ONLINE shopping choice in Ireland is set to rise substantially this year, according to new research.
Irish shops and businesses say that they will increase internet sales, with over half expecting to land at least 10pc of their annual revenue through their websites.
The move, revealed in a survey by research firm Amarach and solicitors McCann Fitzgerald, could see cheaper prices and wider choice introduced for customers, while also helping Irish firms capture a growing slice of the booming online market in Ireland -- estimated to be worth over €4bn annually.
At least 70pc of all Irish online purchases go outside the country to internet shopping giants such as Amazon or eBay. The switch to online sales is expected to be strongest among small firms, which have cited the high cost of postal delivery in Ireland as a reason for not selling online before.
However, the imminent introduction of a postcode system is expected to reduce the cost of online delivery in Ireland. The Irish online market is expected to rise to as much as €21bn over the next 10 years, according to the industry body Retail Ireland.
The online sales trend marks a shift in attitudes from Irish firms, which have been reluctant to invest in internet trade channels up to now.
In 2013, 69pc of Irish companies recorded less than 10pc of sales online, according to Amarach and McCann Fitzgerald. However, that figure is set to fall to just 49pc this year, according to the same companies.
And while 47pc of Irish companies took in no sales at all online last year, just 35pc of Irish firms intend to stay away from internet sales this year.
Among business sectors, a third of hospitality sector sales will be online, according to the research, while 40pc of sales from firms selling mostly overseas will be over the internet.
A quarter of Irish firms have hired digital specialists on staff, while 34pc have invested in data storage and cloud computing technologies.
"We have seen data protection issues become a top priority for both private and public sector clients in the past few years," said Paul Lavery, head of technology for McCann Fitzgerald.
"For some, unfortunately, this has been due to risks that have manifested themselves. Others have taken a more proactive stance in terms of installing the processes and procedures that protect customers, protect staff and protect corporate reputations at a time of unprecedented change."
Meanwhile, Irish business is also starting to take social media seriously, with 63pc of firms categorising social media as "very relevant" or "somewhat relevant". Asked why, almost half said it was useful for advertising, while a quarter said it could be used for communicating directly with customers. Just 20pc regard social media as "irrelevant".