SME Evolve

Practical insights and business supports that enable you to continue thriving online

Build, grow, prosper…..realise the potential of the internet

One of our key activities is our research reports, which provide empirical, evidence-based findings to guide SMEs in their digital decision-making and online evolution.

Digital business and Covid-19: Five key findings

Our .IE Tipping Point ReportIrish e-commerce and digital business in the Covid vaccine era explored consumer and SME attitudes and responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

1. Consumers are spending more online: 68% said they spent more online in 2020 than they did in 2019.

2. Purchasing habits have changed forever: 58% of consumers will prioritise online shopping over in-store in 2021.

3. International online retailers proving attractive: Despite a surge of patriotism in the initial months of Covid, the majority of online shoppers have swung back to international retailers. In 2021, 49% said they have mostly purchased from Irish SMEs since Covid compared to 53% in 2020.

Tipping point 2021- SME evolve

4. Digital investment pays off: The number of SMEs that have invested in their online presence has increased massively. 78% of those that have invested in their online services say they are busier than or as busy as before the Covid crisis, up from 46% in 2020.

5. Businesses recognise importance of digital: The vast majority of SMEs who sell online noticed an increase in sales since Covid. 61% said online services will be more important to their business in 2021 than they were in 2020.

.IE Digital Health Assessment: Top insights

Our .IE Digital Health Index analyses the digital behaviours and attitudes of SMEs and consumers. The research shows that:

  • SMEs need to improve their digital skills: On an ABCDEF scale, Irish SMEs graded ‘C’ for their communicating skills, ‘D’ for their transacting skills, and ‘E’ for their software boosting skills in the report’s ‘Digital Health Assessment’.
  • Businesses benefit from an online presence: 72% of SMEs say that being online and digitally savvy has helped increase awareness of their business. Those with a website confirm that it is important in driving future sales growth.
  • An omni-channel approach is important: Almost three-quarters (73%) of SMEs say that their website contributes to their offline or ‘face-to-face’ sales.
  • SMEs are time-poor: Nearly a third (28%) of Irish SMEs say that a lack of time is a major barrier to doing more online.

Useful resources

Below are a selection of resources to help guide you on your online journey.

Additional research

  • .IE Domain Profile Report: A comprehensive exploration of the .ie database. The latest edition assesses the impact of Covid-19 and analyses the numbers and types of .ie domains registered in the first six months of 2021.
  • .IE Consumer Trust: When it comes to shopping online consumer trust is vitally important. We asked 1,000 Irish consumers what makes them trust businesses when shopping online.
  • Digital Trends in Ireland: Reveals Ireland’s attitudes to and use of internet technology, our online shopping habits, and the digital behavioural divides between Dublin and Ireland’s regional towns.

SME Online Success Stories

See how having an online presence with a .ie website helped these businesses grow.

Build trust with your customers

Customer need to feel safe and secure when purchasing from a website and will look for a HTTPS symbol, which indicates that an SSL cert has been installed. SSL makes sure that whoever visits your website is connected in an authenticated, secure and safe way and that any information they enter is sent only to the person intended.

Google will penalise websites without SSL so it is important for all businesses, but particularly for e-commerce. If you do not have an SSL cert for your website, visitors will see a “Not Secure” message in the website address bar. This could lead to a drop in conversions as fewer people are able to find your website. And the ones that do simply won’t trust it enough to stay.

If you need an SSL cert for your website, talk to your website hosting provider or your .ie accredited Registrar.

20.4% YoY increase in .ie websites that have a security certificate - SME evolve

Cyber security

Cyber security is of vital importance to the Irish economy and to society. At a micro level it is a concern for Irish SMEs. A Hiscox report on cyber preparedness in 8 countries including Ireland, was published in 2020. It shows that while cyber incidents against companies are decreasing (down to 39% from 61% in 2019), the financial impact has grown. You can read more about this topic on our Cyber Security Month blog.

A word on domains

If you are trading in Ireland, an Irish country code top level domain – in other words, a .ie domain name – makes you and your business stand out as either being based in Ireland or having a connection with Ireland. A uniquely Irish online identity. This is important in building trust with your customers who are based in Ireland and are more likely to click on local website addresses. A .ie website address will also rank higher than a .com address on Irish based search engines, like

Our industry stakeholders

Working with industry bodies such as the Design & Crafts Council (DCCI), Retail Excellence, the Hardware Association (HAI), the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), we developed programmes and content tailored to the needs of their members to help them advance their online presence.

Through our sponsorships, we actively support the Small Firms Association (SFA), Digital Business Ireland and many digital organisations/events throughout the country to help advance Ireland’s internet ecosystem.

OPTIMISE programme

The programme was launched in 2011 to empower small businesses to improve their online presence, hone their digital capabilities and grow their e-commerce sale and ran until 2019. In 2017 we revamped the programme as a digital healthcheck for members of industry bodies (DCCI, HAI, Retail Excellence, RIAI). It benchmarked each participant’s website against best practice, and delivered a report detailing the steps needed to improve the website’s performance and e-commerce capability.  Key learnings from the programme are that SME’s need step-by-step guidance and training to demystify the process of website development and ongoing management.

This proof-of-concept programme has been adopted internally by DCCI, HAI and Retail Excellence who now provide tailored digital training designed specifically for their members. Further detail on the programme can be found here along with some cases studies of how small businesses benefited from it.