How British Retailers can Achieve Success Selling to France

22 October, 2020
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France offers an attractive market for British retailers looking to expand. With a nominal GDP of $2.78 trillion annually, the country is ranked the sixth largest economy in the world. France boasts a highly advanced free-market economy and an enviable Human Development Index.

However, if you are a British retailer looking to get a piece of the French pie, it is imperative that you look beyond the statistics. Doing market research, feasibility studies, business plans, and competitor analysis are essential ahead of selling to France, while you should also research how the French customer thinks and how they behave.


French economy in relation to statistics 

France is the sixth largest e-commerce market in the world. When we come closer home, the country sits third in the EU e-commerce market. With a turnover of over €65 billion, there is no doubt you will find a market for your products there. 

The most visited European country also has an online retail market that is projected to hit over €115 billion by the end of 2020. Data from the Centre for Retail Search reveals online sales in France account for 6% of total retail sales, while e-commerce accounted for 4.27% of the country's GDP in 2019.

However, British retailers interested in international growth opportunities should familiarise themselves with the French market place and consumers' main characteristics. The French market place is characterised by:

  • High internet penetration
  • Modern delivery structure
  • Large and diverse consumer base
  • Consumers with high purchasing power
  • Reliable payment methods

Currently, the main players in the French e-commerce market are small merchants and large retailers, a sharp contrast to the UK and Germany marketplace, where mid-sized sellers are the major players. Although France's online sales are on the rise, physical stores still influence important multi-channel strategies. The following are important e-commerce statistics to keep in mind when developing ideal market penetration strategies for this country:

  • France population: 65 million 
  • France active internet users: 55.43 million
  • Active social media users: Facebook 65%
  • Active mobile phone users: 27 million
  • Internet penetration: 80%
  • Population shopping online: 80%
  • Average spend per year: $1,228


Being successful online

From the available statistics above, it’s clear that most French consumers prefer shopping online. British retailers wishing to enter the lucrative French market should be mindful of the following facts:

Percentage of online shoppers

Up to two-thirds of the French population shopped online as of 2016. With online shopping becoming more popular each passing day, more shoppers will prefer this method in the future

The average age of shoppers

Most French e-commerce shoppers are aged 35 to 49. This shopping group is closely followed by millennials, aged 25 to 34. You should study the habits of the target consumers falling in these age groups.

Shared traits of shoppers

French online shoppers are highly technology savvy and can confidently manoeuvre through online shopping apps with ease. They also value prompt delivery of service, adequate and clear information, respect, and politeness. A French shopper will make a comparison of prices before they make a purchase of non-grocery products. Therefore, you should prioritise the translation and localisation of your online store to appeal more to the consumer.

The preferred language of the shoppers

It is also important to note that French shoppers prefer communicating in French. Strive to interact in their native language when making offers. Being proficient in the language will also help leverage more opportunities, including selling to millions of other consumers spread across five continents. Your online store can net consumers from other French-speaking countries such as Switzerland, Canada, Belgium, and francophone Africa.

Products that sell online

Typical products that most French consumers buy include:

  • Computers, tablets, and accessories
  • Home and garden products
  • Clothes, shoes, and accessories
  • Vehicle parts and accessories
  • Cosmetics, skincare, and hair care products
  • Children's items e.g. toys

Delivery, shipping, and returns

The French e-commerce industry enjoys top-notch logistical approaches characterised by free delivery and returns, pick up lockers, and unlimited delivery subscriptions. However, the French consumer is specific when it comes to delivery expectations. You should prioritise speed and reliability if you are looking to beat the competition. The following are important points to consider when it comes to delivery, shipping, and returns:

  • The most preferred delivery method is home delivery, followed by pick-ups.
  • Typical delivery brands to consider partnering with and which offer trusted delivery services include Collisimo and La Poste.
  • French consumers prefer tracking their orders, and you need to add this element in your delivery system.
  • The common payment methods preferred by French consumers include credit and debit cards, PayPal, and bank transfers.
  • You should also include Carte Bancaires with the payment cards of your choice. Most French consumers use carte bancaires.

Bonus tips

French buyers treasure old and familiar brands. They are also quite receptive to newer, more useful, and innovative products.

  • Prioritise communicating in French to reach out to more potential customers.
  • If you prefer using agents, distributors, and franchisees, make sure your dealings are per the European Union and French laws.
  • E-commerce should be your starting point. In 2019, French e-commerce was ranked as the sixth biggest in the world, valued at $43 billion.
  • Most French consumers' buying decisions are based on price, quality, and after-sale service.

Key Takeaway 

There is no doubt France is an attractive and viable market for British retail businesses to expand to. However, you should not rush to introduce your products and begin selling to France on a whim. Come up with an ideal business plan and market study. Importantly, make evaluations of consumer behaviour and opportunities and risks. You should also familiarise yourself with all the market regulations. 

If you are a British retailer looking to enter the lucrative French market, don't hesitate to contact Asendia.

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