2020 eCommerce Trends: The online buying habits of the French market following the COVID-19 outbreak

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2020 eCommerce Trends: The online buying habits of the French market following the COVID-19 outbreak


France is home to Europe’s third largest eCommerce market and saw a growth rate of 11.7% in 2019. This major market for online selling is only expected to expand in 2020, as experts forecast that eCommerce purchases in the country will reach 115.2 billion euros by the end of the year. Plus, the COVID-19 outbreak and its lasting effects on our culture are only expected to encourage the increase of eCommerce use. 

According to a study published by Fevad, in the second quarter of 2020 – when the French market was still in the midst of the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak – online sales rose more than 5 percent to a total of 25.9 billion euros. We can expect similar results as the new normal continues to affect online purchasing habits, drawing our attention to the best practices for entering the online landscape there, particularly post-pandemic.  

For this reason, Flowbox put together this market research on the online buying practices of French people. With the insights from our report, online brands from various industries and countries will have the information they need to not only enter the French market but also improve their eCommerce performances in this promising online space. 

This data was collected in September 2020 following the first wave of the COVID outbreak and amidst a growth in cases. As upticks in positive COVID tests spread across Europe, including in France which initially reopened in June 2020 but has since brought back restrictions due to the rise in cases, residents must learn to find a ‘new normal’, balancing online and offline living. This only fuels the need for brands that wish to be competitive in this market to gain a comprehensive understanding of how the eCommerce landscape is changing throughout the pandemic. 

At the height of the crisis, France saw a reliance on eCommerce, with experts tracking an increase of 7.4 percent during the months of May and June. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, 40 million users made purchases online initiating a cultural change that has more French people making everyday purchases online than ever before. We explore this further in the report, investigating what products people started buying online at the beginning of the pandemic and which online buying habits will stick post-pandemic. This includes a closer look into the strategies that are inspiring online purchases, so that eCommerce brands can make more informed decisions throughout the uncertainty of the COVID situation and beyond. 

With this report, we offer a valuable piece of market research that presents a comprehensive snapshot of the actual eCommerce situation in France following the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Our research takes into account age, gender, and income level to give readers comprehensive and statistically significant data for each variable to better understand the online buying habits of the whole of France following the COVID pandemic. While the data is not nationally representative in regards to population distribution, we represent each group within the report with the intention to provide an optimized study that enables brands to find their own specific target audiences within the data. 

Chapter 1: The current eCommerce market in France

With over 200,000 eCommerce websites in France alone, this market has a huge eCommerce presence with an appetite to shop – it’s forecasted that France will reach 2 billion online transactions by the end of 2020.

And the COVID outbreak did a lot to uplift the eCommerce landscape in France including a cultural shift in the kinds of products that are purchased online. As a gastronomy-focused culture, very few French people were reaching for their laptops to purchase food pre-pandemic. Now 67% of online shoppers are making their grocery runs online, and this same report found that a number of people expect to see these changes last. That being said, the Clothes and Sports Goods markets continue to be recognized as the largest in France. 

The preferred payment method for French people is debit and credit card, accounting for half of the total transactions in the market. While in-store retail was hit hard by the pandemic, mobile purchases, which only make up a small percentage of retail eCommerce sales, have started to grow rapidly. Back in December 2019, eMarketer forecasted the growth of this sector to be 16.1%, but with only a few months left of the year that forecast has risen to an expected 24% increase (25.6 billion euros)

As we can see, the French online retail sector has continued to grow over the course of the COVID outbreak, meaning that this market has a lot of potential for brands looking to enter it. This is why we’ve taken the time to investigate the online buying habits of French people in this research report, which addresses the entirety of the French eCommerce market by answering these 4 key questions:

1. What are the online buying habits of French people? 

This section is broken up into two parts. The first is a comprehensive look at what French people were purchasing online before the pandemic, what they purchased online during the pandemic, and what they plan to continue purchasing online post-pandemic. 

Second, we look at how often French people tend to purchase online and the amount that they spend. This includes a look at how both of these points have been affected by the COVID outbreak. 

2. What inspires French people to shop online from specific brands? 

Then, we look at what inspires the French market to shop online from specific brands, which includes a look at the way that French people interact on social media in relation to online purchases for a better idea of the relationships between them. 

Then, to further explore what eCommerce brands can do to stand out against competitors within the French market, we look at brand values like fair trade materials, sustainability, and ethical production to see what inspires the people of France to grab their wallets. 

3. What eCommerce services and features help or encourage French consumers to buy online? 

To help brands improve their eCommerce user experience, this section explores the services and features that lead to conversions within the French market, especially with the new normal that COVID has created. From User Generated Content to customer service options to preferred visuals within an online store, brands will leave with a better understanding of how to get French customers to convert. 

4. What post-purchase habits do French consumers follow? 

Finally, we look at how French consumers react after purchasing a product to understand how to engage with customers within this market post-purchase – particularly within the COVID-19 era.

By looking at consumer behavior based on these 4 key questions, we have a comprehensive idea of how the people of  France buy online in the wake of the COVID outbreak, including the types of products, the frequency of purchase, and what gets them interested in converting. 

This research will greatly help brands around the world improve eCommerce performance in this region following the pandemic.