46% of the smaller companies in our country just don't find the time for digital commerce. One in four even asks son or daughter to build a webshop or manage social media. This comes from a study by Telenet Business involving more than 500 Belgian business managers with less than 50 employees. However, the digital transformation and disruption can be felt everywhere. This includes the disappearance of more and more local companies and merchants from the map through the arrival of e-commerce. “If SMEs want to survive, they have to make the shift and take steps toward digitization,” says Martine Tempels, head of B2B at Telenet. This in turn facilitates a platform in Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels where SMEs can more rapidly make contact with digital experts.
Reserving your bread with the bakery around the corner, sitting in your chair in the evening and buying a pair of shoes via the website of the local boutique. Some Belgian SME's and entrepreneurs are in the full flux of digitization. However, this is a minority, because at least six in ten (66%) of the smaller companies have not worked out a plan to enter digital enterprise. This comes from a study by Indiville on behalf of Telenet Business involving more than 500 Belgian business managers with less than 50 employees. Even companies that indicate that digital steps are important to achieving company objectives (54%), 46% have no digital plan. Thus, only half (54%) of the companies have a website and 39% have their company on social media.
Son or daughter lends a helping hand
The reason? For nearly half of the companies (46%), a lack of time is the biggest obstacle. Even keeping up with new developments (27%) and a lack of technical knowledge within their own company (25%) are also often problems. When they take their first steps into the digital realm, SMEs mostly do it themselves (57%), or call upon their son, daughter or friends (26%) for their website or social media. Only 11% consults with a professional.
From the study, it appears that 46% even have no plans to expand their business in the future with more digital channels, such as advertisements on social media, an e-newsletter or a webshop. Companies indicate that they don't see any added value for their industry (38%) or their business (30%). They don't want more recognition or revenue (31%) or are not convinced that digital efforts will deliver more revenue (28%). In addition, one in five companies do not see a necessity to do more, because their clients do not demand it (23%).
“It's high time that this lack of ambition in some of the Belgian SMEs is addressed. Even the annual European DESI study into the degree of digitization in the member states shows that the greatest digital growth potential in Belgium lies with SMEs and the government. In our country, we need a long-term strategy with solutions to digitize our smaller and medium-sized companies and economy. Now, the various initiatives and sensitivity campaigns are still too fragmented and don't appear to sufficiently address the entrepreneur. The government must use a clear communication strategy to show SMEs that digitization is essential to keep up in the future. Consumer expectations are changing and are becoming even more digital. As a company, you have to adapt to this. Running a shop in addition to maintaining social media or starting a webshop is not self-evident. But if SMEs want to survive, they will have to make the shift and take steps forward.” Martine Tempels, Manager of the B2B department at Telenet
Faster contact via new platform
Companies that do indicate that they want to invest in digital channels (54%) want advice and support in using social media (18%), building and managing a website (17%), online advertising (16%), general advice about digital tools (15%) and advice on privacy and online security (14%).
Telenet Business wants to help make digital services more accessible to SMEs in Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. It revised its program The Digital Acceleration into a platform where SMEs can come into contact with screened experts in the area of digital enterprise (e-commerce, social media, etc.). Thus, Telenet Business wants to democratise access to the expertise, without taking a margin here, and contribute to the professionalisation of digital enterprise for SMEs.
The Digital Acceleration campaign in Brussels starts today. Digital experts and entrepreneurs from Brussels can now register and find each other on: www.digitaleversnelling.be
Research company Indiville performed the survey online on behalf of Telenet Business involving 512 Belgian independent business managers. The maximum sampling error was 4.33%.