France is the largest country in the EU and the world’s sixth largest economy. Its ecommerce market is the third largest in Europe, offering great opportunities for continental growth. Even if you’re not directly looking to France as your next market, it should be considered as a key European economy with significant influence in global trade affairs.
After reading this guide you will understand the opportunities presented by France and how to take make the most of them, as well as have a general understanding of France’s place in the global balance of powers and why this affects businesses.
2 Expanding business to France
Spanning from the North Sea to the Mediterranean, France is the largest country in the EU. It has a population of over 66 million (13% of the EU) and a per capita GDP above 41,000 euros.1 France is the most visited country in the world, and with a nominal GDP exceeding 2.4 trillion USD, it is the world’s sixth largest economy.2
In terms of ecommerce, France ranks as the third largest market in Europe and the sixth largest globally, making it an attractive option for expanding into Europe.3
3 Quick facts and advantages of doing business in France
Share of online spending per capita is relatively low in comparison to other EU countries
With 35 million ecommerce buyers, France is responsible for over 72 billion euros in ecommerce revenue1
There are over 204,000 active ecommerce sites in France2
France has averaged around 7% year-over-year growth in direct-to-consumer ecommerce sales3
Around 86% of people in France use the internet, with ecommerce at about 59%4
4 Customer trends
It’s crucial to think about customer behaviour when expanding in new markets. How does your target customer usually buy products? What’s their preferred method of delivery? The following factors will help you consider how customer trends will affect the way you go about doing business in France.
78% of French consumers report free shipping as the most valuable motivator when shopping. 69% are motivated by the provision of an estimated or guaranteed delivery date1
Credit and debit cards are the top payment methods in France. Visa, Mastercard and Cartes Bancaires make up the majority of market share, followed by PayPal2
French consumers use a variety of delivery methods - 85% have used home delivery, 85% have used a pick-up-and-go location, 36% have used in-store delivery and 11% have used delivery in deposit lockers3
Popular shopping categories include fashion and clothing, cultural products, health and beauty and consumer electronics. Clothing retains the largest market share, accounting for over six billion euros4
Localised shopping experiences are important. Online stores that are not offered in French usually aren’t successful
Quality of service is valued and prioritized
French consumers value transparency. They want to know all costs before check out, preferring to be informed about an order’s delivery time, and expecting tracking information to be provided
The average French shopper shops online at least 28 times a year
Major ecommerce holidays include Christmas, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day and Valentine’s Day5
5 Fulfilment models
Cross-border into France
French customers will buy cross-border, but their preference is to shop domestically (a key factor to consider when assessing your business and the French market). Studies show that French shoppers spend more than other European shoppers when purchasing cross-border, and they tend to purchase from businesses in Germany (41%), the UK (29%), Canada(18%) and the United States (18%).1
It’s important to note that the French have been subjected to cybercrime more than other countries in Europe, a fact that influences their preference to purchase domestically.2
The three largest economies in Europe — the U.K., Germany and France — together account for over 60% of the online retail market in Europe. France is therefore an attractive destination from which to serve shoppers, both domestic and foreign.3
Despite the short distance between these countries, language is an obvious barrier to business, so it’s important to localise your website in the regions where you need to generate sales: Market Finder offers guidance if you’re unsure how to do this. Businesses belonging to the EU can take advantage of EU VAT distance selling rules, which enable companies to test various EU markets without the burden of VAT compliance.
In 2016, France recorded double-digit growth in logistics. The Ile-De-France region is an attractive option to serve France and the rest of the EU. It enables access to a population of 11+ million in as few as two days, and is one of the largest and most economically developed regions in Europe.4 The area is home to a quarter of France’s warehousing market and offers over 17 million square km of storage space.5
Seine Axis is another popular warehouse zone. It’s a developing area that provides fast access to a dense urban area of 15 million people.6
Freight transportation in France is comprised of road transport (used for 83.5% of freight) and rail transport (used for 9.5% of freight).1
Small parcel carriers
- Mediapost (La Poste)
- Mondial Relay
Less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload (TL) carriers
Two thirds of full truckload companies in France are small companies with fewer than ten employees.2
- Norbert Dentressangle
7 How to start doing business in France
When weighing up your move into the French market, think about the pros and cons of incorporating a company and the type of company structure that might suit you. Also get to grips with the regulatory requirements of ecommerce in France and how they apply to you. Finally, determine whether any trademark registrations need to be filed, and find a fulfilment centre and carriers that provide coverage in the regions you’re targeting in France.
Market Finder contains a breakdown of the World Bank’s Doing Business Index, where you can get a heads-up about the ease of doing business in France. It ranks on a scale of 1 - 190 how easy it is for a business to set up and run a local firm in each of the world economies. Ten topics are assessed to gain the score. These include the ease of getting electricity, the ease of getting credit, and the potential for cross-border trade.
When trading in a new market, it’s good to know the administrative, regulatory, and logistical challenges that may lie ahead. Navigating legal requirements and working out logistics is made a lot easier with Market Finder - find further support and tools including in-depth guides and insights.
Ingram Micro Commerce & Lifecycle Services provides logistics solutions to help businesses connect supply and demand.
The materials provided on the site are for informational purposes only. For financial, tax, or legal advice, consult a specialist.