Is there a risk of technological, economic and financial dependence of service companies on digital platforms? What is the impact of this link in terms of market shares and work organization? These are the questions he starts with Inapp Digital Platform survey (National Institute for Public Policy Analysis), a Mexican research conducted in 2022 on a sample of about 40,000 companies, representing approximately 300,000 (298,991) operating in the catering, tourism and land transportation sectors. A survey of companies with fewer than three employees that offers many insights for analysis and reflection for the operators involved and for those called upon to control a phenomenon that – already before the pandemic, and to a more persistent extent during and after – has significantly changed the characteristics of vital sectors of the economy. Let’s try to analyze these insights, and collect the most telling data that has emerged from the impressive research.
point by point:
1.Tourism, catering and road transport companies using digital platforms in Italy to sell their products and services They are 58,092, which equals 19.4%..
2.The sector that uses digital platforms more than any other is tourism, by 42.1% of companies (38,615). The penetration is particularly noticeable among landlords/bed and breakfasts (76.9%) and hoteliers (74.6%).
3. In the catering sector, the report indicates that “the prevalence of use of platforms is more homogeneous: the largest sector in absolute terms is that represented by more than 13,000 merchants (12.9%) who carry out catering activities with management. On the other hand, the use of digital platforms is very minimal in The transport sector, where the widest prevalence (4%) is recorded in passenger land transport activities not elsewhere classified (rental with driver)”.
4.If a quarter of companies – 24% – had contractually attached themselves to a platform before 2014, the majority – 57.4% – did so in the following five years. But in the pandemic period alone, 2020-22, “there are as many as 18.5% of companies that have entered into a contract for the sale of their products and services with the platforms.” The impact has been particularly strong in the catering space, where 44.7% of businesses have begun to turn to platforms to fulfill takeaway orders (27.8% in 2020 alone). The researchers point out that resorting to platforms “may make it necessary to make specific investments, in IT equipment, specialized software, channel management services, or in advertising: a circumstance declared by 25.9% of companies (a share of up to 30, 2)% among tourism institutions).
5. It is the data on turnover that most clearly highlights the symbiotic bond established in many realities: “In the biennium 2020-2021, the volume of trading mediated by digital platforms represents nearly a fifth of the revenues of catering and transportation and about half of the turnover in the tourism sector.” A bond that is reflected in the size of the reward achieved by the champions of the digital economy at this crucial juncture.
6. Commissions charged by brokerage platforms are, in fact, an average of 16.5% of the volume traded through a broker in 2020 and 16.7% of that in 2021, “at a higher average cost in catering.”
7. Most companies (88%) declare that they pay commission to platforms as a percentage of turnoverwhile for others the commission is fixed (fixed).
8. But what is the cost of these commissions? The data in the report is really indicative: Among companies that pay as a percentage, 16.8% state that they pay up to 10% of sales volume through an intermediary, 34.4% between 10 and 15%, 33.8% between 15 and 20%, while 15% declared that they pay a commission higher than 20%. In particular, in catering “the percentage of companies that pay commissions above 20% is 35.7%, while the lowest commissions are found in transportation.”
9. Then there’s the issue of collection: in 46.8% of cases, a company relies on the platforms to collect customer payments, while an almost identical ratio, 46.1, can reach customers directly. Reliance is particularly strong in the catering business, where more than two out of three companies – 68.2% of the total – are forced by contractual rules to route receipts through digital platforms.
10. One problem is that platforms hold their money for too long. In fact, delays in collection times, as the report asserts, “represent a significant financial cost and risk factor in the case of payments going through the platform. Deferral conditions for the transfer of collection from the platform to the company are generally present in about 81% of cases where payment is envisaged via the platform ». And again: “The least advantageous terms are applied most frequently in the catering sector where in 92.4% of cases receipts are deferred over time.”
11. The fact that the report tends to favor platforms is evidenced by the fact that in 70.3% of cases they are the ones who impose unilateral clauses.The market power of the platforms is particularly unbalanced at the expense of tour operators and restaurants who declare, respectively in 73.6% and 64.5% of cases, that items are ‘unilaterally created by the platform’.
12. Another indicator of the risk of dependency is provided by the data of the “Survey of Commercial Rating Systems, which has potential reputational risks resulting from the commercial relationship established with digital platforms. In fact, 36.4% of companies declared that they had received “negative reviews related to offered products/services,” overall, at least once. And at this point, nearly a third of operators prefer not to answer.
13. Finally, there is the matter of customer data: 34.3% of companies have access to it from all platforms used (“With shares above average in transportation and tourism and below average in catering”), only 14% of some platforms, 18.4% (24.6% in catering) without a platform and more than a third would prefer not to answer. “The risk of losing customer information, which can result from using the Platforms as business partners to sell products and services, is generally very limited. However, nearly a fifth of companies state that they do not have access to customer information and more than a third prefer not to respond.”
In conclusion, here are the research answers to the initial questions: If digital platforms offer significant opportunities for companies in the search for new market shares, new marketing and organizational strategies, the survey warns of Risk factors that can stem from a company’s technological and financial dependence on the platform, as a sales channel, and from an imbalance of power in the market“,” and « highlights some indicators of power structures and how some characteristics related to the use of digital technologies and knowledge, their organization and distribution in the market, are factors capable of influencing (along with organizational heterogeneity) the product dynamics, the market share and the potential impact on the workforce ».
On the one hand policy adviceAny suggestions to regulators, the report states that by providing “a reliable and statistically significant estimate of the market share mediated by digital platforms in Italy and the cost of related mediation”, it provides an excellent basis “to support an estimate of the tax base of this part of the economy on which to base Comparing the expected tax revenues from digital platforms in those sectors, with the actual legal entities that fall within the perimeter of the Italian tax system. Finally, it is proposed to follow the planning of the latest European standards and focus on «people working in digital platforms, rather than companies that use, because there, if the European directive is applied, at least in part there should be a broader phenomenon out of irregular work». Digital platforms are revolutionizing the economy in such a rapid and impressive way that the debate on how to regulate them is constantly evolving, and is constantly necessary: from this point of view, the Inapp survey provides invaluable benchmarks.
This article was published in the Corriere della Sera «Il Punto» newsletter.
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