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

Awareness and preparation for the Digital Single Market must increase, says Ricoh Europe, as majority of European businesses plan to expand across the continent by 2020

Ricoh Europe, London, 04 November 2015 – 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 Europe. 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.

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. Awareness of the proposals is at its lowest in The Nordics (28 per cent), Belgium/Luxembourg (29 per cent) and Portugal (30 per cent), according to the survey of 1,360 business leaders from across EU states.

    #    Percentage of businesses in each country aware of the EU’s Digital Single Market    #    Percentage of businesses in each country not ready for Digital Single Market
    1.Italy    70%    1.Poland    97%
    -France    70%    2.France    95%
    2.Spain    65%    -Germany    95%
    3.Germany    61%    3.Belgium / Luxembourg    94%
    4.UK    57%    4.UK     92%
    5.Poland    47%    -Spain    92%
    -Austria    47%    -Portugal    92%
    6.Hungary    46%    5.Hungary    91%
    7.The Netherlands
    43%    6.Italy    91%
    8.Portugal    30%    7.The Nordics    90%
    9.Belgium / Luxembourg    29%    8.Austria    88%
    10.The Nordics    28%    9.The Netherlands    86%

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 thrive2. 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. Companies from the Austria, Hungary and The Nordics are the most likely to have plans to expand outside of their own country by 2020.

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.

Perceived benefits to the business Perceived concerns for the business
Increased EU customers    56%Increased competition    42%
Reduced barrier to enter new markets    52%Greater IT requirements    41%
Greater revenue    52%VAT obstacles    36%
Greater profitability    50%Cross border data protection uncertainty    34%
Reduced operating costs    48%Investment required to launch in a new territory    34%
Faster launch of new products/services    47%Prices of products and/or services driven down    32%
More efficient internal processes and systems    44%Lack of clear cross-border e-commerce rules    29%

David Mills, CEO of Ricoh Europe, 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. Whilst nearly two-thirds of businesses in the Nordics believe their countries are digitally strong, this shrinks to a fifth of Polish and Spanish companies, and only 15 per cent of those in France and Italy. According to the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index3.

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

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Ricoh Europe PLC
Jack Gibson
Tel: +44 (0) 203 033 3766
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