5 tips for breaking into online retail in France

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Author: Lengow

Currently the 5th largest eCommerce market in the World, France boasts a sea of opportunities for online retailers looking to expand their businesses.


The country declared a turnover of €71.4 billion in 2016, marking a 10% increase from 2015 and according to Fevad, the eCommerce market in France is expected to exceed €80 billion in 2017. Here are five tips that could help you to break into online retail in France.

eCommerce in France

Why sell in France?


In 2016, French people spent almost €72 billion online (up 14.6% over one year), and more than one billion transactions were carried out, representing 33 transactions per second1. Unsurprisingly, more and more retailers are turning to France for their cross-border transactions. In fact, in 2016 the number of active online shops in France increased by 12% and there are now over 200,000 retail sites2 in the country.


Christophe Auriauly, CMO at La Poste-Ascendia France points out that France’s ‘online revenues continue to follow a double-digit growth year after year’3. The French continue to spend an increasing amount of money online each year, creating immense potential for business growth — a great incentive to begin your cross-border online retail journey in France.

Top 3 Mass-Market Products selling in France 2017

Understanding what sells best


Although the French spend their money on a variety of products online, clothing retains the largest market share with a value of €5.4 billion4. Travel also represents the most popular service group, with 36 million people turning to the internet for travel transactions in 2015. The user experience for online retail in France relies on transparency, simplicity, and quality, so make sure that you have clear and concise product descriptions.

Make sure that you deliver...


When it comes to delivery the French, just like the British, are true bargain hunters. 56% of French online shoppers5 (compared to 55% of British online shoppers) value free delivery the most when making online purchases.


A great trick is to offer free delivery in France for orders over a certain amount. Not only will this put a smile on your customer’s face, it will also help you to sell additional products to customers who prefer not to pay for delivery.


In contrast to the UK where only 25% of consumers prefer to collect their orders from a local shop, 72% of French consumers6 opt for this option. Audrey Choukron of Ecommerce France at Gfk recognises the importance of delivery, saying ‘the way of delivery is becoming an important aspect in retail competition and the click-and-collect system is a key part of the multi-channel retailer strategy’.


The French like to be able to collect their products in their own time and not have to worry about delivery time slots, so you should take this into account when coming up with your delivery strategy.

Mobile eCommerce in France

Taking on an omnichannel approach


According to Statista, the number of smartphone users in France is projected to reach 45.8 million in 20177. In 2015, 62% of the population older than 158 used a smartphone and a survey conducted by the Ecommerce Foundation revealed that Facebook is the most popular mobile app in France.


There has been a 30% increase of mobile commerce sales and six million French consumers have already made online purchases using a mobile device. Having an omnichannel approach is therefore paramount when launching on the French market. You should implement a multi-channel marketing strategy to ensure that you create several touch points in the customer buying journey.


Payment methods in France


The most popular payment method in France is the Carte Bancaire, a credit card that also acts as a debit card. Erik van den Heuvel, the Chief Marketing Officer at About-Payments reports that ‘contrary to MasterCard and Visa regulation — and important to recognise for merchants — is that the Carte Bancaire system does not allow for shopper chargebacks related to commercial disputes (e.g. products not received, not as described).


Similarly to MasterCard and Visa, fraudulent CB transactions can be reversed’. 83% of online shoppers use these bank cards, whilst 16% use Paypal and 1% turn to American Express.

Top 5 Visited eCommerce Websites in France 2017

Even though your eCommerce site may not have a physical presence in France, the online location of your products is key to successfully selling in France. 10 out of 15 of the most visited websites in France are online marketplaces, and the majority of them are French9.


The Ecommerce foundation reports that “not trusting foreign sites” is the main barrier regarding cross-border e-commerce, which reveals that French consumers are wary of coming to you — they want you to go to them.

The best way to do this is by selling your products on well-known French marketplaces in addition to the likes of Amazon and eBay. This also helps if you don’t have a francophone team, as the marketplaces give description suggestions and take care of all customer service in French. To give you an idea of the marketplaces available, we have summarised 3 French marketplaces:


is the third most popular marketplace in France, with €3.9 billion in turnover, 10 million unique visitors and 5.3 million clients. There are no listing fees on Fnac, and if you want to distribute your products on this site, there is a monthly subscription fee of €39.90 and a variable commission based on products sold. By using Fnac, you gain greater visibility thanks to brand recognition, technical support to help you add your products, real time pricing, sales tracking and protection from fraud.


La Redoute
is a French online department store with 11 million customers in France and 9 million unique visitors per month. 35% of online shoppers are La Redoute’s clients and there is a 99% brand awareness in France. To distribute your products on La Redoute, you’ll be looking at a monthly subscription fee of €49.90 and commission on sales (between 8% and 20% depending on the category).


is the number one department store and 6th leading fashion site with over 12 million members and 5.5 million unique visits per month. The client profile for Brandalley is 25% from Paris and 75% from the rest of France. To distribute your products on Brandalley, there is a performance-related pay generating incremental revenue, there are no fixed costs or rent and you receive a monthly invoice based on items dispatched the previous month.


These are just a sample of the wide variety of French marketplaces. Others include Cdiscount, Rue du commerce, Priceminister, and Galeries Lafayette.


Taking all this into account, launching you cross-border sales in France is a great way to introduce your products to an international market. If you would like to find out more about online retail in France, French marketplaces, you can download this French Country outlook10.





1 - 2016 review of e-commerce in France
2 - 2016 review of e-commerce in France
3 - France B2C eCommerce Report 2016
4 - Lengow Report - The essential about e-commerce in France
5 - MetaPack - Cross-Border French and German Delivery Report
6 - MetaPack - Cross-Border French and German Delivery Report
7 - Statista - Smartphone users in France Article
8 - Lengow Report - The essential about e-commerce in France
9 - Lengow Report - The essential about e-commerce in France
10 - Lengow Report - The essential about e-commerce in France

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