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French retail has managed to get through a very rough patch. But like a patient who changes his diet after a health scare, the behavior of French consumers has changed markedly, and probably permanently. So where is it going? How is it changing?
Growth rate of online sales in France
Most importantly, the digital consumer has arrived: The number of French consumers buying online has almost doubled over the past five years, to 38 million. Almost three-quarters of Internet users are buying online, compared to just 40 percent in 2006, and online sales are still growing 20 percent-plus a year. The big winners in Internet commerce are travel (19 percent of total spending) and cultural goods (16 percent), while food is still very much an in-person buy (only 2 percent). Mobile purchasing is also rising fast — 171 percent in the last year, to 2.2 billion euros — from a small base. As more retailers offer apps that enable customers to buy with via mobile devices, we expect revenues to grow strongly.
Another important virtual trend is that consumers and retailers both are moving ever more seamlessly between in-store and online shopping. Almost half of French consumers say they use at least two technologies when they buy (touch screen, in store, Internet, mobile) and retailers have definitely noticed.
Although French consumers were slower to join the queue of enthusiastic clickers, in just about every category they are increasingly living in a multichannel world. E-commerce cannot be ignored anymore.