When you think of the French, what comes to mind? Is it their fine cooking (the soufflés, the pâté, the croissants, etc.), their love for debates and questioning, or the emphasis they place on numbers, facts, and details. Famous for the Eiffel Tower and the city of love, France is gaining recognition as the hub of international businesses and investment —thanks to its flexible market structure, strategic location, and large, industrious population.
Ranked among the top European countries for businesses, France boasts of an enterprising population of over 66.99 million. If you are seeking to expand your customer base and explore new grounds in Europe, the French economy is among the most profitable options you don’t want to miss out on. And that’s where understanding the French consumer becomes a necessity.
Common sense tells us that more population yields more customer prospects. And the French consumer market checks all the boxes on the “PESTEL” analysis. Once you’re prepared to penetrate this promising market, you can sit back and watch your bank account swell.
Traits of a Model French Consumer
France is the seventh-largest economy in the world today if we go by GDP rankings, and its unique consumer base is both diverse and sophisticated.
While the French consumer is very much like every other customer, they tend to exhibit certain behaviors during the decision-making process, that one should be very aware of, to lead them to the purchase. Some of them are:
To begin with, French consumers are receptive to new ideas and information. Their openness makes it easy to engage them in a conversational as well as in a sales pitch.
While discussing business with a French consumer, it’s best to take things slowly and gradually pitch your ideas. To easily get on their good side, you must always employ patience as it is something they appreciate in a business discussion.
Don’t expect an instant ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ when explaining a product or service to a French consumer - or when doing business with a French partner. Hasty decision-making is against etiquette hence, their delayed feedback time. French folks are known to go through the details of business deals before making any decision. So, a slow pace is expected.
Logic and Intellect
Doing business with a French consumer can easily turn into an intellectual exercise. Discussions often get dominated by logic and also take a probing nature. You should prepare yourself with basic answers to questions that could come up and craft convincing answers.
Negotiating with the French can deeply differ from what you’re used to. Navigate every step of the negotiation process with a plan.
Some Key Considerations
French consumers are particularly keen on services, especially services that are travel-related, cultural, and digital. Looking to bring your business to France, here are 8 things to consider about the French Consumer:
- Focus on the Growing Sector. The French economy is among the fastest-growing in the world and although poverty affected 15% of the population in 1970, in 2001 only 6.1% (or 3.7 million people) were below the poverty line. The economy is diversifying and growing at an impressive rate, with consumers showing increasing interest in sectors such as television, automobile, telecoms, electricity and electronics, culture, and entertainment as well as medicine.
- The Internet Revolution. Ever since Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, the internet has become increasingly popular around the world. The widespread use of the internet in France is something to be excited about, with more than 80% of households being equipped with an internet connection.
- The Aging Population Love The Idea Of Online Shopping. It doesn’t come as a surprise that an increasing number of people are buying into the idea of online shopping. France is no exception. There’s an aging problem in France, with average population age 41.4 years. But those in the predominant age are keen on online purchases. According to a 2016 report, 80% of French consumers between the ages of 34 and 44 bought something online.
- The French Love YouTube Too. YouTube is one of the most visited websites in the United States - so in France. Currently the 3rd most popular website in France, YouTube has been used by many marketers and companies for advertising their brands and products to a targeted French audience.
- There’s Still A Big Audience For TV. Regardless of the increasing popularity of the internet, social media, and YouTube, there’s still a considerable number of people who’d rather sit in the front of the TV and watch their favorite television shows. TV viewing figures have remained consistently high in France in recent years. This is still a nation of television lovers.
- They Have A Knack For Quality. French consumers are price-oriented but not willing to compromise on quality. That’s why they’re turning to labels that offer a wide variety of quality alternatives to the more expensive branded products. This trend is expected to continue in years to come. In summary, packaged foods that offer quality with increased health benefits are expected to see continuous positive growth in demand.
- Increasing Expenditure On Food And Non-alcoholic Beverages. The French consumer overall expenditure on food and non-alcoholic beverages has been on the increase, rapidly rising since 2011 and totaling US$205.9 billion. It’s important, however, to note that it’s households with children that contribute majorly to the high expenditure on foods and beverages.
- Consumers Are Going Organic. The organic food market is rapidly gaining attention worldwide as the health benefits of foods produced by methods that comply with the standards of organic farming become increasingly popular. The awareness of these benefits has buoyed French consumers to switch to more natural foods and beverages.
Communication with a French consumer is an essential aspect of landing and closing a deal. The French are very formal people, and they would rather meet you in person than exchange emails, texts, and calls.
So, what do you do if you find yourself in such circumstances?
For a start, the average French businessperson places a high value on formality, punctuality, and tradition when meeting with (domestic or international) partners.
If you'd like to know more, check out our How to Do Business in France Guide.
As the famous saying goes, “you will never get a second chance to make the first impression.” You must put up your best game and communicate effectively.
Excellent communication is vital to the success of your business when dealing with French partners and consumers. You could support your proposal with charts, market analysis, and detailed records of your success. Take your time to understand the culture of your target region and design your approach to partners and consumers accordingly. And, of course, don’t shy away from specialized help of a multilingual marketing company.
Get in touch with us today, and we’ll design and implement the right plan, so you too can go global.