Any merchant, irrespective of the main channel of sales understands that marketing and communications are central to increasing market share. Google’s Consumer Barometer survey (2015) provides some interesting insight into the Irish consumer; including what communication channels they reference before making a purchase decision. Search is obviously the biggest discovery medium, but that might point to di erent sources of insight and research; customer reviews, manufacturer’s websites, price comparison, video and advice sites / blogs.
According to March 2016 data from IAB Ireland, digital ad-spend in the country was worth €263m in 2015, up 34% on the previous year. Of increasing importance, the growth of smartphone usage is driving mobile ad spend, itself up 132% on the previous year and now responsible for a third of total spend in the digital arena. At over €86m this is now a sizeable proportion of the total spend and requiring a different approach to ‘traditional’ digital ad-spend. Size of screen, browsing habits, a ention span and functionality all impact how a mobile advertisement engages with an audience. Display advertising on digital channels has grown by 35% in 2015 and represents 38% of total spend at €99m. The overall performance of display is being driven by the uptake of social media advertising, which lends itself to the format and re ecting users’ increased engagement via social channels. Increasing by 108% in 2015 over its 2014 value, the segment is now worth over €28m.
Digital ad spend in 2015 was worth €263m according to IAB Ireland, up 34% on 2014. The mobile-optimised element of this spend increased by 132% over the same period and now represents over a third of total spending. Social media has incredibly high levels of penetration. 60% of internet users have a Facebook account and 80% of these access it via the app. 79% of account holders access the account daily. Video on Demand is also an area of massive growth while WhatsApp and Snapchat see high levels of engagement. Google search is a key driver of traffic and email marketing plays an important role in driving sales. Voucher usage is popular in the Republic, both for acquisition and retention of customers. Global marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay have a strong presence, including their .co.uk and .com websites. 
Irish e-shoppers are con rmed and sophisticated fans of cross-border shopping. A recent Nightline survey of several thousand people concluded that 86% buy – and want to buy more – from retailers based overseas, predominantly in the UK and US. 86% of online shoppers made an international purchase during 2015; creating a market worth €1.5bn and expected to exceed €2bn in 2016. There is more insight as to what consumers are doing online. According to the eir connected living survey 2015, Dubliners are the most likely to shop online, with 64% of the population of the city having done so. Given that 25% of the population of the Republic is Dublin-based this is clearly a primary target market for an incoming retailer. There isn’t much difference between genders and while the 16–49 age group is the most digital, the over 50s shouldn’t be ignored. It is also interesting to note that those shoppers in their late 40s actually appear more likely to shop online than their younger 40s peer group.
All ages of online users are actively engaging with brands but Dubliners are more likely to transact in the channel. Fashion and travel are key sectors and there is a strong desire to shop with international brands; either via their Republic physical presence or an international website.
Although more up-to-date data isn’t widely available, research by Bluecast Digital in 2012 re ects behaviours seen in other markets. Personalisation is gaining momentum, with just over a third of Irish merchants not offering some level in the marketing emails they are sending out. It would be expected that more up-to-date data would show this figure falling further and the sophistication of personalisation increasing. Open rates in the Republic are also encouraging, with only a quarter of merchants seeing levels at less than 10%. The all-important click-through is promising, with nearly half of merchants achieving levels of 11% or more. 13% of merchants surveyed had rates higher than 21%, indicating that campaign planning and techniques are paying dividends to those investing time and effort in their implementation. The increase in social media usage is also being noticed by email marketers, with increasing numbers including social elements in their campaigns. This might be as simple as a ‘share’ button which helps disseminate campaign messages to friends or more closely-integrated campaigns which include elements of social media, links to product pages and encouraging ‘likes’ for products or brands.
It is important to note that different verticals will see varying results, as will SMEs versus well-known brands. However, Wolfgang Digital reported in January 2016 that email delivered 10%+ of total website traffic and 10% of total revenue. Email is still a key business driver and consumers in the Republic are just as likely as their international cousins to respond to well-cra ed campaigns.
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 in uence and products suited to market requirements.
With regards to what Irish consumers are buying online, travel is the biggest sector, especially when all forms of travel-related spending are taken into account. For example, flights (70%), hotel bookings (66%) and car hire (21%) are the main categories for those online users who have made a purchase. However, fashion products (which includes clothing and shoes) have been purchased online by 69% of online users. This behaviour mirrors that of other advanced ecommerce markets while electricals have been purchased online by less than a quarter of users. This is a surprise as in many, early adopter markets, electricals drove online growth and have only recently been equalled or surpassed by fashion spending. This may be an indication that, domestically in the Republic, the choice of fashion brands may not be sufficient to meet consumer demand.
Some of the sectors achieving less penetration online include furniture and computer games. Only 6% of online users have made an ecommerce furniture purchase and nearly a third have said they never will. 18% of the group have made online purchases of computer games while 15% say they never will. This does leave a large potential market but computer gamers are generally seen as more accepting of online purchasing, particularly as many games are now streamed from online servers.
One final point of interest is the 30% of online users who will never buy groceries. This isn’t uncommon in many markets as the ability to see and choose fresh produce often outweighs time-saving benefits on the packaged products and dry goods. With 12% already buying online and 58% remaining to be convinced, there is still a lot of potential in this sector. Analysis of the top online shopping destinations shows some interesting insights. All of the brands in the top 20 are international; some with local domain names but most without. 
Top 20 Shopping websites 1 Amazon.co.uk 2 Amazon.com 3 Aliexpress.com 4 Argos.ie 5 Asos.com 6 Sportsdirect.com 7 Li lewoodsireland.ie 8 Alibaba.com 9 Ikea.com 10 Lidl.ie 11 Amazon.de 12 Etsy.com 13 Allegro.pl 14 Aldi.ie 15 Debenhams.ie 16 Boohoo.com 17 Tescomobile.ie 18 Nextdirect.com 19 Smythstoys.com 20 Woodiesdiy.com 
December 8 has become a traditional shopping day in Ireland. The so-called 'Culchie Shopping Day' emerged for a number of reasons - mostly because it's a holy day in the Catholic Church calendar. Unfortunately the boom in online shopping and the taking on of the American tradition of Black Friday means special December 8 deals are a thing of the past. While most stores used to offer discounts on the big day, now Black Friday and Cyber Monday have taken over.