Digitalization of very small businesses during the crisis: A first mixed assessment

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For nearly thirty years, Harvest has been working to support its clients, which are banks, insurance companies, as well as independent CGPs by providing them with advice and tools to enable them to digitize their processes. – Pixabay

A study notes an acceleration which was nevertheless perceived as a constraint … For a result which remains weak.
This has been the government’s leitmotif during the past year: the digitalization of small businesses and very small businesses in order to set up new sales channels to offset the effects of confinements. Between aid and support tools, the objective was to accelerate or at least initiate this digitization which is very low in small businesses and traders: less than a third of small structures with a site e-commerce often due to a lack of time and / or resources.

The health crisis has confirmed the need to accelerate the digitization of very small businesses to increase their resilience. Digital technology has enabled certain traders to maintain activity during confinement. This is also a longer-term structural issue for adapt to new modes of consumption and competition from online commerce platforms, ”the government explained at the time.

Can we draw a first assessment? According to a study * from Mastercard, it is still mixed. “The crisis has been, or will be, the vector for accelerating digitization for nearly one in five French VSEs: 15% of VSEs who have at least one piece of equipment or a digital equipment project have thus accelerated their digitization. 5% of VSEs who have a project but have not yet taken steps also declare that they will accelerate in the field “, we can read.

One in 5 bosses sees digitization as a revenue opportunity

These results are nonetheless particularly heterogeneous if we consider the criteria of size and business sector of the company, some of them being significantly more inclined to see their digital projects accelerate since the start of the health crisis. .

This is particularly the case for VSEs in the service sector (19%; +4 points compared to the pre-crisis period), those located in Île-de-France (20%; +5 points) and especially the most large (28% of those employing 6 to 9 employees, or 13 points more than the average) accelerated their digitization during the crisis. Conversely, the smallest VSEs (employing 1 or 2 employees) are only 11% in this case.

A worrying point, this forced digitalization is perceived as a constraint. More than two-thirds of TPE executives surveyed report a low level of enthusiasm for the digitization of their structure. Indeed, if for 29% this represents “rather a motivating opportunity”, 67% see it “rather as a necessary step”, a figure which reaches 72% in the industrial sector.


It is quite damaging to note that only 32% of respondents consider digitization as an opportunity “to increase their notoriety and attract new customers” and 19% as an opportunity to increase turnover. 51% of those questioned even believe that the digitization of their activities is not necessary for their companies …

The other reasons put forward are the feeling of being already sufficiently equipped (32%), the excessive investment that this represents in time (27%), money (27%), or even in training (12%) are also cited.

“These figures highlight the essential issue of education and training which must be our priority for all, public institutions and private actors. The advantages represented by digitization must indeed become understandable, concrete and the adoption of these tools be made easier for very small businesses. “comments Solenne Marque, Director, Product Management at Mastercard.

*: The survey was conducted with a reasoned sample of 400 VSE managers employing between 1 and 9 employees. The representativeness of the sample was ensured by the quota method based on the criteria of company size, sector of activity and region where the company is located. Interviews were conducted by telephone from December 7 to December 22, 2020.

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