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Mcommerce Fuels Growth for France's Online Retailers

Consumers in France are getting accustomed to shopping with smartphones and tablets

Though France’s economy is in the doldrums, the country’s ecommerce sector is enjoying double-digit growth. According to a July 2014 report from CCM Benchmark Group, digital sales were up 14% in 2013, compared with 2012. The analysis was based on data from 50 ecommerce sites, including those of Accor, Carrefour and Air France.

The largest online sellers generally fared best. Overall, seven out of 10 ecommerce merchants in France were profitable in 2013, according to CCM. But among smaller businesses—those with annual turnover of less than €1 million ($1.3 million)—the proportion seeing a profit was just 45%.

Much of the sales gain was traceable to mobile devices. Fully 60% of retailers polled said mcommerce was their main growth driver during the year. Across the industry, 12% of online revenues in France came from mcommerce in 2013, a gain of 5 percentage points compared with 2012.

But most online sellers also used other strategies to increase their competitiveness in the cutthroat world of retailing. When researchers asked these digital retailers about other sources of growth in 2013, 56% said they personalized offers to consumers, and the same number provided multichannel offerings. Almost half (46%) said international expansion contributed to better sales results in 2013. Two in five posted growth after diversifying their product range, and 14% of merchants said using social media raised their profits.

Delivery was another area where merchants in France aimed to increase their appeal to consumers. Fully 100% of those quizzed by CCM offered home delivery, and 74% of consumers used this option. More than half (53%) of retailers also let shoppers collect their purchases in-store; 44% of shoppers did so. There was one significant mismatch between delivery option and uptake: While 71% of online retailers enabled consumers to collect their shopping at a pickup point, only 34% of customers chose this method.

eMarketer estimates that French business-to-consumer ecommerce sales will reach $47.65 billion this year, surpassing the 2013 total by 10.0%. People purchasing on digital platforms for the first time will fuel some of that rise. More than two-thirds of internet users in France are expected to be digital buyers in 2014. Yet this market still has enormous potential for expansion, if developments in neighboring countries are anything to go by. In Germany, eMarketer expects nearly 80% of web users ages 14 and older to make a digital purchase this year, and in the UK, 88.0% will do so.

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