Ireland’s economy in a post-pandemic reality: What should we expect?

2021 arrived with high hopes and dreams, thanks to the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in Ireland. We still have a long way to go between now and getting back to our routines, but while the Government juggles the vaccine rollout and dealing with new cases and potential lockdowns, all businesses should review their strategies to make sure they survive in a post-COVID-19 economy. 

The pandemic has accelerated digital adoption in all areas of life, especially in online shopping. The Tipping Point report found that Irish consumers will only return to shop in physical stores with confidence when COVID is mostly behind us, and social distancing is no longer necessary. The report also reveals that 48% of all Irish consumers will do most of their shopping in physical stores, but the remaining 52% will do all their shopping online or only go to physical stores for urgent necessities. Think With Google report reveals that since the beginning of last March, search interest in “online shopping” and “how to buy online” has doubled worldwide. Google’s mobility report also shows that footfall in physical shops will be slow to return to pre-pandemic levels in Ireland, and for quite some time. The report showed a 61% drop in people visiting recreation places such as restaurants, cafés, shopping centres, libraries and cinemas in January 2021, compared with previous years. 

How to make sure your eCommerce is ready for what’s next  

We can’t predict how the economy will recover after COVID-19 — but we have to start our preparations now. Digitalisation was important before the pandemic, but it’s now the difference between success and failure.

Thinking ahead, we’ve selected some trends that’ll help you boost your eCommerce and business strategy in 2021.

  • An omnichannel approach is the only way: Irish consumers are changing their way of thinking and buying. The Tipping Point report shows that SMEs believe consumers’ long-term shopping habits will change because of the pandemic, with 53% of Irish consumers buying online and in physical stores. This alone is already a good enough reason to invest in an omnichannel approach, to offer the same service to your bricks and mortar and online clients — which are often the same people. Popular trends have emerged in 2020 such as click and collect, diverse delivery options, order online before arrival and order online to cook — these options will keep expanding.

  • Your competitors are investing more in digital marketing — you should too: In this rapidly changing media and consumer landscape, companies are under increasing pressure to deliver a quality experience. With more people buying online, you’ll need to make sure you have a visible and attractive eCommerce platform. A modern and responsive website is vital, but have you looked at your SEO strategy? How is your company doing on social media? Is your team producing engaging content on blogs and articles? Are you investing in PPC and programmatic advertising? As part of Hubspot’s 2021 Marketing Predictions, Contentful CMO Bridget Perry revealed that digital leaders across various industries will invest on average 25% more on digital marketing in 2021, adding: “And 25% is just the average — some plan to spend significantly more. CMOs who aren’t scaling up their digital spending will soon be outpaced by competitors”.

  • If you’re not doing social commerce, start now! Last year, Facebook invested heavily in its sales platform for Facebook and Instagram while integrating its message services. Other channels will probably follow this path in 2021. As we discussed in this webinar for the Design & Craft Council of Ireland, social media is becoming a top channel for purchase. A recent report shows that almost half of Irish adults use social media every day. The figure rises to nearly four out of every five adults aged 15-34. These consumers find it easier to discover and buy products whilst navigating online, and social media can help you make their path to purchase seamless.

    ‘Social Commerce’ is simply selling products through your social media platforms, rather than driving traffic to your website, where people will be able to finalise the purchase. Hootsuite reports that it’s already an $89.4 billion market — expected to rocket to a staggering $600 billion in the next seven years! Remember the revolution in online commerce when Amazon launched? This is starting to take off right now on socials. Apart from Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest is also offering social commerce solutions. If you don’t have a social shop yet, get on it right away and learn more about these platforms and its possibilities. You need to provide a simple way for your fans and followers to buy your products.

  • Webinars are great, but people need deeper levels of interaction: Webinars made a massive impact on our methods of communicating, learning and hosting virtual events last year — we even listed some of our favourites here. But after an initial spike in registrations, attendance started to drop, so the format needs a jolt of inspiration. Virtual conferences need to find better ways to simulate ‘real’ in-person events. People want more human interaction, and they miss real participation. Luckily, we’ve just launched a new service Virtual Conferences Websites, so we can help you catch up with the online event revolution. 
  • The rise and rise of the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and voice recognition: You can be sure that 2021 will be the year when IoT, AI and VR will really take hold. Core DNA reports that no CMO should be ignoring any of the above. AI is already embedded in our lives, but more companies are investing in natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to closely mimic human interaction. Voice recognition will also be in the mix, with an expected 163 million smart speakers in use by 2021 and 8 billion digital voice assistants by 2023. HubSpot predicts that this year’s focus will be on improving personalisation, advancing on the customer journey and creating authentic web experiences. Chatbots, Software as a Service (SaaS) tools and AI-driven analytics will be essential for companies trying to expand and stay relevant into the future. 

Undoubtedly, this will be a challenging year, with no end of the pandemic in sight. One bright side is that technology will evolve to tackle new demands from customers worldwide. To keep up to date on the latest digital developments, watch this space! Matrix’s specialists are working hard to offer you advice, guidance and to help you navigate the whole area of eCommerce. Stay tuned!

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