Paris, 23 May 2016

While the majority of leaders of very small businesses perceive the deployment of digital technology as a must and a large number of them see it as an opportunity, many of them still need support in this process. In a new study from the CNP Assurances observatory of VSBs/SMEs called "Digital technology, opportunity or threat for VSBs?", CNP Assurances and CSA identify the hurdles that still must be overcome to help them go further and take full advantage of this digital wave.
After the "Portrait of leaders of French VSBs", a study undertaken in 2015 with the CGPME which highlighted the optimism of leaders of VSBs concerning their company's business, this second building block of the CNP  Assurances observatory of VSBs/SMEs gives an overview of the presence of digital technology in VSBs and the perception their leaders have of this technology. While economic concerns remain the priority, this second study nevertheless shows that 76% of the leaders of VSBs see digital technology as an opportunity rather than a threat for their company.
The advantages they most immediately perceive for their company in terms of deployment of digital technology are, first, protection and security for their data (73% of them) and, second, development of their business by enabling them to attract new clients (68%) and by increasing the company's visibility (74% all in all).

•    Digital technology: A must for 70% of French leaders of VSBs

While leaders of VSBs perceive digital technology as an opportunity, they primarily see it as a must.
VSBs have invested in computer equipment that enables them to be connected: 73% have at least one smartphone and 41% have a tablet. 44% of them are present via their company on social networks, mainly on Facebook, more rarely on LinkedIn, and a smaller percentage use Instagram and Pinterest.
They use social networks primarily to present their company, particularly its products and services, and to communicate about their business. While 61% of them have a dedicated corporate website, very few VSBs have created a commercial website.

•    A significant need for support

However, a majority of leaders of VSBs see themselves as insufficiently equipped in terms of digital technology and many of them (70%) admit that deploying such technology is hampered by lack of time. This is one of the reasons why 52% of them use external service providers for support.
Lastly, leaders of VSBs need to be reassured about the risk of theft or loss of their data, which they identify as the main threat digital technology may result in (63%).
The risk of a bad e-reputation is also clearly identified by 53% of leaders of VSBs, even though only half of them declare that they look at what is said about their company on the internet.

•    From the "uninvolved" to the "active and knowledgeable": Three attitudes to digital technology

The study identifies three major attitudes adopted by leaders of VSBs regarding digital technology: the "uninvolved" (20%), the "willing novices", the largest group (42%), and the "active and knowledgeable" (38%).
- The "uninvolved" are mainly leaders of older VSBs (more than 10 years old) whose business had rather declined over the last two years (40% of them), which could explain why their concerns are more of an economic nature (43% indicate that their main concern is reducing costs). This is a category of less tech-savvy leaders, who feel less concerned by digital technology and who do not perceive the opportunities or the threats of such technology: 71% consider a changeover to digital technology to develop their business as pointless. Compared with all VSBs observed by the study, they are overrepresented in the construction sector (26%). These leaders' level of education is predominantly a high school diploma or lower.
- The category of "willing novices" covers VSBs whose business has rather stagnated over the last two years, with a noteworthy percentage of young leaders (15% of the leaders of these companies are aged 18 to 34). These leaders are aware of the opportunities offered by digital technology, which they see as crucial to protect the company's data or develop their business. They are nevertheless aware of the risks digital technology may result in, as for example the development of a bad e-reputation (30%), and do not feel sufficiently equipped to be competitive. As they do not have a complete grasp of the tools and their use, 66% of them declare that they prefer using qualified individuals to manage the deployment of digital technology.
- Lastly, the "active and knowledgeable" have already integrated digital technology and have derived benefits from them: these are leaders of VSBs whose business has rather grown over the last two years. Many (31%) of the leaders of these VSBs, mainly men, have four or five years of university education and see digital development as a top concern. More than 9 out of 10 of these tech-savvy leaders are convinced that digital technology is both an opportunity internally (for data protection, improvement in working conditions and cost reduction) or externally (to develop the business and to increase their company's visibility). Also, a vast majority of them feel well equipped in terms of digital technology to be competitive and 96% of them state that digital technology has been beneficial.

Methodology of the study:

Undertaken by CSA (Consumer Science & Analytics), the CNP Assurances study called "Digital technology, opportunity or threat for VSBs?" was undertaken from 25 February 2016 to 7 March 2016, with a representative sample of 404 leaders of VSBs with 1 to 9 employees. Following the survey carried out by telephone, the data were restated according to the INSEE structure.
This is the second building block of the CNP Assurances observatory of VSBs/SMEs, which in 2015 published a study with CGPME called "Portrait of leaders of French VSBs".