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France's Web Users Happy with Digital Banking—but Not Digital Buying

Nearly 70% of consumers have embraced digital banking, but less than 40% are buying online

Most internet users in France welcome the chance to bank online, according to the ninth edition of Fondation Dauphine’s “Baromètre de l’Économie Numérique,” based on data gathered by Médiamétrie. Nearly seven in 10 web users ages 15 and older said they had carried out at least one banking activity on a computer at home in the month before Q4 2013 polling. Perhaps surprisingly, the “Baromètre” had never before probed internet users’ digital banking habits—suggesting that even researchers were unaware of how quickly online banking had taken off.

Despite the readiness to engage with financial transactions online, ecommerce was much less popular with the survey sample. Only 37.5% of those ages 11 and older had made a digital purchase in the month before polling, equating to 20.4 million people across the country.

This reflected a gain of 7.1% since Q3 2013, but that growth was partly due to year-end holiday buying. Crucially, the reported figures indicated that in France, online banking was nearly twice as popular as online buying at the end of last year.

eMarketer estimates that the number of digital buyers in France passed 28 million in 2013—a much higher projection than the one from Fondation Dauphine, because it is based on the 14-and-older population and includes internet users who made a purchase via any digital channel last year. We expect that figure to grow by more than 1 million in 2014 and to approach 30 million in 2015.

In the short term, though, online sellers have much to do to reassure shoppers in France about the security of digital purchasing. A recent study by insurance firm Hiscox in association with Ifop found that more than two-thirds of web users were reluctant to enter personal information—such as their name, address, phone number and bank account details—on an ecommerce site.

Fewer than one in five were convinced by online merchants’ security claims, and 88% (90% of respondents ages 50 and older) were not prepared to buy on sites that had ever suffered a cyberattack. These results help explain the low levels of online buying noted by Fondation Dauphine.

Major players could take heart from evidence that online shoppers were more confident buying on familiar sites. But that was bad news for newer, smaller ecommerce sites, Hiscox noted: Around 60% of web users said they wouldn’t buy from a site they didn’t know, or one recently launched.

Security worries may also be hindering uptake of mobile banking in France. According to Fondation Dauphine, fewer than 18% of web users 15 and older had used a mobile phone to view their account details or make transactions in the month prior to polling. Theoretically, consumers should feel confident to deal with their banks via mobile, if they already do so via a PC at home. But accessing personal details on a smaller device, or in a public place, may trigger additional feelings of vulnerability.

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