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The French consumer in focus

The France 2021: Country Report offers a sophisticated analysis of the modern French multichannel and ecommerce landscape.

From digital maturity, to vaccination rates we share everything you need to know about this advanced European market, whether you are an established French retailer or looking to sell overseas.

Digital Editor, Scarlette Isaac, looks closely at consumer behaviour in France.

E-shoppers under the spotlight

Habits of French consumers have changed during the pandemic, with more of them buying online.Yet, according to the French Federation of Merchants Associations (FFAC), just 32% of the country’s small independent merchants had any web presence at all before Covid-19 hit, while only 9% were able to sell goods online.

The top item purchased online is clothes, with 25% (the biggest portion) of these purchases in the 25-34 age bracket. This segment is consistent across all categories, falling just below the 35-44 age group in consumer electronics but maxing out on bags and accessories. DIY, garden and pet products are most popular (32%) with the 45-54 age group, who also top the charts for books, music, movies and games purchases.

Cheaper prices are naturally the biggest driver of online purchases and are a draw for 63% of the respondents. This is closely followed by direct delivery (60%), convenience (40%) and product range (40%).

Delivery expectations

French shoppers are patient with delivery times. This could work well in a country that has made a stand against Amazon and its rivals, with labour unions forcing the retail giant to close its warehouses for a month over safety concerns before restricting it to essential purchases only. Rather than getting it quickly, what French shoppers care about is the ability to predict or choose delivery time and place – preferably at home or a pick-up point.

Home delivery is the most popular delivery method, at 85%. Shipping to a pick-up-and-go location is next, at 68%. Click and collect comes in at 28% but this is likely to change once French stores open up again properly.

Payment preferences

Electronic payments and mobile continue to make inroads in France against the dominance of traditional cards.

Many things can hamper the uptake of new payment methods. That’s certainly true of uncertainties about cryptocurrencies (not least their volatility, their susceptibility to ‘celebrity’ influence and their legal standing), concerns about the redundancy of new technologies (contactless mobile payments being similar to contactless card payments, for example) and shoppers’ anxieties about their own financial futures. Nonetheless, change is coming. Forecasts predict e-wallet payments growing at the expense of the traditional card payments. Our research shows that Visa and Mastercard still hold the lion’s share of the payment business in France (and a staggering stranglehold in the realm of card payments, particularly).

Mobile payments have increased in popularity amongst French consumers – however, this method is mainly used to pay for smaller, everyday needs such as transport and food.

Overall, it seems payment habits are ingrained and the big players in their respective fields still dominate. Carte Bleue/Carte Bancaire, the French debit card network, is well accepted, yet Visa and Mastercard still more widely offered. PayPal stands tall over its competition and traditional methods of bank transfer are still preferred.

This analysis was originally published in the France 2021 report. For further insight into the French B2C landscape, including the influence of Covid-19, largest 100 retailers and key indices, download the full report here.

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