eCommerce in France is a quickly growing market. Here’s how to woo French shoppers on your site and on Rakuten France, the region’s largest online marketplace.
In the past 10 years, France’s annual online spend has grown by 186%, making it the third largest European and sixth largest global eCommerce market.
But just because eCommerce in France is popular doesn’t mean it’s easy. You’ll have to make sure you’re meeting – and exceeding – French expectations.
WHAT DO THE FRENCH WANT?
- VALUE AND PRICE
Image is important in France. While the French don’t like to be seen bargain hunting, they still do it. Shoppers expect special offers, discounts and flash sales, so you’ll need to be competitive to do well.
But price isn’t everything. The French would actually prefer to spend more money on fewer (but high-quality) items than to buy more for less. And 71% of French customers shop based on their brand loyalties, making France the third most brand loyal country in the world.
This doesn’t just apply to French companies. 45% of French shoppers are also interested in buying from international brands.
- EXCELLENT WEBSITE EXPERIENCE
So although you don’t want to price yourself out of the market, the key to winning repeat business is not cutting prices, but rather creating a great online customer experience.
This starts with localizing high-value product and informational pages for the French market. While that may include translation or copywriting, you’ll also want to provide localized sizes/measurements and display pricing correctly. Storytelling is also great for capturing the imagination of French shoppers. Try including a ‘made in’ section on your product descriptions to reveal the story behind the product.
The majority of French online shoppers prefer to pay via credit card. Carte-Bleu is a particularly popular choice, as it can be used as both a debit and credit card, and Visa is a popular option as well. France is also the third largest European market for PayPal, with eight million accounts. So be sure to offer a range of payment options.
Customer service doesn’t stop at point of purchase, so be sure to localize your post-sales support and communicate with customers in French to create a lasting positive impression and build loyalty.
- FLEXIBLE DELIVERY
Although La Poste – the French version of FedEx – is pretty much the only courier for eCommerce in France, the French still like to choose from a range of delivery options, such as subscriptions or free delivery. Having the option to pick up deliveries directly from local stores is almost as popular as home delivery.
You should also provide as much delivery information as possible. This includes allowing customers to track their order, in French, and potentially even providing an estimated delivery time frame.
Consider offering free returns to give French customers the final reassurance they need to proceed with their order. This shouldn’t cost you too much since returns are rare, dropping as low 6% in some categories.
- MOBILE AND SOCIAL COMMERCE
M-commerce is hugely popular in France. The m-commerce market grew by 38% in 2017 and 94% of French retailers have a mobile site. This means if you want your French eCommerce strategy to succeed, you need to be mobile-ready.
This is particularly important for younger audiences. French 18–24-year-olds are 30% more likely to use m-commerce than the 55+ demographic. And 45% of 18–35-year-olds would like to buy directly on social media platforms.
The desire for social commerce has caught brands off guard. Only 4 out of 10 American and European brands said they were in a position to offer social commerce. Therefore, having this capability could not only help get you ahead in France, but also strengthen your global position in this space.
Marketplaces are an increasingly essential channel for success when it comes to eCommerce in France.
- La Redoute: a clothing and homeware site.
- Cdiscount: a discount store selling electronics, furniture, appliances, technology and more.
- Vente-Privee: the most popular m-commerce site in France and one of only three French unicorns (privately held startups valued at over $1 billion). This company pioneered the idea of online flash sales.
But perhaps one of the most noteworthy sites for eCommerce in France is PriceMinister. It was created in 2000 by Frenchman Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet. Rakuten bought it in 2010 before rebranding it as Rakuten France in 2018.
Rakuten is originally a Japanese eCommerce brand. However, a third of French internet users visit the site monthly, so it’s worth considering how to leverage this site for the French market.
HOW TO SUCCEED ON RAKUTEN ECOMMERCE IN FRANCE
You’ll need to pay a monthly fee, as well as commission, to sell on Rakuten France. You’ll also have to ship to France and manage your returns in Europe. And lastly, there are some bureaucratic restrictions: you must have a French bank account and adhere to sales tax requirements.
But jumping through these hoops is worth it. Each seller page on Rakuten is individually customizable, so you can retain control of your brand identity. The site also guarantees payments for every sale, even if the buyer doesn’t pay.
Plus, although brands like Zara, Sony and Levi’s are already on Rakuten France, there’s significantly less competition than on sites like Amazon or eBay. This makes it a very appealing prospect for brands looking to break into eCommerce in France.
So how can you use the site to improve your customer experience?
Rakuten’s Super Points loyalty program launched in 2016 and rewards customers for spending on the site. In just over 18 months, it has paid out 10 million euros, giving customers a huge incentive to join.
Integrating Super Points into your campaigns allows you to take advantage of customers’ enthusiasm for this loyalty program and will help attract customers to your page.
By optimizing your page on the site, you can also feature in the Buy Box, appearing above competitors selling a similar product. Besides helping your brand to stand out, customers can add items in this box directly to their basket, making it a proven means of upselling and cross-selling.
eCommerce in France offers significant opportunity for international brands. But to succeed in the long term, you’ll need to localize your strategy to account for local buying behavior and preferences.