Paris and the entire country of France offer many opportunities for “cross-border” commerce — from tourists who visit France from other parts of the world to French citizens who use the internet to shop outside of the country.
Mes amis, it has not been le meilluer year for France.
Though it has been almost a year since the Nov. 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris where 130 people were killed and just under 100 were seriously injured, this incident and others like it in France, such as in Nice on Bastille Day, have affected not only tourism but the hearts, minds and wallets of the French people.
France stands as number 36 (right behind the U.S.) on the 2015 Global Terrorism Index report, and the French government, along with the Germans, have urged the European Union to come up with new rules for internet messaging services — for instance, to analyze and decipher private texts and other communications to help prevent terrorism.
Pas de surprise: France is the top tourist destination in the world. Some 83 million visit each year, so obviously, tourism is one of the largest sectors of the French economy. It’s about 7 percent of France’s GDP. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that tens of billions to hundreds of billions of dollars have been lost to the Paris attacks. For context, some estimates of similar losses in the U.S. hover at $3.3 trillion after 9/11.
In spite of the potential threats, tourists are still drawn to France. Why? It’s not as if French people are known for being especially warm (chic and cynical, sure, but not warm). We all seem to want to be French — seduced and romanticized by the wine and cheese, the fashion and frogs legs, the history and monuments. Oh, and bonjour: Don’t forget the champagne!
Still, despite the world rallying around and admiring the City of Light, the younger generations of France don’t have the brightest outlook. French millennials join their European peers with a notably negative outlook for the future. On the one hand, Pew Research reported that Europeans born after 1980 are more likely to be satisfied and content with their life than their counterparts born before 1965. On the other, when asked if their children would be better off financially than their parents once they were adults, French millennials were the least optimistic, with only 15 percent saying, “Oui, better off” — compared to 38 and 37 percent, respectively, of British and German millennials.
This probably comes after the fact that, while European millennials have lived through the 2008 economic crisis (just like their American friends), the crisis is still enduring in Europe. While the U.S. has seen economic indicators rise, Europe hasn’t enjoyed the same degree of rebound.
With this in mind, it’s not terribly surprising that French purchasing and payments habits differ than those seen here in the U.S., for example. In fact, while other countries are quicker to adapt to mobile payments or are even using their smartphone to purchase things on-demand, the French lag.
Mobile shopping and buying options are spreading fast, but mobile payments still aren’t so popular. They’re using them, but pas beaucoup.
French people can tweet money to each other, and this summer, Apple Pay launched in France. Visa and the Cupertino tech giant gave the new access to French consumers with the help of Banque Populaire et Caisse d’Epargne (BPCE group). Strangely enough, it’s not been embraced.
Sixty-five percent of French adult digital buyers polled in June were using their mobile phones in stores to make sure they got the best deal. More than one-third said they use their mobile devices to take photos of the products they are thinking of buying, fewer said they look for product information on their phones and even fewer still said they were using their phone to compare prices while at other stores.
So, how do the French prefer to pay, you ask? Their tried-and-tested methods include entry of credit card details at trusted sites or via retailer apps. While the contactless “tap-and-pay” solutions enabled by Android Pay or Apple Pay are gaining ground, they’re taking off like the French sit at cafés: relaxed and slowly.
Still, there’s a bright spot in the Hexagon.
Turns out, eCommerce accounts for 7 percent of retail sales in France. In fact, online sales in France increased 16 percent in 2015. The most popular retailer? Amazon. Bien sur.
The 35.5 million French consumers bought €71.3 billion ($79.8 billion) of goods online in 2015. That same year, the average French online shopper clicked through to check out 22.9 online transactions, with an average value of €78 euros ($87).
But, besides buying on Amazon, what do the French purchase?
Well, one single example of note is a €1 billion mansion on the French Côte d’Azur. While most French people — or any people, for that matter — may not need 10 bedrooms, a ballroom, a chapel, a 50-meter swimming pool carved out of rocks and a stable for 30 horses, it’s just important to note that this house exists and was purchased in France, this year.
For the regular French person, cross-border shopping is serious shopping: About 20 percent of French consumers shop over-the-border, with their favorite shopping destination being Germany, followed by the U.K. and then Belgium.
French websites generate about 10 percent of their sales internationally, due to international demand for French fashion and beauty.
The tech scene is still booming and has been for the past five years. Tech entrepreneurship by the French government has become somewhat of an increased focus with its “Digital Republic” bill, opening up wider access to public data and net neutrality. Tech companies, like Withings, Gameloft, happn, Deezer, Parrot drones and BlaBlaCar are all operating in France.
Interestingly, no matter where France sits on the map in terms of leading in eCommerce, it’s leading in diminishing fraud. In 2014, the fraud rate for transactions fell for the first time in more than a dozen years. The Observatory for Payment Card Security reported that the fraud rate for transactions in France declined to .043 percent in 2014.
That’s probably especially good news considering that, just like their stereotype, French consumers continue to be conservative and cautious. Attacks or not, the French live on as always with liberté, égalité, fraternité.