The European E-invoicing Service Providers Association has just revealed its findings of a member survey that shows growth of 29% in processed e-invoices for 2016 over 2015, with more than 1.6 billion electronic invoices delivered.

The EESPA is a trade association at European level for a community of e-invoicing service providers, normally organisations that provide network, business outsourcing, financial, technology and EDI services. Members include providers we refer to frequently, such as Basware, Tradeshift, Tungsten, OpusCapita, Taulia and CloudBuy, to name a few. They are all part of a Europe-wide initiative to frame and support public policy and compliance issues, the creation of an interoperable eco-system and basically to promote widespread adoption of e-invoicing for economic efficiency and growth. 

The EESPA has now conducted 4 annual surveys, and its most recent data was collected and aggregated in June 2017. Individual members provide details based on actual transaction volumes and average spend for the calendar year 2016.  Results show a 29% rise over last year and that “the majority of invoices processed were B2B or B2G (Business-to-Business or Business-to-Government) invoices (1035 million invoices in total in 2016), although the EESPA membership also has a significant involvement in the delivery of B2C (Business-to-Consumer) invoices (580 million invoices in total in 2016).”

The trend in e-invoicing use is an upward one, in fact numbers have risen quite rapidly. We can see that for B2B and B2G e-invoices delivered directly to customers, numbers rose from 495,670,263 in 2014 to 837,051,732 in 2016 – an increase of 34.5%. And that for indirect e-invoices, those delivered to other service providers destined for their customers, the numbers are 125,623,446 for 2014 up to 197,543,933 in 2016 — an increase of 36.5%.

It’s obviously going in the right direction, but mostly the data is a good measure by which European authorities can track the success of their policy initiatives in e-invoicing. And, this is an indication of the direction that digital transformation (as set out in the EU Digital Agenda) is taking: “Given we stand on the threshold of the move to e-invoicing by EU public administrations based on the provisions of Directive 2014/55/EU, the future should bring accelerating volumes based on the critical mass that is already evident in these numbers.”

The value of the reported invoices processed is EUR 9 477 billion in 2016, and that’s just among signed-up members. One wonders what the total value would be if we could measure the same for every provider in Europe. With such sums, you really can start to get a picture of just how much the growth of this market could influence the European economy, if uptake were more widespread, and each business had this level of efficiency. 

We did a little bit of research and discovered on e-Invoicing Basics that aside from the well known benefits of efficiency, time and resource savings, compliance and cash flow management that automation can bring, it is estimated that the cost of processing each paper invoice is 30 euros, compared with 5 euros for an electronic one – it’s a substantial difference (without taking into account the amounts lost – especially to small businesses – to invoice fraud). It didn’t say though how much financial and time outlay there is to integrate the required software and get stakeholder buy-in, or roughly how long it takes to recoup that. That’s something we guess each firm must work out, and there are plenty of providers out there who can advise – just see the membership lists on the EESPA website. It did say, however, that “it is estimated that over 200bn euros can be saved from e-Invoicing throughout Europe alone.”

The EU will be making electronic invoicing the dominant format in Europe by 2020. So I guess we’ll see how that stacks up.  

You can read the EESPA survey findings here.

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