Online consumer trust and website value

When it comes to shopping browsing and buying online, consumer trust is vitally important. In order to transact online a customer must trust the website that they are about to do business with.

We asked 1,000 Irish people1 what makes them trust online businesses and the results were conclusive: Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of Irish consumers have little to no trust in businesses that use free email addresses like Gmail and Eircom.

In contrast, more than three-quarters, 77 per cent, said that they have high trust in companies that use professional email addresses, like a .ie address registered to a business name (e.g. customerservice@localbusiness.ie).

The research also found that consumers have four times more trust in a company that has a website (65 per cent) versus one that does not (17 per cent).

63 per cent of consumers have low trust in companies that do not have a website but use social media like a Facebook page or Twitter account to connect to their customers online.

The research reveals that consumers see professional email addresses and websites as indicators of trust and authenticity. For sole traders and SMEs, this is particularly important. Anecdotal evidence suggests that first-time customers are far more likely to contact the plumber or electrician who has a web presence, rather than the one who just has a phone listing. Investing in a website that lists contact details, services and prices implies openness, accountability and trustworthiness.

Setting up a website and an email address has never been easier. There are plenty of free and low-cost tools online, which allow even the most technophobic business owners to build a website and even incorporate e-commerce capability in a matter of hours.

E-commerce (buying and selling goods and services online) is worth billions to the Irish economy and is growing rapidly at home and globally. For SMEs, e-commerce allows them to connect to local and international customers, selling to them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of physical location.

Allister Frost, award-winning former head of digital marketing at Microsoft and speaker at IEDR’s Internet Day 2016, said that while websites are essential to get the most out of e-commerce, social networks can and should be used in conjunction with them to boost customer engagement.

“Every business owner should begin by creating a website to serve as their permanent home on the internet, under their control forever. And once that is established, many may also benefit from developing an active presence on relevant social networks like Facebook to reach a wider audience and ultimately convert them into happy, paying customers,” he says.

The value of a website

We publish a bi-annual report called the dot ie Digital Health Index which seeks to provide a comprehensive analysis of the quantity and quality of digital assets, like websites, web sales ability and social media profiles, owned by Irish SMEs. As part of the latest round of this research we asked 500 Irish SMEs2 if they have a website and, if yes, how important it is for generating revenue for their business.

The results speak for themselves: Irish SMEs with a website take home an additional j24,000 in revenue every year by selling their products and services online. The research showed that this additional €24,000 consists of an additional 22 jobs or sales a year with the average value of these coming to €1,089.

85 per cent of SMEs with a website said it is important for generating new business or sales. Of this group, two in five said that they are generating additional work through their websites. By selling online, Irish SMEs have access to a virtually borderless marketplace, which is always open. Even having a basic website is a vital part of doing business nowadays.

Not only will Irish consumers trust your business more if you have a website, it will also increase your potential to receive job or sales orders.

What do Irish consumers think?

If this doesn’t convince you of the value of a website, then look at it from the point of view of an Irish consumer. As a nation we have embraced digital technology and made it part of our daily lives. This has led to a change in the expectations of the Irish consumer and the ability to browse, buy and transact online is now the accepted norm.

We wanted to investigate this so we also asked Irish consumers about their online behaviour and what they look for in a company’s online presence2. The results really backed up how valuable a website can be to an SME.

Did you know that 80 per cent of Irish consumers go online when looking for information about a business? While 83 per cent believe that, their local businesses should at least have a basic website and nearly three in four people (73 per cent) are particularly frustrated by businesses that do not have a website at a minimum. To top things off, nearly 70 per cent think a business seems ‘outdated’ if it is not online.

In terms of overall functionality, almost two-thirds of consumers, or 65 per cent, want to be able to browse and research products from their local high street stores online, while 60 per cent said that they would shop online with a competitor for the same product if their local business is not online. This shows both an appetite among consumers for enhanced digital engagement with local business, and an opportunity for businesses to earn additional revenue by being better digitally equipped.

1. Consumer research based on a survey of 1,000 Irish consumers by Ignite Research in March 2017.

2. Research based on a survey of 500 Irish SMEs conducted by Ignite Research in March 2017. The number of jobs and values are based on the responses of 133 companies that receive jobs or sales through a professional business website. Value is calculated by working out the median figure SMEs with a website said that they receive per job/sale (on average) from their website and multiplying it by the number of extra jobs they are receiving as a result of having a website.


David Curtin is the Chief Executive of the IE Domain Registry (IEDR), the company that manages Ireland’s country domain name, dot ie. For more information please visit www.iedr.ie.

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