As part of the research for their French e-commerce retail sector report, RetailX spoke with Arnaud Lorant, Asendia’s Head of e-commerce Market Development (France), to get his insights into Europe’s third largest e-commerce market. This is a preview of what we learnt, with more available in the report that's coming soon.
Q&A with Arnaud Lorant
Head of e-commerce Market Development (France), Asendia
In what ways have French consumer and delivery expectations changed over the last few years?
Consumers are aware that the last two years have been challenging for e-tailers. They have been forgiving of longer fulfilment times and delivery delays caused by the pandemic which saw a boom in online order volumes whilst at the same time delivery networks struggled with staffing, transport and customs challenges.
However, in many shopper’s eyes the pandemic is old news and they will be less likely to be loyal if there are still inefficiencies and delays during the e-shopping experience today. In fact they now expect a more flexible delivery experience, to match their ‘new normal’ lives.
What does this mean for etailers?
Many consumers now have hybrid work lives, with time split between the office and home, so they want delivery options that suit. Home delivery remains the preferred delivery method in France, however, pick-up points (post offices, shops and lockers) as well as click-and-collect options are starting to entice more and more consumers. This trend is likely to continue, with La Poste developing their flexible solutions for delivery and returns in response.
What are the key challenges for ecommerce retailers?
The pandemic came at a time when there were already significant challenges around Brexit and EU VAT legislation changes; it was a perfect storm. Additionally, the French tax authorities have made further demands of importers for 2022.
Larger retailers with personnel focused on logistics, taxes and law, have been able to get ready for these changes (not without significant stresses) but many smaller online sellers are still trying to overcome obstacles. It’s why we have partnered with a specialist international consultancy that can offer support on IOSS registration and tax issues.
What do retailers need to bear in mind when entering the French market?
The French e-commerce market is competitive but diverse. It is characterised not only by the presence of numerous online marketplaces but also many local e-shops. So foreign retailers entering the market need to have a competitive advantage, whether that’s their brand, price, scarcity, unrivalled quality, or something else.
Optimising a store for the French market is vital. The French expect to see a website in their language and currency, with local payment options and familiar delivery choices; with La Poste and their parcel brand Colissimo being the most popular.
Could you also talk a bit about Asendia's plans for expansions or innovations for France?
With La Poste as a parent company, Asendia is an expert on the French market and first to hear of their service innovations. We have unique access to La Poste’s postal network and the parcel solutions of their Colissimo and Chronopost brands.
Mailbox Returns by Colissimo is a great example of how they have adapted to market demands. In research, the majority of consumers said they would prefer a collection from home, and now with Mailbox Returns the shopper can leave the parcel in their mailbox, and La Poste and Asendia take care of the rest.
Additionally, according to several surveys, French consumers are very interested in green delivery, and since 2022 Asendia has become carbon neutral, and La Poste is investing heavily in electric vehicles, low carbon buildings and renewable energy projects.
Look out for the full RetailX report on the French e-commerce retail market which will be published this summer.