eChristmas 2018

Irish Online Shopping Post-Christmas 2018 Review

Almost 1 in 5 Online Orders Need to be Returned (17%) Post-Christmas and 79% of Irish online Christmas shoppers purchased from an International Online Retailer.

How was Christmas for you? If we had to guess, assuming you have both a bricks & mortar channel as well as an ecommerce channel, then your online sales growth was considerably higher than your regular sales.  Hardly a surprise, but the scale of what Irish consumers – and Irish retailers – are experiencing is truly unprecedented.

Earlier this month we polled 1,100 adults on our SmartPoll panel about their Christmas shopping. The numbers are staggering:

  • - Over 7 in 10 adults purchased some or all of their Christmas presents and gifts online for Christmas last year
  • - 1 in 4 said their online Christmas spending was up on the previous year
  • - Online spending on Christmas gifts amounted to more than a third of all their spending on gifts and presents for those shopping online
  • - But only a fifth of all that online gift spending was with Irish online retailers…

Christmas Shopping Trend

The momentum in online shopping was positive across all Irish demographic groups and segments:

Share of Purse and Wallet

Among online shoppers, over a third (35%) of all their Christmas gift and present spending was spent online, rising to 40% in the case of 35-44s, and 39% of people living in Munster:


Missed Opportunities

But the real shock is how little of this spending was on Irish websites. According to the responses to our survey, online Christmas shoppers spent only a fifth of their money with Irish online stores:

What are the main drivers why so many Irish shoppers choose to buy from overseas Online Stores? If a target item is expensive, a consumer will often price hunt at least 2 to 3 other web stores. If the item in question is a known brand, then a price comparison on UK web stores will often show a cheaper price. In the last quarter of 2018, Sterling declined in value against the Euro.

A second factor shoppers always consider is – do I qualify for Free Shipping. Often UK Web Stores will have a minimum spend threshold for example all orders over £100. Some of the more sophisticated international stores will detect automatically that the shopper is in Ireland and then give them the option to see pricing in Euros. They may also offer Free Shipping to Ireland over a certain spend threshold.

Naturally, having access to UK, US, European and Chinese online stores, means Irish consumers have almost unlimited product choice (‘endless aisle’). This price transparency leads to pressure on international retailers to display lower prices. International online retailers don’t have all the answers for example if the shopper is interested in buying Irish crafted goods which are unique to a given brand that can’t be found in China. White goods such as washing machines and fridges tend to also stay in-country due to their bulky nature.

Return to Sender

All that may be good news for online retailers outside of Ireland, but the not-so-good news is the projected volume of returned goods they may have handle.  According to the responses to our survey, some 17% of Irish online shoppers have returned or will return goods purchased for Christmas. 

35-44s are the age group likely to return the most (22%), though it’s surprisingly consistent across most groups. According to a study by global research firm, IHL, the annual cost of preventable returns at US$642.6 billion globally. While it is difficult to pinpoint the average return rate for online purchases, (one analyst suggested 17-25 per cent is normal, it is definitely higher than for items purchased in-store). Any tactics that work at reducing an online retailers returns rate is “time and money” well spent.

For a number of years ASOS has being offering customers the option to try Virtual Fit technology called Virtuzsize ( ) to reduce their volume of online fashion returns. How does it work? It allows the shopper to store sizing data from previous online purchase or alternatively take an existing clothing item at home that fits well and input the sizing data. Shoppers can then click on the Check The Fit button which brings up their unique measurements.

Get Optimised

Irish Retailers need to get better at helping online shoppers to make informed purchasing decisions. A first step is to offer an easy to find Returns Policy. For example, Louis Copeland ( are currently offering a 90 Day Christmas Returns policy and this is located in the thin banner on homepage under main navigation accessible from every page on the website. Littlewoods Ireland ( ) offer free shipping and Free Returns. The customer has a choice of returning goods via Parcel Connect or Parcel Motel.

Another key step is to have International Sizes available as a tab on every clothing item. Magee 1866 Web Store ( )provides users with UK / USA/ EU / AUS sizing. They provide a Men’s Sizing Guide as well as a Wonen’s Sizing Guide. The Virtual Live Chat option was well attended as we got a prompt response when asking for guidance on working out Men’s Sizes.

We know that by just adding Virtual Assistance to an Online Store your overall conversion rate will increase. Good online retailing is about always being able to quickly respond to a prospective customers’ burning questions just prior to them making a buying decision.

Your eCommerce Roadmap for 2019

If you want to grow your share of online spending by Irish consumers ahead of Christmas 2019, then check out our roadmap to eCommerce success in the year ahead.



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