Digital transformation: French SMEs lag behind

According to a study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Medef published on the eve of the VivaTech trade show, French SMEs are still lagging behind in their digital transformation, which has however been considerably accelerated by the health crisis.

SMEs do not benefit enough from digital transformation

While French SMEs have been equipping themselves with new digital tools since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to cope with the transformation in usage, they have not yet fully grasped the new opportunities available to them.

As a result, few companies are yet taking advantage of customer data to target their product and service offerings. Of the 173 companies surveyed by BCG and Medef, 50% of which are SMEs, only half are truly engaged in a digital transformation process.

On the other hand, large groups are determined to take advantage of digital transformation: 53% of them are planning a 10% increase in the budget earmarked for this purpose, and 49% would like to see greater digitization of their operations.

Little-known assistance and a shortage of talent

At the same time, 51% of companies surveyed, including a majority of VSEs and SMEs, are not even thinking of implementing a data enhancement project. In so-called traditional business sectors, such as hospitality, transport or agriculture, this figure rises to 57%.

Only 26% of the companies concerned have taken advantage of the health crisis to offer an e-commerce solution, and 61% have not recently recruited any digital specialists.

While a lack of budget may explain this delay, as digital transformation has a definite cost, there are specific aids available. These include the innovation tax credit, which has been extended until the end of 2024. Its rate varies from 20% to 40%, depending on the region (metropolitan France or overseas departments), and applies to innovation expenditure not exceeding 400,000 euros.

However, VSEs and SMEs are unaware of the various forms of public support available, and while 42% of companies surveyed expressed a need for financing, only 20% of SMEs were able to benefit from the digital support offered under the stimulus plan.

What's more, according to Pascale Dumas, co-chair of Medef's Digital Change and Societal Impact Commission, there are 200,000 jobs to be filled in the digital sector, and 300,000 in 5 years' time. There is therefore an urgent need to absorb the shortage by implementing training and retraining plans.

BCG x MEDEF study on the impact of the health crisis on France's digital maturity.