SmartHost Review: .IE and Retail Excellence Web Health Report

At SmartHost, we’re committed to providing the best web hosting solutions and keeping our clients informed about the latest trends and statistics in the digital world. One report that caught our eye recently is the “.IE and Retail Excellence Website Health Report.” The study, published on 31st August 2023, provides valuable insights into the state of online retail in Ireland, particularly for SMEs. This blog post aims to dissect the key findings of the report and offer actionable recommendations for retailers looking to enhance their online presence.

Key Findings: Where Do Retailers Stand?

User Experience (UX) Website Health – Only 14% of retail businesses offer a live chat function.

› The Importance of Live Chat in Retail

Live chat functionality serves as a direct communication channel between businesses and customers. It allows for real-time interaction, facilitating quicker problem-solving, and providing an immediate opportunity for sales conversion. Today’s consumers expect quick responses and personalised service; live chat delivers on both fronts. In a competitive online retail market, not offering live chat likely costs businesses potential revenue and customer loyalty.

› The Gap in Service

The fact that only 14% of retail businesses have implemented this feature suggests a significant gap in service. Businesses are not meeting consumer expectations for real-time, personalised interaction, potentially leading to lost sales and lower customer satisfaction rates. The low adoption of live chat presents an opportunity for standout ROI among businesses willing to invest in it.

› The Underlying Reasons

Several factors could explain the low adoption rate of live chat functionality among retail businesses. Budget limits, technical gaps, or undervaluing live chat may be reasons for low adoption. Regardless, many retailers are missing out on enhancing customer experience.

› Actionable Steps for Retailers

Retailers looking to stay competitive should consider integrating a live chat function into their online platforms. Initial costs for live chat are usually offset by gains in sales and customer loyalty. For retailers on established e-commerce platforms, setup is often simple.


The low percentage of retail businesses offering live chat functionality is a call to action. Given the clear benefits and the current consumer expectations for real-time, personalised service, retailers would do well to invest in this technology. Those who act swiftly stand to gain a significant competitive advantage, enhancing both customer experience and their bottom line.

By addressing this gap, retailers not only meet but exceed customer expectations, setting the stage for long-term success in an increasingly digital marketplace.

Website Health – A mere 18% show customer reviews on their website.

› The Significance of Customer Reviews

Customer reviews serve as social proof and are a crucial factor in influencing purchasing decisions. According to various studies, a substantial percentage of online shoppers read reviews before making a purchase. Reviews offer real-world insights into the product or service and can significantly impact a potential customer’s perception and trust. By not displaying reviews, retailers may be creating an unnecessary barrier to conversion, thereby affecting their sales negatively.

› Missed Opportunities for Brand Trust

The absence of customer reviews on a majority of retail websites means that these businesses are missing out on an important tool for building brand trust. Reviews often provide an authentic, unfiltered perspective on a product or service, and their presence can significantly enhance the credibility of a retail business. A lack of such a feature can lead potential customers to question the reliability and quality of the retailer’s offerings.

› The Underlying Causes

There may be several reasons why such a small percentage of retailers are featuring customer reviews on their websites. These could range from technical challenges and costs associated with implementing a review system to concerns about receiving negative feedback. Some businesses might also underestimate the power of customer reviews, thereby neglecting to include them as part of their digital strategy.

› Recommendations for Retailers

Given the proven effectiveness of customer reviews in influencing purchasing decisions and building brand trust, retailers are advised to take immediate steps to incorporate this feature into their websites. Many e-commerce platforms offer simple, plug-and-play solutions for adding a customer review section. For businesses concerned about negative reviews, it’s worth noting that constructive criticism can offer valuable insights for improvement and can often be as trust-building as positive reviews when handled correctly.


Few retailers showing customer reviews miss key opportunities in engagement and trust. This omission risks sales and long-term success. Given reviews’ proven impact, adding this feature is a priority for online improvement.

E-commerce Functionality

Website Health – 46% of retailers have e-commerce cart functionality.

› The Relevance of E-commerce Cart Functionality

E-commerce cart functionality is not just a feature; it’s a fundamental component for any online retail business. It serves as the final point of conversion where a customer’s browsing activity transforms into a sale. Without an e-commerce cart, the sales process becomes fragmented, often requiring manual intervention to complete a transaction, thereby reducing efficiency and customer satisfaction.

› A Mixed Picture

The fact that 46% of retailers have this functionality suggests a moderate level of digital adoption within the industry. However, it also indicates that more than half of the retail sector has not yet fully embraced the capabilities of online commerce, which is concerning given the increasing consumer preference for online shopping. Businesses without an e-commerce cart are at a competitive disadvantage, potentially missing out on a broader customer base and higher sales volumes.

› Underlying Challenges

Several reasons could explain why a majority of retailers have yet to implement e-commerce cart functionality. These could include budget constraints, technical limitations, or a lack of digital expertise within the organisation. There may also be resistance to change, with some businesses still adhering to traditional retail models despite the evident shift in consumer behaviour towards online shopping.

› Opportunities for Growth

For the 54% of retailers without e-commerce cart functionality, the time to act is now. Implementing this feature is not just about keeping up with competitors; it’s about meeting customer expectations for seamless, convenient transactions. With various platforms and e-commerce solutions available, even small retailers can integrate cart functionality without requiring significant investment or technical know-how.

› Recommendations

  1. Evaluate E-commerce Platforms: Retailers should consider adopting a recognised e-commerce platform that provides comprehensive cart functionality, ensuring a smooth customer experience.
  2. User Experience Design: Focus on the user interface and experience to make the shopping cart process as intuitive as possible, thereby minimising cart abandonment rates.
  3. Mobile Optimisation: Ensure that the e-commerce cart is fully functional and easy to use on mobile devices, given the increasing trend of mobile shopping.
  4. Payment Options: Offer multiple payment methods to accommodate a wider range of customer

The statistic that 46% of retailers have e-commerce cart functionality is a double-edged sword. While it represents progress in digital adoption, it also highlights a significant gap that needs to be addressed urgently. Retailers without this functionality must consider implementing it as a priority to stay competitive and meet the evolving needs of today’s consumers. Those who act promptly have the opportunity to gain a significant edge in an increasingly digital retail landscape.

41% are using a recognised e-commerce provider.

› The Importance of Using a Recognised E-commerce Provider

Utilising a recognised e-commerce provider is crucial for multiple reasons. Such platforms often come with built-in functionalities like cart management, payment gateways, inventory tracking, and customer relationship management tools. Features from trusted platforms ease technical burdens, enabling focus on product development and marketing. They also enhance security, safeguarding customer data and transactions.

› Interpretation of the 41% Statistic

The fact that 41% of retailers are using a recognised e-commerce provider can be viewed in two lights. Many businesses recognize the value of established e-commerce solutions and invest in them. However, nearly 59% may use lesser-known options, risking robustness and security.

› Underlying Challenges

Several challenges could explain why the majority of retailers are not using a recognised e-commerce provider. These may include budget constraints, a lack of awareness about the benefits of established platforms, or even complacency in adapting to digital transformation. The resistance to change could be detrimental in the long run, as it puts these retailers at a competitive disadvantage.

› Opportunities for Advancement

For the 59% of retailers not yet aligned with a recognised e-commerce provider, the opportunity for growth is significant. Switching to an established platform improves online capabilities and security. It also readies businesses for future e-commerce evolution by offering scalability and flexibility.

› Recommendations for Retailers

  1. Due Diligence: Research and identify e-commerce providers that fit your business model, sise, and objectives.
  2. Cost-Benefit Analysis: While established platforms may come with a price tag, the long-term benefits often outweigh the initial costs.
  3. Scalability: Choose a platform that can grow with your business, offering advanced features that can be activated as your needs evolve.
  4. Security: Given the rising cyber threats, ensure that the chosen platform adheres to the highest security standards to protect both the business and its customers.
  5. Customer Support: Opt for providers who offer robust customer support to assist in the seamless operation of your online store.

The 41% statistic serves as an indicator of both progress and potential in the Irish online retail landscape. While it’s encouraging to see a portion of retailers leveraging established e-commerce platforms, there’s an evident need for broader adoption across the industry. Retailers hesitant to make this transition should consider the myriad benefits of using a recognised provider, from enhanced functionalities and security to long-term scalability. Taking this step is not just an upgrade; it’s an investment in the future viability and competitiveness of the business.

Online Ad Tracking and Security

Website Health – Just 20% of retailers utilise online ad tracking.

› The Importance of Online Ad Tracking

Online ad tracking is an essential component of any robust digital marketing strategy. It allows businesses to measure the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns in real-time, providing valuable insights into customer behaviour, engagement, and conversion rates. This data is critical for optimising ad spend, improving ROI (Return on Investment), and making informed decisions about future marketing initiatives.

› The Implications of the 20% Statistic

The fact that only 20% of retailers are using online ad tracking is a significant concern. It suggests that a vast majority of retailers are potentially flying blind, missing out on valuable data that could inform and enhance their marketing strategies. This lack of insight can result in inefficient use of advertising budgets, missed opportunities for customer engagement, and ultimately, suboptimal business performance.

› Potential Underlying Challenges

Several factors could contribute to this low adoption rate of online ad tracking among retailers. These may include:

  1. Lack of Awareness: Retailers may not be fully aware of the benefits that ad tracking can offer.
  2. Technical Barriers: The perceived complexity of setting up and interpreting tracking systems may discourage some businesses.
  3. Budget Constraints: Some retailers may be reluctant to invest in tracking tools due to budget limitations, although this is often a short-sighted approach.

› Opportunities for Retailers

For the 80% of retailers not currently utilising online ad tracking, the opportunity for improvement is substantial. Implementing ad tracking is not just a tactical move; it’s a strategic initiative that can significantly impact a retailer’s bottom line. The benefits include:

  1. Improved ROI: By understanding which ads are most effective, retailers can allocate their budget more efficiently.
  2. Better Customer Insights: Tracking tools can offer insights into customer behaviour, providing valuable data for personalisation and targeting.
  3. Competitive Advantage: Retailers using data-driven insights often have a significant edge over competitors who do not.

› Recommendations

  1. Adopt Tracking Tools: There are various online ad tracking tools available, ranging from free options to more advanced, paid solutions. Retailers should choose one that best fits their needs.
  2. Training and Education: Investing in training for staff to understand how to set up and interpret tracking data can pay long-term dividends.
  3. Regular Monitoring: Once set up, it’s crucial to regularly monitor and analyse the data to make real-time adjustments to advertising campaigns.

The low use of ad tracking among retailers signals missed digital marketing opportunities. Ad tracking is crucial for a comprehensive digital strategy. It optimizes spending and provides valuable customer insights, aiding long-term success.

Although 91% have security certificate software, only 22% have implemented CAPTCHA on their websites.

› Website Health – The Significance of Security Certificate Software and CAPTCHA

Security certificate software, often in the form of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates, is essential for encrypting data transferred between the user and the server. This encryption is vital for protecting sensitive information like customer credentials and payment details.

CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) serves a different, yet complementary, role. It is designed to prevent automated bots from engaging in abusive activities on the website, such as spamming or data scraping.

› Implications of the Disparity

Remarkably, the high adoption rate of security certificate software at 91% indicates that retailers broadly understand the critical role of data encryption and customer information protection. Conversely, the meager 22% adoption rate for CAPTCHA unveils a troubling gap in awareness or investment in comprehensive security solutions. As a result of this imbalance, websites become susceptible to automated attacks. Subsequently, this vulnerability paves the way for a range of detrimental consequences, including but not limited to compromised user accounts and a decline in website performance.

› Underlying Challenges

Several factors could be contributing to this gap in security measures:

  1. Awareness: Retailers may not be fully aware of the benefits of implementing CAPTCHA alongside SSL certificates.
  2. Complexity: Some businesses might perceive the implementation of additional security layers like CAPTCHA as technically challenging.
  3. User Experience Concerns: There may be a belief that CAPTCHA could disrupt the user experience, thereby affecting conversion rates.

› Recommendations for Retailers

  1. Holistic Security Approach: Retailers should consider adopting a more comprehensive security strategy that includes both data encryption and protection against automated threats.
  2. User-Friendly CAPTCHA: Choose CAPTCHA systems that are effective yet minimally intrusive to the user experience, such as reCAPTCHA.
  3. Regular Audits: Conduct regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities and ensure that all security measures are up-to-date.
  4. Education and Training: Staff should be educated about the importance of comprehensive web security to ensure consistent implementation and maintenance.

Interstingly, the contrasting adoption rates for security certificate software and CAPTCHA shed light on both advancements and gaps in the industry’s approach to web security. While it is indeed praiseworthy that a significant majority have embraced SSL certificates, the disappointing uptake of CAPTCHA implies a more piecemeal comprehension of what all-encompassing web security truly requires. Therefore, retailers are strongly encouraged to adopt a more integrated approach to online security. Specifically, they should acknowledge that although data encryption is undeniably vital, safeguards against automated threats hold equal importance in establishing a secure and reliable online environment.

Why These Numbers Matter

Understanding key performance indicators and industry benchmarks is not just insightful; it’s imperative for survival and growth. The statistics surrounding the adoption of various web functionalities among retailers paint a picture of the current state of online retail in Ireland. These numbers are more than just percentages; they are a mirror reflecting both the opportunities seized and missed by retailers. They indicate where the industry excels and where there is room for significant improvement.

• The Importance of UX

User experience is the cornerstone of any successful online business. The low numbers in this area show that there is a significant gap to fill. Implementing features like live chat and customer reviews can drastically improve customer engagement and, in turn, sales.

• E-commerce is No Longer Optional

The report highlights that almost half of the retailers have embraced e-commerce, a critical move given the current digital transformation. However, there’s still room for improvement, especially in optimising the shopping cart experience and choosing the right e-commerce platform.

• Security and Tracking

In today’s digital age, ignoring online security is akin to leaving your shop unlocked. Furthermore, not employing ad tracking is a missed opportunity to gain valuable insights into advertising performance.


› Prioritise User Experience

Start by integrating a live chat function and customer reviews. These features not only improve user engagement but also enhance trustworthiness.

› Optimise E-commerce Functionality

If you haven’t yet adopted e-commerce, now is the time. For those who have, consider utilising a recognised e-commerce provider and focus on optimising the shopping cart experience.

› Invest in Security and Ad Tracking

Secure your website with the latest security certificate software and implement CAPTCHA to protect against spam and abuse. Also, employ ad-tracking tools to measure the effectiveness of your advertising initiatives.


The .IE and Retail Excellence Web Health Report serves as a wake-up call for Irish retailers. While some strides have been made in adopting digital strategies, there’s still a long way to go. Investing in improving UX, e-commerce functionality, and online security is not just advisable; it’s essential for survival in the modern retail landscape.

Additional Resources

For businesses looking to enhance their web capabilities, SmartHost offers a wide range of services, from web hosting to SSL certificates and WordPress support. Feel free to reach out to us for tailored solutions that meet your business needs.

View the full .IE and Retail Excellence Web Health Report here