French SMEs and digitalization: taking stock of 2017

13 Jun 2017 | Business strategy, Economy

Taking stock of digitalization for SMEs in France – 2017

International development, technological advancements, increased performance and competition, digitalization of processes, growth. These words go hand and hand, and are absolutely essential for anyone hopign to catch this moving train. The digital economy is rich in opportunities, but taking hold of these opportunities requires a digitial maturity which over a third of French SMEs haven’t yet reached.

In France, around 66% of SMEs have a website, whereas that number reaches 75% across the rest of Europe.

This number alone is a good indicator of how French SMEs are falling behind when it comes to digitalization.

Is the move towards digitalization providing a potential opportunity in France?

There are other indicators that that show the same general trend, like their presence on social networks, the existence of an e-commerce site, the use of special software for increasing productivity. For French SMEs, only 3% of annual turnover is generated through e-commerce sites. Generally, the smaller the SME, the larger the gap in digitalization.

The difference between the use of the general public of digital platforms and the digitalization of French SMEs is staggering. On a national scale, 7 out of 10 people make purchases online, whereas only one in eight SMES have an e-commerce presence.

There are 1.5 million consumers who are falling through the cracks, purchasing imported products because they have no alternative in their own country. This is a real opportunity for increased turnover that French businesses could have access to by embracing the move towards digitalization. In addition, there are a number of export aids that exist across various regions of France.

Can digital markets be a lever for growth for French businesses?

It’s fairly obvious, the numbers prove it, the move towards digitalization are an enormous help when launching an export campaign.

A company with an online offering has four times the chance to be successful at exporting their products or services than one with no online presence. This is notably because there are a number of domains on international markets online.

Online sales represent an incredible growth potential for French SMEs. They’ve already contributed to more than 40% of growth for these businesses over the last few years.

The move towards digitalization seems to occur sector by sector; tourism and the restaurant industries were among the first to evolve to the changing demands. While it seems to move from one sector to the next, it seems to progress at an equivalent pace across all regions.

The lack of digital competencies in businesses is a major stopping point towards the digitalization of companies because they often don’t know the benefits that such investments can have. That’s why studies are currently underway on the viability of policies which favour the digitalization of companies.

There are a number of conferences that have been flourishing across France, aiming tu invest SMEs in their digital transition. One such was Digital Change which took place on June 20th in Rennes, and will be held on October 20th in Nantes. It was co-organized by Agence API and ADN Ouest.