No room for Irish businesses to become complacent when it comes to digital evolution

Sórcha Carty, BearingPoint Ireland
Sórcha Carty, BearingPoint Ireland

Digitalisation is significantly transforming the customer relationship, says Sórcha Carty



19 February 2021 | 0

In association with BearingPoint Ireland

All over the world, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have dramatically altered our normal behaviour. As a result, digital maturity has become more important in our society, changing our habits and how we choose to spend our time and money. BearingPoint’s 2021 Digital Leaders Study uncovered a significant and noteworthy decline in levels of E-CRM when compared to previous years.

As we see a clear shift towards the use of digital channels, companies have reacted by accelerating their digital evolution to mitigate short-term economic collapse and to build long-term resilience. Digital maturity must not be taken for granted, and companies need to continuously improve their abilities.




Findings reveal that Ireland is stalling when it comes to progressing on the digital maturity path and is underperforming when compared across six other European countries (Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK). Irish businesses therefore cannot afford to become complacent and must continue to progress on the path to digitalisation in order to accelerate their recovery and growth, both during and post the pandemic.

The 2021 Digital Leaders Study has found that while some companies perform well in one or more of the evaluated dimensions, no company is rated as a leader in all of them. In other words, there is room for improvement for all 53 Irish companies.

We believe data and analytical insights continue to lead the way when it comes to digital maturity, and the companies and industries at the forefront use these to maximise the customer experience. It is therefore no surprise that insights are rapidly becoming a vital ingredient in driving the customer experience and ensuring sustainable competitiveness and long-term growth.

Companies that typically would not have had as strong an online presence have made changes to increase their digitalisation, to better serve their customers due to the ongoing global pandemic. Digitalisation is significantly transforming the customer relationship, creating opportunities for both new and established players. Businesses looking to improve customer service capacity and loyalty are encouraged to consider additional investment in e-CRM.

Customers are of the highest importance for a company’s e-mail marketing campaigns and loyalty programs; these were clearly impacted by the pandemic and experienced substantial reductions in activity. All industries across the study saw a decline in customer service. However, the banking industry retained its leadership position as the most digitally mature industry in Ireland. Maintaining strong levels of e-CRM can be linked to enhanced customer experience, as superior support services and positive experiences encourage customer loyalty and willingness to buy.

The Digital Leaders Study examines the digital maturity of companies in their interaction with customers through online channels. We gathered data externally, from an outside-in perspective, capturing the customers’ view. The results indicate that over the course of the last 12 months, more companies have seized the opportunities created by digitalisation but to a varying degree.

The study scores 390 companies (53 Irish and 337 European) representing seven industry sectors on a scale ranging from ‘Failed’ (0) to ‘Outstanding’ (5) providing insights on how businesses are tracking on the path to digital transformation, where the gaps and investment opportunities for further progression are and how they benchmark against leading practices of comparative companies across Europe.

The results show that the digital maturity of companies in Ireland varies widely across the four dimensions of digital marketing, Digital product experience, e-commerce, and e-CRM.

The digital marketing assessment, which is based on a company’s ability to reach potential customers with the help of display advertising, search engine marketing and use of owned media saw an average score for Ireland of 2.33. Banking was the most advanced industry sector in digital marketing, with a score of 3.12, followed by telco (2.90) and food retail (2.86). Bank of Ireland was the top-rated company for digital marketing maturity at 3.92.

In the realm of digital product experience where companies’ websites’ functionality, design and content are assessed, an average overall score of 3.26 was achieved for Ireland. After banking (3.49), the industry sectors of energy (3.47) and telco (3.43) were also rated among the top three most advanced sectors for Digital product experience. Tesco was the top-rated company for digital product experience at 4.34.

The e-commerce evaluation, which determines a company’s ability to sell via digital channels, recorded an average score for Ireland of 2.09. Banking was rated as the most advanced industry sector on the e-commerce dimension, with a score of 3.03, followed by telco (2.72) and insurance (2.67). Irish Life was the top-rated company for e-commerce maturity at 3.65.

An assessment of the e-CRM dimension, which evaluates a company’s ability to maintain and deepen its customer relationships in digital channels, including customer service, was the digital dimension with the lowest score for Ireland, coming in at 1.91 and with the biggest room for improvement. After Banking (2.65), the industry sectors of insurance (2.51) and telco (2.34) were among the top three most digitally mature sectors on the e-CRM dimension. SSE Airtricity was the top-rated company for e-CRM maturity at 3.38.

Overarching trends have emerged proving that the digital landscape is evolving quickly, and it is difficult for some industries and companies to keep up. The use of affiliate marketing is making an upswing, moving from only 3% of Irish companies practicing this form of marketing in 2019 to 25% for 2021. More companies are making it easier for customers to give feedback through company websites, with 34% of companies surveyed doing so in 2021 and more companies are now offering Click & Collect services, increasing from 30% in 2019 to 39% for 2021.

All of this underpins the view that digital maturity cannot be taken for granted, that digitalisation is significantly transforming the customer relationship, creating opportunities for both new and established players. We believe Irish companies need to continuously improve their digital abilities and features to progress on the path of digital evolution.

To learn more about who and what the leading Irish companies are doing across the respective digital dimensions, please download the full 2021 Digital Leaders Study here. For more information on BearingPoint, visit

Sórcha Carty is business consultant, BearingPoint Ireland

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