Online shopping behaviour

Cross-border shopping

With a fragmented retail high street made up of many smaller businesses, a few domestic brands and many of the bigger European multiples, the Irish market could look crowded. However, a number of surveys and data sources indicate that this mixture isn’t necessarily providing Irish customers with the choices that they are looking for. Likewise, for businesses, the smaller size of the consumer base is encouraging Irish businesses to look further afield for customers.

A 2015 survey by Eurostat for the EC ranked the Republic as one of the most advanced cross-border economies in Europe. The survey highlighted that not only do a significant number of businesses use online to sell directly to the domestic market, they are also more advanced in the proportion of sales that they make to other EU28 countries; nearly 30% of total revenue is derived via ecommerce and over 15% is made into the EU. Obviously this relates to multichannel businesses.

Figure 19: Ecommerce sales to own country and other EU countries (% enterprises). Source: Eurostat; November 2015

From the consumer perspective, a Google Consumer Barometer Survey shows that 68% of Republic shoppers make at least one cross-border purchase every year. Separate Ipsos / PayPal research in 2015 puts this figure as high as 86% although it is possible that some of these purchases are from across the border with Northern Ireland. Whichever figure is correct it is clear that Irish consumers are certainly prepared to shop with non-domestic retailers.

Figure 20: How often Irish consumers purchase from foreign countries. Source: Google Consumer Barometer Survey 2015

Books, DVDs, CDs and PC games, clothing and health & beauty are the top categories for cross-border purchasing. The former category is dominated by Amazon while European fashions brands have a strong physical and digital presence in the Republic.

Computing and hardware is another major category while there are a number of other significant sectors which are smaller but offer some insight as to local availability. Obviously, the proximity of the UK provides a natural shopping resource for the Irish consumer, although other territories such as the US and Germany have a strong influence and products suited to market requirements.

Figure 21: Most popular categories for Irish consumers shopping cross-border. Source: Consumer Barometer 2015

Irish shoppers spent €1.5bn on overseas websites in 2015 and this is expected to exceed €2bn in 2016, representing over a third of all online spending.

The top international e-retail destinations include the UK (74% of all international retail websites), the US (38%) and China (26%). The top 20 list of e-retail properties used by Irish consumers really reflects this level of cross-border shopping in the Irish consumer psyche.

While the most popular categories offer an obvious target for the international market, there is an argument to suggest that some of the less popular product sets would have more potential for growth, with the right proposition and offering.


The international nature of e-retail in the Republic is also reflected in the choice of marketplaces used by consumers. Amazon’s various global web estates have a presence in the top 10 marketplaces, partly reflecting the desire for choice on the part of the consumer. The presence of many of these international brands also indicates an increasing number of merchants who are using marketplaces as a vehicle for international expansion – the brand names bring a degree of instant recognition for a merchant trading into a new territory but, at the same time, then lists them in the same place as their competition. It is always worth reviewing how unique an offering is and how it would compete on the various marketplace websites before deciding which one suits the strategic objectives of the business.

Loyalty and vouchers

Irish shoppers are just as likely to use vouchers in their shopping process as in other territories. Most of the global voucher websites have a local presence and the following data from Google Trends highlights areas of the Republic where online searches for vouchers are most prevalent; largely tying in with larger conurbations.

Figure 24: Hotspots of shoppers looking for vouchers online. Source: Google Trends, April 2016.

The search term ‘voucher’ returns a number of global and local voucher providers, including and Related searches include gifting, pizza and retail brands such as Amazon, Argos and Lidl.

Figure 25: Trending results for search term ‘voucher’ in Ireland. Source: Google Trends, April 2016

The variety of marketing tools mentioned here are common in many global marketplaces. Best practice employed in these other markets won’t be far off local requirements in the Republic. Social media / marketing data in the Republic shows that this is a rapidly-expanding area of interest and interaction.

A direct relationship between social media and sales is yet to be proven for many brands, but it is very useful for smaller brands, building relationships and listening to what Irish consumers think about products and services; especially on mobile.

The 15-18 age group is by-far the most digital and as these come into their own spending power, global businesses will be well-placed to trade with them.





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