SMEs don’t use Internet enough

Dutch small and medium enterprises are doing well Internet-wise: 95% have access to Internet, while the European average lies a little below (90%). However, things could be better, because companies use the web mainly to search for information and to e-mail, while the Internet has much more to offer.

Indeed, while most companies do conduct e-business (by using digital interaction technologies to run their company activities), e-commerce (buying and selling goods and services via Internet) remains in the background. Barely half of the companies that conduct e-commerce didn’t even manage to make 10 % of their turnover with sales via Internet.

What could stimulate e-commerce then? The answer is e-marketing: publicizing products and services online, sending mailings to support products and promotions, etc. By using e-marketing, companies can not only boost their sales, but also improve the consumers’ utilisation and buying experience.
Good will isn’t the issue with SMEs: almost 50% of the companies say that they are renewing their products, services or business processes in order to provide some space to e-marketing within their business management. But it is mainly in smaller companies that the lack of technical know-how is the bottleneck that hinders a more intensive integration of Internet in business processes. To be able to enter the digital era, they must acquire the necessary knowledge via further training. Besides, customers are banging on this market’s doors: an increasing number of consumers are seduced by distance selling; in 2006, distance sales have increased by nearly 19% and 76.5% of buyers concerned by such sales said that they preferred to buy through Internet. In 2007, this percentage even increased with 27% and 83.3% of buyers indicated their preference for Internet.