home in Ireland and across the world. It is a complement, rather than a replacement for existing stores, Ireland is performing well in this space and is ranked 5th in the EU Digital Economy and Society Index but we must continue to drive the digital agenda and keep pushing ahead with our ambitions for digitalisation. Ireland’s National Digital Strategy sets out a clear framework for how we can embrace the opportunities digital technologies present and to futureproof our economy in the years ahead. By seizing these opportunities, all businesses can best position themselves to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

I want to thank .IE and Retail Excellence for this report which will be of great help to all businesses with an online presence, at any stage of the digital transition.”

Oonagh McCutcheon, Chief Communications Officer at .IE, commented, “Digital transformation is not only changing companies but also defining markets, industries and economic activity resulting in a changing business environment. Yet, in spite of the importance of digital transformation to the Irish economy, empirical research suggests that some sectors are lagging behind. In producing this report, the business intelligence team at .IE drilled into the features of REI member websites and our analysis provides actionable insights for the retail sector to assist them in improving their online offering.”

Jean McCabe, Interim CEO of Retail Excellence Ireland commented, “It is evident that comprehensive work and investment are required to meet evolving customer expectations. Focusing on areas like security and compliance is vital for retailers to instil trust and confidence in their online operations.

Moreover, investing in online activities is imperative to entice Irish consumers to shop locally.

During the pandemic, the Online Retail Scheme played a significant role in boosting and supporting retailers. However, this report highlights that more efforts and structures are necessary to further improve retailers online visibility and competitiveness, particularly for micro SMEs, which were excluded from availing of the scheme. We know firsthand from our members that they are under resource pressure and financial pressure. While an online presence is crucial to business success, retailers often focus, understandably, on keeping the doors of their business open so there is a job to be done to empower and incentivise SMEs to develop their online presence”.


Report Overview

 UX (User Experience)

.IE’s analysis illustrates that Irish retailers are falling behind customer expectation, particularly in website user experience (UX). Just 14% of REI member websites offer a live chat function yet according to international studies, 73% of consumers consider live chat to be the best way to communicate with a business’ . Only 18% of REI members show customer reviews on their website, while research shows that shoppers visiting a website with 1-10 reviews are 52% more likely to make a purchase. Two thirds (66%) of REI members have incorporated responsive design into their websites, where the layout automatically adjusts to the device on which it is being viewed, making for a better user experience. Search engines like Google prioritise mobile-friendly websites so it is important Irish retailers understand the value of investing in this area.


Security and Compliance

Only 22% of REI members are using CAPTCHA on their websites – CAPTCHA is the security test that distinguishes human website visitors from bots and can protect businesses from malicious online attacks.

The vast majority of REI websites (91%) have a security certificate which affords customers a good level of online protection but just 23% are cookie compliant with smaller companies most likely to be less compliant demonstrating the resource strain experienced by small business owners.



Almost half (46%) of REI members have cart functionality on their website which enable businesses to sell online. The top 5 retail categories who have adopted cart functionality include homeware/giftware (79%); telecommunications (75%); garden (68%); health and beauty; books, stationery and music (both with a 67% adoption rate). In addition, 41% of REI members are using a recognised e-commerce provider with Shopify proving to be the most popular choice (42%), followed by WooCommerce and Magento (24% and 18% respectively).



The Web Health Report also highlights opportunities for Irish retailers to boost the promotion of their online business as only 20% of websites are currently using online ad tracking while use of video is also low, with over 1 in 10 (16%) REI member websites featuring video functionality. Multimedia content such as video is easy and convenient to consume and offers opportunities for smaller businesses in particular, to promote the personality of the business and build connection and authenticity. This kind of video content can help businesses stand out in a noisy marketplace.

 More information on the .ie Retail Excellence Web Health Report – view here

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