French consumers need reassurance around delivery and returns. They are accustomed to the reliability offered by the postal network and will expect online retailers to meet their expectations. Reliability and choice are as important as speed.
France offers an exciting opportunity for retailers hoping to grow their sales online: 84 per cent of the population has access to the internet, with most of them doing some shopping online on a regular basis.
Online shopping figures in the country have jumped 500 per cent since 2000, with distance selling topping €60bn in 2014 according to FEVAD, the French e-commerce and distance selling federation. Online retailing was up by 15 per cent that same year, averaging increases in online sales of 15 to 20 per cent, in sharp contrast to the tightening of belts being felt throughout much of Europe. In 2015, 52 per cent of France’s online shoppers said they were shopping more frequently than in the past.
But this doesn’t mean it’s easy to break into the market. Online purchasing decisions in France can be influenced by anything from product availability to delivery options. For example, research by the UK’s Royal Mail reveals that free returns are the main influencer for 77 per cent of online shoppers in France.
Tracking packages and clear communication regarding delivery options also play significant roles (85 per cent of consumers surveyed say they would track every order given the option, not just valuable items). And pick-up point delivery – where shoppers can collect parcels from convenient locations outside their home – is an increasingly attractive alternative in France.
But it’s returns policies that may be the hidden obstacle for many potential online shoppers. Returns numbers in France may be deceptively low overall at six per cent, but this rises to 20 per cent in some specific retail categories, such as fashion items – and 40 per cent of French consumers think existing returns procedures are overly complex.
How many sales were lost due to unacceptable delivery options or returns policies that consumers didn’t trust?
Research shows that 47 per cent of those who decided against an online purchase at the check-out stage did so because they weren’t happy with the delivery. From paying additional costs for return delivery to limited collection options and vague pick-up times, the whole process may be more hassle than it’s worth for many potential e-buyers.
“Offering consumers greater and more reliable returns options may give retailers in France a competitive edge”
The customer satisfaction in France depends not only on whether the item was delivered quickly, on time and in good condition. It also depends on whether they were kept up-to-date on the progress of their delivery. Establishing a more reliable, efficient and effective delivery and returns process will give you greater control over your customer relations and encourage loyalty among online customers.
Online sales in France may be tempting for retailers hoping to extend their reach and build their business but French consumers need reassurance around delivery and returns. They are accustomed to the reliability offered by La Poste and will expect online retailers to meet their expectations. Reliability and choice are as important as speed.