E-commerce in France is a growing market. Here’s how to woo French shoppers on your site and on Rakuten France – the region’s largest online marketplace.
The French love to shop, but they love to shop online even more.
In the past 10 years, France’s annual online basket spend has grown by 186% – making it the third largest European and sixth largest global e-commerce market.
But just because e-commerce 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?
1. VALUE OR PRICE?
Image is important in France. The French don’t like to be seen bargain hunting, but they still do it. Shoppers expect special offers, discounts and flash sales, so you’ll need to be competitive to do well.
Price isn’t everything though. The French would actually prefer to spend a lot on fewer, high quality items than 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.
So although you don’t want to price yourself out of the market, the key to winning repeat business is not price, but creating a great online customer experience.
You’ll need to translate everything into French, of course. But you’ll also have to provide localized sizes and pricing (follow our advice here to display prices correctly). Storytelling is 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.
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.
2. PAYMENTS AND POSTAGE
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. France is also the third largest European market for PayPal, with eight million accounts, and Visa is popular too. So be sure to offer a range of payment options.
Although La Poste – the French version of the Royal Mail – is pretty much the only courier for e-commerce in France, the French still like to choose from a range of delivery options like subscriptions or free delivery. And picking up deliveries from local stores is nearly as popular as home delivery.
You should also provide as much delivery information as possible. This includes allowing customers to track their order and potentially even providing an estimated delivery timeslot. Consider offering free returns, too. You’ll give the final reassurance French customers need to proceed with their order. And it shouldn’t cost you too much – returns are rare, dropping as low 6% in some categories.
3. MAKING THE MOST OF MOBILE
M-commerce is hugely popular in France. The market grew by 38% in 2017 and 94% of French retailers have a mobile site. This means if you want your e-commerce in France to succeed, you need to be mobile-ready.
It’s particularly popular 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 take things further and buy directly on social media.
But this desire for social commerce has caught brands unaware. Only four out of 10 American and European brands said they were in a position to offer social commerce. Developing this capability could therefore not only put you ahead in France, but also strengthen your global position.
Marketplaces are an increasingly essential strategy for success when it comes to e-commerce in France.
Of course, sites like Amazon and eBay are popular. But there are also some French-specific websites to be aware of. These include:
- 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 (not mythical creatures – 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 e-commerce 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 brand and we’ve already covered some of its key features in our blog post on Japanese e-commerce. But as a third of French internet users visit the site monthly, it’s worth considering how to make the most of this site for the French market.
HOW TO SUCCEED ON RAKUTEN 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 control 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 the site, there’s significantly less competition than on other sites like Amazon or eBay. Which makes it a very appealing prospect for brands looking to break into e-commerce in France.
How can you use the site to improve your customer experience?
Rakuten’s Super Points loyalty programme launched in 2016, which rewards customers for spending on the site. In just over 18 months, it’s paid out 10 million euros, which is clearly a big draw for customers.
Integrating Super Points into your campaigns allows you to take advantage of customers’ enthusiasm for this scheme and will attract customers to your page. Rakuten also uses Super Points in events like the Shopping Marathon to encourage sales.
By optimizing your page on the site, you can also feature in the Buy Box, appearing above competitors selling a similar product. As well as helping your brand to stand out, customers can add items in this box directly to their basket, making it a proven means of up-selling and cross-selling.
E-commerce in France is full of opportunity for international brands. But to succeed long-term, you’ll need to localize your post-sales support and product descriptions.
Want to find out more? Check out how we localize product descriptions into French for Herman Miller’s EMEA team, then get in touch.