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.

The digital consumer and Covid-19: Five key findings

Our Tipping Point Report, which explored consumer and SME responses to Covid-19, reveals that:

  • Consumers are spending more online: 72% of consumers have either spent more online during the Covid-19 crisis or the same amount as before
  • Solidarity and support for local businesses who have moved online: 53% of consumers’ online spend since Covid-19 has been with Irish SMEs, a swing from international retailers
  • E-commerce uptake among SMEs is still low: Only 25% of Irish SMEs sell online
  • Digital investment pays off: 46% of SMEs that have invested in online services since Covid-19 are busier than or as busy as before
  • Purchasing habits have changed forever: Once Covid-19 is controlled, 52% of consumers say they will either shop in-store only for necessities or do most of their shopping online

Read more insights from our Tipping Point Report

SME Digital Health Assessment: Top insights

Our SME 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
  • 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

Read more insights from our SME Digital Health Index

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.

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.

Our recent .ie Domain Profile Report reveals 41% of .ie websites now have a security certificate. If you need an SSL cert for your website, talk to your website hosting provider or your .ie Accredited Registrar.

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 Google.ie.

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 earlier this year. 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.

Useful resources

Additional research

  • 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.
  • .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 2020.
  • .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.



How to get an accurate website quote

This e-book guides you through the questions you need to ask to get the best website for your business at the right cost. It also contains a template and cost outline for the web developer to complete. This means that when you receive quotes, you will be able to compare information and decide which one best meets your needs.

E-book: How to get an accurate website quote
A Guide for SMEs: Download Now
Template: Website Development Tender
A Guide for SMEs: Download Now

Website costs for SMEs in Ireland: How much should you pay?

In this e-book, we take a closer look at the costs involved, and how to make the most of your budget when developing a new website. Our advice is broken down into practical and manageable tasks, showing you what you need to consider when going through the process.

E-book: Website costs for SMEs in Ireland: How much should you pay?
A Guide for SMEs: Download Now