France’s e-commerce sector prospers
BUSINESS FRANCE UK
France’s online market has grown rapidly in recent years. In 2010, e-commerce alone accounted for €31 billion of the €36.2 billion made in France’s remote sales. In the first half of 2011, turnover for all e-commerce websites combined reached €17.5 billion, up 20% year-on-year from 2010.
France now has 90,000 retail websites, including 20,000 new sites created in 2010. In the first quarter of 2011, the iCE 40 index (which is made up of the top 40 e-commerce sites in France) showed a year-on-year growth of 11%. The e-commerce sector currently employs almost 60,000 people, directly or indirectly, in France.
For foreign companies, France is a top-tier market for e-commerce. An excellent example that demonstrates this is American company Amazon, which built a warehouse and distribution logistics centre in Montélimar (in the Rhône-Alpes region of South East France), in 2010. This centre has created almost 500 jobs and is the second Amazon centre to be built in France. The first was the Amazon site that created 200 jobs and is situated in Saran, just outside Orléans, (in central France).
The sector is divided into two categories with sites that offer e-commerce characteristics on one hand, such as eBay (which had 9.1 million unique visitors per month in the first quarter of 2011), PriceMinister (7.8 million visitors), which was recently bought out by Japanese company Rakuten, and Living Social France, a daily consumer-deals site that acquired French company Dealissime in 2011.
On the other hand, there are sites that specialise in mail-order sales like Amazon (which had 9.1 million unique visitors per month in quarter one of 2011); La Redoute (6.5 million visitors); 3 Suisses (5.3 million visitors); la Fnac (6.9 million visitors); Voyages-Sncf (6.9 million visitors); and, finally, Carrefour (6.4 million visitors). This data is according to Mediamétrie//Netratings, a company that analyses internet-audience data in France.
In 2012, e-commerce is due to accumulate sales of €45 billion, giving it an economic weight that is on a par with telecommunications and aerospace, according to the Fédération du e-commerce et de la vente à distance (FEVAD, France’s e-Commerce and Remote Sales Federation), which represents businesses in the sector. In the future, retail sales of intangible products will cover downloadable audio-visual goods and paperless online services, primarily in banking and insurance.
The key strategy of Industries du Commerce, the retail and marketing innovation cluster (in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of northern France), is to innovate in retail, including electronics. Recently approved projects, and so concepts on which the cluster is now working, include Smart Store (a virtual, 3D shopping-centre application for smartphones) and the C3DS project (which is designed to improve the sensory perception of textiles so that consumers can virtually try out products displayed in 3D).
Other French innovation clusters like Cap Digital (in the region of Paris) or TES, (the E-Secure Transactions cluster in Caen, in Normandy, North West France) are also helping to expand innovation in the e-commerce sector.
The next step for retail-related technology in France could produce virtual shopping centres with hundreds of manufacturers, much like a trend that has already taken root in the United States. The success of the e-commerce industry in France is thanks to a number of factors, including the country’s legal and regulatory framework, which provides broad consumer protection, such as spam prevention, along with its strong privacy policies. The French government also initiated an anti-cyber-counterfeiting charter that was signed in 2009 by brand representatives and many e-commerce platforms. Moreover, security for online payments in France has been increased considerably.
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