Global Ecommerce: France

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Nearly 70m consumers in France can be served through a modern delivery infrastructure, high Internet penetration and growing mobile services. These factors, combined with consumers attuned to buying both chic brands and value bargains, make France an ideal venue for retailers to expand via ecommerce.

The French ecommerce market place is 3rd in the EU and 6th in the world (50b Euro in 2013). Internet penetration reaches 52m people, almost 80% of the population. Perhaps more importantly for ecommerce there are currently over 32m buyers online–but at 62% there’s plenty of room for future growth. Of those buying online, total annual purchases have nearly doubled from 900m to 1,400m Euro from 2008 to 2012 (about 14% per year), with a current average transaction size of 87 Euro per purchase.

Key Trends

Confident shoppers. France as a country is highly confident in online shopping and trust paying online with credit cards which represented nearly 80% of online payments in 2011. PayPal and physical cheques are also used frequently by online shoppers.

Growing and global. Online retailers have grown from 47,300 in 2008 to 117,500 in 2012 with a 17% increase between 2011 and 2012 alone. On a more global view, 56% of French retailers have an international presence and 14% plan to go global or increase their cross border ecommerce focus within the next year.

Demographics are trรจs bon. Demographics potentially explain the source growth more specifically: 87% of young people aged 25 to 34 have shopped online. This measure gets even better for women (aged 20 to 60) with an astounding 97% who have shopped online.

Bigger annual basket size. Total purchasing per person has nearly doubled–from 900โ‚ฌ in 2008 to 1,400โ‚ฌ in 2012, even while average purchase sizes have decreased somewhat. Total purchasing size should top 70b Euro in 2015.

Opportunities and Challenges

Returns. The average percentage of items returned (10%) is exceptionally low in France compared to other countries and especially key EU rivals with returns averaging 25% and 40% in the UK and Germany, respectively.

Delivery. Home delivery is a critical factor in French ecommerce with 82% of online buyers requesting this type of delivery method.

Payment methods and providers. The preferred French payment method is credit card, more than 80% of online users paying with this type of payment system. Over 90% of bankcard purchases for French retailers are handled by four providers: Worldline, Paybox Services, Monext Payline and Ogone.

Marketing. Marketing possibilities are somewhat simplified thanks to regulation: online databases are compiled on an opt-out basis compared to some other EU countries where the opt-in principle is the rule.

Categories. French online customers have much more trust in a domestic website when it comes to travel and tend to rely on foreign websites when buying technical products. Other categories such as apparel and footwear are less differentiated, with a 48% market share for cross-border websites.

Mobile France

Increasingly, France’s consumers are multi-device users, and as in every global economy the more users are connected the greater their propensity to buy online.

Smartphone penetration, for example, does drive changes in consumer habits, and by many measures France still lags years behind market leaders such as the UK and Germany in this area. But the lag is also observed from the retailer side with relatively fewer French retailers currently offering omnichannel buying solutions. Look for that to change in the near future.

By 2017 there will be 27.7m tablet users in France representing over 41% of the population and 62% of the Internet users.

When purchasing any kind of product, the average French user more often goes through a mobile app or responsively designed site (57%) instead of a classic search engine lookup.

Interestingly, French customers in France have the lowest percentage (2%) of users buying through mobile devices compared to similar markets.

The French Crystal Ball

The declining rate of growth in ecommerce (13% in 2013 down from 20% growth in both 2011 and 2012) is a typical sign of a maturing market, but there is plenty of growth yet to be realized in France. Aspects of a mature economy are essential for global ecommerce in the sense that customers are already educated to the technology-and tend to purchase more products, more complex products and at higher purchasing sizes. (This is evidenced by many things including the rapid adoption of the one-click payment option in France.)

Globally, French remains a powerful language with great reach that can drive global ecommerce and gives retailers additional leverage to more quickly and easily penetrate other locations of likely future promise online: the 360m consumers of Francophone Africa.

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