Market Spotlight: France

French consumers love shopping online, particularly on cross-border e-commerce sites. Learn how to woo them in this report.

Reagan Evans's avatar
Reagan Evans

July 29, 2016


France is a market ripe for online engagement by expanding companies. With more than 35 million active online shoppers (representing over half of the country’s population), France is currently the third-largest e-commerce market in Europe. Internet penetration is high at 86%, and Internet use has grown by 25% since 2010.

E-commerce growth remains on the rise: the e-commerce market totaled more than $42 billion last year. It’ll reach $53 billion in two years. French consumers spend about €1,600, or around $1,790, each year online.

For newcomers who may not know, France has a large and affluent consumer base. Its residents love European brands specifically and quality goods in general, so cross-border e-retail thrives here. They most often buy from German, UK, Canadian and American e-commerce sites.

Nearly 70% of the adult population owns a smartphone, so m-commerce is quite common. Infrastructure is robust; order fulfillment is predictable and affordable.

However, there’s plenty of competition hailing from within this market, which means companies must bring their “A game” as they expand to France. Nearly 140,000 French companies already have their own e-commerce sites, which may cover consumers’ needs.

According to an Ecommerce Foundation report, French consumers may also be reluctant to shop cross-border because they fear a substandard customer service experience, and hassles with product returns.

Smartly Serve French Customers

In fact, the French expect excellent service—and that starts with being served in their preferred language. “The French language is key” for e-commerce sites in this market, the report says. “A website in a foreign language or badly translated into French has little chance of succeeding.” This jibes with our experience. Time and again, we’ve evangelized the importance of translation, and providing culturally-relevant websites for global markets. And we’re not the only ones beating this drum; this strategy just makes good business sense, writes one fintech blog. “Consumers respond well to being addressed in their own language and will value your company higher when you put in the effort to do so,” it writes. Hire “translators and proofreaders to make sure that your content is the best it can be,” it adds.

But back to France’s high expectations for customer service. Companies with existing great customer service policies and flexible shipping and product-return solutions should have little difficulty wooing French consumers, the Ecommerce Foundation report says. But when their expectations aren’t met, they’ll happily split and buy from the competition.

More tips from the report:

  • Keep French consumers in the loop regarding the expected delivery dates for their purchases
  • Be transparent about any additional shipping or VAT costs
  • French consumers like to choose the date of their product deliveries
  • They also want to know where their products are, post-shipping. Provide them with tools or e-mail updates to help them track their packages
  • Free shipping is catnip to French e-shoppers; it’s more valuable to them than fast deliveries

What cross-border e-retail products fare well in France? Our research suggests fashion, accessories, shoes, entertainment and home & garden. Digital services, such as those found in the travel industry, are huge, too.

Preferred Payment Types

Talking the proverbial talk is important for commerce—but so is the ability to easily transact with French customers.

According to our research and internal data, at least 80% of French consumers use debit and credit cards for their online purchases. French consumers overwhelmingly appear to prefer Visa (Carte Bleu) over MasterCard, though the average order value for all payment methods—credit card or otherwise—was approximately the same: at least €69.80. MasterCard delivered slightly higher-value orders, averaging at €70.24.

Despite the pervasive use of credit cards in this market, we recommend accommodating other locally-preferred payment platforms, to maximize conversion rates. According to global payments news site The Paypers, France’s other locally-preferred digital payment methods include:

  • Allopass, a pay-via-phone and pay-per-SMS payment method
  • CM-CIC Paiement, an online payment service for international e-commerce sites
  • Hipay, an e-wallet platform
  • PayPal
  • Paysafecard, a European payment processing provider

Supporting such local payment methods ushers in untapped incremental revenue. Last year, we helped an apparel accessories retailer by optimizing the conversion rate of its localized French website. While locally-preferred payment platforms were supported on the translated site, customers were given no indication of this until late in the conversion funnel.

MotionPoint recommended displaying all payment methods available—including the local ones—in page footers and on individual product pages. Post-implementation, conversion rates grew by nearly 140%.

Consumers were clearly visiting the French site, but had been hesitant to buy, since they didn’t see that their preferred payment methods were available.

French Cross-Border Success Stories

Based on the first-hand experiences of our clients in France, it’s an expansion-worthy online market. We recently ranked it as #3 in our Trendbook e-book series’ Top 30 hottest global online markets. Here are two success stories from e-retail companies serving French consumers via MotionPoint-operated localized sites:

Fashion Accessories Retailer

This company debuted its French-language website in September 2013. A year later, France-based sessions had grown by 480%, conversions were up 130%, transactions had surged 1,250% and revenue had increased by 830%.

Growth remains robust, thanks in part to MotionPoint’s engagement-boosting technologies. This year, the French site saw similar year-over-year growth rates as in years past. Visits were up 15% over 2015. Revenue grew by 16%. Transactions grew by 17%.

Footwear and Accessories Retailer

We helped this UK-based company launch a French-language site in February 2014. Before its French-market online debut, the company sold its products exclusively in French department stores.

In the first year of the French site’s operation, France-based sessions grew by over 100%, revenue rose by 90% and transactions increased by nearly 125%. Since 2015, it’s seen a nearly 30% increase in visits, nearly 30% boost in revenue and nearly 35% lift in transactions.

The site’s growth is expected to continue, thanks to recent MotionPoint technologies including conversation rate optimization and localized A/B testing, as well as technical and marketing consulting.

Finally, one of MotionPoint’s latest additions to the French market has seen similar growth. Year over year, this retailer’s French site’s visits grew by nearly 55%, its revenue increase by nearly 40%, and its transactions rise by over 35%.

The takeaway: Armed with the right plan and globalization solutions partner, companies can smartly serve French consumers online—and win big along the way. Contact us to see if MotionPoint can help you enter the French online market easily, quickly and affordably.

Last updated on July 29, 2016
Reagan Evans's avatar

About Reagan Evans

Reagan Evans is MotionPoint’s SVP of Sales. He has a strong background in sales and data management and has nearly 10 years of executive level experience in the field. He uses his expertise in global sales, new business development, sales production, and data organization to drive MotionPoint's market expansion and new client acquisition. Evans leverages MotionPoint’s industry-leading technology to drive sales and ensure higher customer satisfaction.

Reagan Evans's avatar
Reagan Evans

SVP, Head of Sales


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