Digitalization: French VSEs / SMEs (still) behind in 2019

by bold-lichterman

In 2017, the Deloitte report (1) commissioned by Facebook on the digitization of French SMEs underlined the backwardness of our country in this area. In 2019, it’s (high) time for small businesses to tackle their digital transformation.

On October 15, 2018, Mounir Mahjoubi, Secretary of State for Digital, launches the portal France Num, a support platform for the digital transition of companies. On the menu: videos of good practices, popularization sheets and guides through the financial assistance to which managers are entitled. By consulting the pages of this government site, we can see how the backlog of French very small and medium-sized businesses is abysmal.

A digital maturity to be found

First indicator of the digital transition: 76% of the companies surveyed have a website and 74% have a presence on social networks (2). However, only 11% use digital tools on a daily basis. With dispersed initiatives, less than 5% of VSE / SME activity comes from digital. Indeed, for many leaders, the digitization of their company comes down to online presence. Too few imagine the possibilities for growth, the levers of development for their business. Few also take the measure of the risks associated with data security.

This digital immaturity particularly affects small structures. In France, it is estimated that 81% of mid-sized companies have started their digital transformation (3). And they are already seeing the benefits of this transition: 76% cite greater operational efficiency (cost reduction, operational reliability, reduction in lead times). 72% indicate better competitiveness in the face of competition and new purchasing behavior. A model that SMEs and VSEs do not yet take as an example.

Increasingly strong consumer demand

All over the world, we are seeing a profound change in behavior. France, with 37.5 million online shoppers, or 85% of Internet users, is no exception. However, according to a Médiamétrie survey for the Federation of e-commerce and distance selling (Fevad) (4) if there are 182,000 active e-commerce sites to date, 87% of the turnover generated by the sector is carried out by 5% of merchant sites, which trust the market.

While many SMEs are already significantly behind in the face of the concentration of digital giants, purchasing habits continue to progress. In 2018, mobile sales represented more than 20% of sales on merchant sites. Also, the Black Friday effect can no longer be ignored, with a 69% jump in turnover.

New needs among your employees

Digital transformation isn’t just happening on the internet. It concerns all the activities and services of SMEs and VSEs, commercial, operational, logistics, support, but also HR or CSR. And that does not matter their sector, their size, their stage of development. For example, the integration of a CRM for the management of customer relations, by promoting cross-channel communication, makes it possible to gain in productivity. Before choosing this or that solution, what matters is the organization’s ability to understand the evolution of working methods and to develop a global, transversal strategy. It is obvious that the departments of a company are much less compartmentalized than before. However, very few SMEs / VSEs rethink their managerial models, in favor of more horizontal governance.

The brakes remain numerous. Lack of time, resources, mistrust of change. And above all, ignorance of available technologies, still perceived as complex. This pushes small structures to move towards unsuitable solutions, too expensive, difficult to install.

Thinking about digital transformation, step by step

So how do you go from theory to action? How to initiate a new start without upsetting the whole organization? Concretely, how do you start the digital transition in a (very) small or medium-sized company? Above all, by surrounding yourself with professionals, specialists in processing, inside and out. In other words, going through recruitment and seeking the services of a company dedicated to this support. A strategy that requires investment, to be sure, but which turns out to be profitable very quickly, with visible results on sales and customer relations.

The involvement of all company employees is essential to the success of the project. It is about convincing them that the planned changes are not a fad. That innovations have tangible effects on growth. That they determine the very future of the structure. This requires training employees to master new tools and setting up digital expertise centers in all departments. Then, of course, you have to take an interest in existing digital tools. And ask the right questions: do they meet the needs of the company’s activity? Do they take into account the specificities of its sector? Of its internal culture? And above all, are they enough to support sales? Do they keep in touch with prospects and customers? To generate new leads? From this observation, it becomes easier to build a tailor-made solution from a SaaS service oriented towards the specific needs of the organization. By integrating digitization into strategic objectives, VSEs and SMEs ensure the penetration of new tools at all levels, in all processes.

Step by step, the majority of companies on the way to digitalization start by adopting a CRM (69%), like that of TeamLeader, then accounting software (31%), and finally payroll software (20%).

(1) Deloitte report commissioned by Facebook on the digitization of French SMEs, 2017available here
(2) 20 key figures on the Internet presence of VSEs / SMEs in 2018, available here
(3) KPMG study on the digital transformation of mid-sized companies, October 2018, available here
(4) Cited by the Journal du Net, June 2018 and The gallery, February 2018

Teamleader est une plateforme CRM SaaS intégrée qui permet aux TPE et PME de gérer les relations avec les clients et les partenaires externes, et de simpli er l’organisation du travail en interne. Présente dans 6 pays d’Europe, elle propose une solution tout- en-un qui centralise sur une même plateforme collaborative ces di érents aspects du développement d’entreprise. Outil digital de productivité, disponible sur tous les terminaux xes et en application pour les mobiles, Teamleader prend en charge les tâches quotidiennes et donne la possibilité aux équipes de se focaliser sur leur cœur de métier.
À propos de l'auteur

Digitalization French VSEs SMEs still behind in 2019A graduate of the TEM business school (Institut Mines-Télécom) in strategic management, Guillaume Broutart is France Director at Teamleader. He has forged his experience in sales and management in France and Australia, at Sagem (Safran) or recently as Commercial Director at FinTech.
FIS. In September 2017, he joined Teamleader to lead the start-up of the startup in France.

Linkedin: Guillaume Broutart, Director France