Can French Consumers Let Go Of Traditional Shopping Habits?

The number of French consumers who own a smartphone or tablet device is on the rise, and online shopping is becoming more common across the country. But despite the proliferation of mobile technology and the expansion of the online channel, French consumers still remain loyal to brick-and-mortar stores.

That finding comes from research released by Ipsos for CA Com, the IT management and solutions company. The report shows that 98 percent of French consumers have made at least one trip to a “stationary store” in the last year, and nearly half make their retail purchases at a physical store. Interestingly, both mobile and tablet penetration rates have increased within the last 12 months. If French consumers are picking up new ways to shop, why do many still prefer the traditional channel?

The report is titled "Omniretail," which is representative of the multiple channels buyers have to choose from in today's digitally advanced market. Retail is expanding, and commerce is now enabled through several channels such as mobile phones, tablets, computers and interactive televisions, as well as catalogs and physical storefronts.

Studies show that in 2012, 30 percent of French consumers owned a smartphone, and in 2013 this figure jumped to 42 percent. Moreover, the number of tablet owners in France has doubled in the last year. The report indicates that in 2012, 7 percent of French consumers owned a tablet, and today that number sits at 15 percent. About a third of respondents claimed to have used their tablets to make an online purchase in 2013, compared to only 25 percent in 2012.

The interactive television is another device that’s entering the market and is opening new channels for retail. Consumers can interact with the television, issuing commands and submitting feedback via an electronic device called a “setup box.” People can even use the device to respond to commercials immediately and place an order. In 2012, only 6 percent of French consumers said they were watching interactive television, but by 2013 this number slowly crept up to 9 percent.

As all this new technology emerges and adoption continues to rise, there are more French consumers shopping online. The CA Com study indicated that 49 percent of consumers purchased at least one product on the Internet in 2013: up 5 percentage points from 2012.The study reported that consumers ages 25-34 are the ones who are most frequently making online purchases. In 2013, consumers from this age group indicated they made at least one online purchase every month.

With all these new digital shopping channels, why are French consumers are still returning to the brick-and-motor channels - even after trying out online shopping?

The answer is not so much related to French shoppers snubbing advanced channels, but instead it stems from what the report refers to as the "omnichannel consumer." These types of consumers are interested in using multiple channels simultaneously. 

According to an Atelier and Ifop study that surveyed over 1,000 French consumers, 15 percent of French people like to make trips to physical retail stores because of innovative services. These services include new technologies such as tablet interaction booths that offer product information and customer assistance. Fifty percent of respondents said they would like easier ways to find out about products, and 32 percent claimed they needed help discovering new products. Retailers with omnichannels must offer shoppers a seamless approach to their product or service by offering the same data, discounts, promotions or rewards for all channels. When omnichannels offer the same service to a consumer on all channels, this helps them connect with the brand, as well as enhances their shopping experience. 

In the last year, French consumers have expanded their horizons and are purchasing from multiple channels. However, this change in consumer habit is unique from past shifts in shopping behavior because shoppers are not simply choosing one technology over the other. Instead, the bevy of shopping channels allow French consumers to enjoy the advantages of having muliple options for shopping--even using two or more at the same time. 

To read the full report click here, or to read the Atelier/Ifop Survey click here.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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