The Virgin Christmas Survey – What do Irish Shoppers Want?

Virgin Survey: Irish Shoppers love online…but bricks and mortar are holding their own

Virgin Media Business has conducted a new survey of over 1,000 Irish consumers on their Christmas shopping habits. The survey found that while Irish shoppers are tech-savvy, taking part in online retail and Black Friday digital sales, they mostly value traditional incentives like value, customer service and a positive experience.

Value Beats All

When asked “What is most important to you when deciding where to shop online?” price came out on top, with 30.8% of the vote. Previous good experience followed at 22.1%, highlighting the value of trust and repeat business. Free delivery was next (17%), followed by free returns (10.9%), choice (10%), word of mouth (8%) and “other” at 1.2%.

This is good news for traditional shops: Price is one factor that technology can’t defeat. While online can offer shopping from home and some convenience, offline shops can compete with value, returns and delivery.

Word of mouth was surprisingly low, especially in this social media age. This, however, was consistent with another stat from the survey: Only 32% of shoppers have bought something after it was recommended on social media.

Traditional Beats Online…Just

In response to “How much of your Christmas shopping do you hope to do online this year?”

Only 7.8% answered “all of it” with 19.8% saying “more than half” and 22.5% saying “about half”. The numbers skew a little towards bricks and mortar, with 27.7% planning to do “less than half” of their Christmas shopping online and a surprising 22.3% doing no Christmas shopping online.

To put it another way, almost half of Irish shoppers are doing most of their shopping in traditional shops.

What’s more, Black Friday and Cyber Monday enjoy a disproportionate amount of media coverage, according to this surveys’ respondents: When asked if they have ever shopped in Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales online, 56.2% answered no, while 43.8% answered yes.

More than a Token Gesture

While the survey-takers’ wishlist was incredibly diverse (more on that below), tokens and vouchers remain a favourite. When asked how likely they were to buy an experience voucher (for a restaurant, hotel or spa, for instance) 41% said “somewhat likely” while 14.1% answered “very likely”. This leaves a minority in the “not likely at all” camp, with 44.6%.

Next, they were asked for their level of agreement or disagreement with following statement: “When I buy a voucher as a gift for someone, I worry that it might come across as impersonal.”: 20% strongly agreed, 33.8% agreed: While 36.6% disagreed and 8.7% strongly disagreed.

This betrays a certain paradox: 55% of shoppers intend to buy vouchers, while 54% worry that it’s impersonal. So a number of shoppers buy vouchers as gifts, despite admitting that they consider them impersonal!

Ireland vs UK and US

Irish shopping habits differ only slightly from those of UK or US consumers. In a recent British survey: “A fifth (21%) of UK consumers are planning to use digital wallets for their online spending. 62% of respondents indicated they will do some or all of their Christmas shopping in-store.” This suggests similar habits and preferences to those shown by Irish consumers.

Looking across the other sea, America is a little ahead of Ireland and UK re shopping online, with slightly more online than using traditional retail: “55% of respondents plan to shop online for gifts, increasing online shopping’s lead over mass merchants, where 44% of those polled plan to shop”.

“What do you want for Christmas?”

With an open-ended question, researchers never know what they’re going to get. But there was some consistency in the higher end. When asked “What do you want for Christmas?” the most popular answers were:

Money (6%)

Clothes (4%)

Car (3%)

Perfume (2%)

Phone (2%)

Books (2%)

Holiday (2%)

Jewellery (1%)

Makeup (1%)

As is often the case, the most interesting answers lie just above or below 1%. These include:

Love (1%), “Ronan O’Gara match-worn boots” (<1%), two front teeth (<1%) Tom Hardy (<1%), a new referendum on Brexit (<1%), 8 hours sleep (<1%) and (our favourite) “For my daughter to have the best day”.

Beyond the Till

The insights revealed in our Christmas survey prompted us to dig even deeper, so we have two additional stories where we investigate beyond the survey’s findings: Firstly, we look at Irish shoppers’ enthusiasm for vouchers (as reflected in the survey), which brings us to where vouchers and gift cards sit with modern shoppers, how the business has evolved and how to enact best practice if you sell them.

We also examined the importance of a business’s good website, especially in light of our survey. This post looks at what we’ve discovered in the survey and includes some tips on making your website Christmas-ready.

To keep your e-commerce website running smoothly over the Christmas period, investing in high-speed business broadband is key. Click here to learn about our award-winning business broadband.