Irish SMEs not doing enough to protect customer data, report finds

Research shows pandemic has accelerated Ireland’s move towards cashless society

Six out of 10 Irish SMEs do not take any particular steps to protect customer data or do not know how to do so, despite 75 per cent of consumers harbouring concerns about the security of their personal information when shopping online.

According to new research from .IE, which manages Ireland’s online .ie address, just 15 per cent of SMEs use a firewall or antivirus software, while only 11 per cent use two-factor authentication. Just 4 per cent said they trained staff in cybersecurity best practice.

The findings are from .IE’s new report, Tipping Point 2022: Irish ecommerce and digital business in the post-Covid era, published in partnership with Digital Business Ireland.

The report shows that the pandemic has accelerated Ireland’s move towards cashlessness, as 62 per cent of consumers said they were using cash “significantly” or “somewhat” less since the start of the pandemic.


Two-thirds of those born between 1946 and 1964 said they were using cash less often, compared to 62 per cent of those born between 1981 and 1990.

Despite this, as many as 25 per cent of all Irish SMEs still only accept cash payments, a figure that rose to 35 per cent among businesses with less than five employees and 38 per cent among SMEs with a premises in Dublin.

About 55 per cent of consumers will prioritise online shopping in 2022, while 16 per cent will do most of their shopping online, and 39 per cent said they will shop for necessities in-store, such as groceries, but buy most other things online.


Digital-first shopping preferences were particularly popular among younger consumers. Just 29 per cent of millennials will do most of their shopping in-store in 2022 compared to 45 per cent of the total sample.

One-third of Generation Z consumers, born between 1997 and 2012, will do most of their shopping online compared to 16 per cent of the total sample.

Consumers said they continue to view international retailers as more competitive on price and range, but they consider Irish SMEs to be more trustworthy and more reliable and to have better delivery services.

Exactly three-quarters of SMEs have a website. Just over a third (34 per cent) have an online store. Of that figure, eight in 10 sell directly through a store on their own website.

Half of SMEs have invested in their online presence since the start of the pandemic. In the majority of cases, this has resulted in improved sales.

Among investing SMEs, 30 per cent said they are busier than before the pandemic and 36 per cent have been able to maintain the same level of pre-pandemic business.

Just over half (54 per cent) of SMEs said they are planning a significant digital investment in the next five years, with most focusing on launching a new website (23 per cent), improving their existing one (15 per cent), or building a dedicated app (13 per cent).

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter