How do VSEs/SMes assess their online presence? How much do they invest? What are the perceived benefits and expectations? The 1st edition of Réussir avec le web portrays the digital maturity of French micro-enterprises and VSEs / SMEs*.
The purpose of the study
In 2014, Afnic undertook to support French companies in developing their online presence. That was a major challenge: at present only 11% of French SMEs use digital tools on a daily basis**. In September 2017, Afnic via its website Réussir avec le Web launched a large-scale study of French micro-enterprises and VSEs/SMes to assess their maturity on the internet and their assimilation of the various factors involved in having an online presence.
“In charge of the management and development of the .fr TLD, Afnic’s task is to support the online presence of French small businesses and SMEs, and so catch up on a factor impacting their sales revenue. Over and above the practical and instructional advice they can find on reussir-en.fr, one year ago we launched an online presence self-assessment tool, to better identify the hindrances and hopes of French companies in that respect“, explains Pierre Bonis, Afnic CEO.
Being present on the Internet has become vital for businesses today
The vast majority of respondents have integrated the need to be on the internet, since 94% of them consider that presence as indispensable or useful for their activity.
The 3 main expectations related to the online presence of the respondents are:
- For 68%, the ability to present their business
- For 49%, the ability to be quickly found
- For 39%, the ability to communicate with customers and prospects.
Note that among SMEs, the ability to communicate with customers and prospects comes in second place with 55%.
32% of the respondents also mention possibility of selling online but it depends to a high degree on the company’s line of business.
“Making yourself known remains the main motivation, to be found quickly, and communicating with customers. However, the benefits of having an online presence, especially in terms of business growth, lie mainly in the development in customer relationships and the ease of contacting company. There are some genuine possibilities for progress in this respect,” adds Pierre Bonis.
Websites and social networks on an equal footing
A web presence for respondents is based on a combination of websites (76%) and social networks (74%),putting them on an equal footing, but varies according to the size of the company. SMEs tend to acquire a website more frequently (86%) and to use third-party sites for SEO purposes (33%).
On the other hand, the presence on social networks does not vary according to the size of the company, any more than the aim to sell online: 25% of the companies indicate they sell products and services via their websites.
The human and financial resources devoted generally remain modest and the return on investment is poorly perceived.
For company managers, the problem often lies in finding a compromise between the financial (or human) resources to be allocated to their online presence and the expected benefits:
- Most respondents – 61% – say they spend less than 300 euros a year
- 22% invest between 300 euros and 1000 euros.
- Only 7% of them spend more than 5,000 euros on their Internet system.
Here again, the size of the company is a major factor. Only 4% of micro-enterprises invest more than 5,000 euros a year against 28% for SMEs.
“The budget for online presence is still low. But although additional investment may be necessary, it is also essential that supply adapts to demand, with simple and inexpensive solutions for VSEs“, comments Pierre Bonis.
Regarding the time spent managing online presence, 61% of respondents say they spend less than one hour a week. 29% work on it for less than one hour a month.
These percentages are respectively 60% and 26% for VSEs and 40% and 22% for SMEs. Here again, the size effect is visible, especially when the company is actively involved each day on the Internet.
“The time spent on online presence is also modest. For an entrepreneur, this time must be directly related to growth in turnover and a better customer relationship,” says Pierre Bonis.
Regarding their turnover, nearly 60% of respondents do not know what share is obtained through the internet or think it contributes only marginally. That proportion is 55% for micro-enterprises and 76% for SMEs.
It may be that SMEs are much less dependent on the internet in realizing their turnover. Only 10% of them say they make more than 30% of their turnover thanks to their online presence. This is not the case for 26% of the companies.
A majority of custom domain names
- 91% of respondents say they have their own domain name.
- Among the TLDs chosen for their websites, .FR (52%) and .COM (40%) are the two undisputed leaders.
- The other extensions – .NET, .ORG, etc. – are more than marginal at 8%.
- ü .FR is the most popular TLD, regardless of the size of the company.
Social networks: Facebook is unbeatable
The platforms most used by companies on social networks are Facebook (90%) and LinkedIn (51%).
Their use, however, depends on size: 90% of micro-enterprises are on Facebook against 83% of SMEs, and 49% of micro-enterprises are on Linkedin against 70% of SMEs.
These contrasts are also found on Twitter (respectively 34% and 64%) and YouTube (20% and 53%). However, Instagram is more widely used by micro-enterprises (35%) than by SMEs (20%)
“Social networks are partners for entrepreneurs, but controlling your presence online depends on controlling your website. That’s why the two approaches are complementary, not conflictual”, says Pierre Bonis.
Conclusion: Support for the digital transformation of companies in France must continue
“This first study, based on the analysis of the answers from 3,250 micro-enterprises, VSEs and SMEs, through a network of partners they trust and who have made them aware of the study, has made us learn some clear lessons, and work harder to help them, and make the .FR TLD the main tool for a simple and effective online presence for the entire French economic fabric,” Pierre Bonis concludes.
* Réussir avec le Web is a study carried out by Afnic, based on a self-assessment tool (https://comment.reussiravecleweb.fr) between September 2017 and August 2018 involving 3,249 companies loated throughout France and working in every business sector.
Afnic is the acronym for Association Française pour le Nommage Internet en Coopération, the French Network Information Centre. The registry has been appointed by the French government to manage domain names under the .fr Top Level Domain. Afnic also manages the .re (Reunion Island), .pm (Saint-Pierre and Miquelon), .tf (French Southern and Antarctic Territories), .wf (Wallis and Futuna) and .yt (Mayotte) French Overseas TLDs.
In addition to managing French TLDs, Afnic’s role is part of a wider public interest mission, which is to contribute on a daily basis, thanks to the efforts of its teams and its members, to a secure and stable internet, open to innovation and in which the French internet community plays a leading role. As part of that mission, Afnic, a non-profit organization, has committed to devoting 11% of its Revenues from managing .fr Top Level Domain to actions of general interest, in particular by transferring €1.3 million each year to the Afnic Foundation for Digital Solidarity.
Afnic is also the back-end registry for the companies as well as local and regional authorities that have chosen to have their own TLD, such as .paris, .bzh, .alsace, .corsica, .mma, .ovh, .leclerc and .sncf.
Established in 1997 and based in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Afnic currently has nearly 90 employees.