Tuesday, 1 December 2015

92% of European businesses admit they aren’t ready for the Digital Single Market

The overwhelming majority of businesses across Europe (92 per cent) admit they are not ready for the introduction of the EU Digital Single Market, according to new research commissioned by Ricoh. The Digital Single Market is set to be the most game-changing European regulation this decade, yet millions of businesses currently stand to miss out on its benefits and let an estimated €415bn contribution to the European economy pass them by1.

The survey was conducted by Coleman Parkes Research on behalf of Ricoh Europe, with 1,360 business decision makers interviewed from 16 EU countries, including Ireland.

Only half of businesses (51 per cent) have heard of the EU’s proposed Digital Single Market, which is due to come into force at the end of 2016 and will standardise Europe’s online marketplace so that the same content, products and services are available at the same prices anywhere in the EU.

The low levels of awareness and preparation are particularly worrying given that only seven per cent of EU SMEs currently sell across borders; a figure which needs to be increased if the European economy is to thrive 2. Most European businesses (65 per cent) say they intend to expand to other countries in the continent over the next five years, but unless they embrace the Digital Single Market these ambitious growth plans are unlikely to be realised.

Most respondents thought that there would be several benefits from a digital single market, in particular, an increase in the number of customers from the EU (chosen by 56 per cent of respondents), the opportunity to access new European markets (chosen by 52 per cent), as well as increased internal efficiency in their own business (44 per cent).

However, 24 per cent of companies surveyed don’t believe there will be any benefits resulting from a digital single market, and many have concerns about its impact on their business. 40 per cent of businesses claim they are not ready for the increased competition a digital single market will introduce, while 37 per cent are afraid of its cost implications, and 34 per cent believe they lack the resources to capitalise on the opportunity. A third also believes there will only be more regulation for the sake of it.

Gary Hopwood, general manager, Ricoh Ireland, said: “So far, business leaders are failing to grasp the enormous impact the impending Digital Single Market will have upon their company. It’s a genuine concern that many bosses appear to feel no immediate pressure to prepare their organisations for Europe’s shift towards an increasingly digitally-based economy.”

One reason for companies’ lack of excitement about the Digital Single Market might be their concerns about their own countries’ digital strength. Only nine per cent of European business leaders say their own country is “very strong” at digital technology, skills and infrastructure.

Hopwood continues: “By starting to streamline, digitise and standardise their processes now, forward-thinking businesses will be in good stead to develop a distinct competitive advantage. This is a necessary step if we are going to create home-grown digital giants – both here in Ireland and across Europe - that can compete on the global stage traditionally dominated by American, and increasingly Chinese, companies.”