You know the stereotypes: the French love excellent food, expensive fashion and exquisite luxury. But if you want to succeed in France, you’ll need to cast aside these old assumptions and embrace the more complex reality of French consumer behavior.
Here are three debunked myths about French consumer behavior that need to be overcome in order for you to succeed in the French market.
1. THE FRENCH ONLY EAT GOURMET
Whether it’s sumptuous champagne, haute cuisine or fantastic gâteaux, the French are well-known connoisseurs of the finer things in life.
But a new need to consume differently is affecting what and why the French buy.
For one, they’re trying to lead healthier lifestyles – driving purchases of organic, sugar-free and unprocessed foods.
The wellness trend has also grown popular. Younger generations are increasingly supporting their health goals by investing in exercise classes and wellness experiences. And the French spent a whopping 7.3% of their income on their physical appearance in 2015.
But with more and more people entering the workforce, the average consumer must balance their desire for health & well-being with the reality of not having enough time.
Although French people spend 13 more minutes per day eating than they did in early 2000, they also spend 18 minutes less cooking. With those figures, it’s no surprise that convenience foods and services are growing in popularity.
It’s also worth noting that 81% of people aged between 25 and 49 are concerned about the environment. But only 16% believe that brands share enough manufacturing information. Providing this information will therefore not only boost your environmental creds, but also help you build consumers’ trust.
What does all this mean for your brand? There’s clearly a market for food, health and cosmetics products. But to succeed, you’ll need to appeal to your customers where they’re at. Demonstrate how your brand boosts health & well-being while protecting the environment. But don’t over-complicate things. The French don’t have much time, so the simpler you can make things, the better.
2. THE FRENCH ONLY BUY LUXURY
Paris is one of the great fashion and luxury capitals of the world. So it’s no surprise the French luxury goods sector had a market value of over €35.5 million in 2018.
That isn’t the whole story, though. Luxury tourism is hugely popular in France, so a lot of the interest in French luxury isn’t actually domestic. In fact, France is the second largest market in the world when it comes to international spending on luxury goods.
Of course, quality is still important to domestic French consumers. But factors like an aging workforce, struggling middle class and a higher cost of living mean they’re becoming more cost-conscious.
This new, thriftier French consumerism has affected spending. Despite the buoyant luxury market, they spend just 3.8% of their income on clothes and shoes – the lowest amount in the EU. And one of the surest ways to persuade French consumers to buy is to have a sale.
That’s why fashion sites like La Redoute regularly feature 2–3 day flash sales. And seasonal events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have proven so popular that the French created their own version. Known as “French Days”, it’s already taken place twice in 2018 (at the end of April and September).
Participating in these sales can be an effective way to win customers when they’re most likely to buy and gain some traction in the market.
But French holidays aren’t always good news for business. Many French shops close on Sundays, as well as during July and August. Your French partners most likely won’t be around during this time and French supply chains will be slow. So if you want to provide a seamless customer experience over the slower summer months, you’ll need to be well prepared.
3. THE FRENCH ONLY BUY FRENCH
Even when paying lower prices, the French still expect high quality. Which is why quality stamps and labels are so popular. In 1997, just 39% of French people were willing to pay more based on a product’s origin. The figure is now 60%.
Proving where your product comes from will therefore not only convince customers to buy from you – it could also allow you to charge a premium.
In recent years, this desire for high quality products has evolved into a preference for French products.
This is because of the “Made in France” concept, launched during the 2012 presidential campaign. The idea was that buying Made in France products would save French jobs while also giving consumers higher quality products.
The campaign was incredibly effective and now 50% of people would prefer to buy something Made in France than an international product.
How can you get past this as an international brand?
Gü is a great example.
Despite basing its name on the French word for flavor – goût – and featuring a German aesthetic, the luxury pudding brand is actually English.
In 2005, La Grande Épicerie de Paris requested that Gü supply them with chocolate puddings. It quickly became Gü’s best selling store. How?
Before launching in France, the brand redesigned its packaging and reworked its copy to match French expectations, such as describing the puddings as moelleux, not soufflés.
The brand masked its English identity so well that the only clue on the packaging that the puddings are UK-made is a tiny sign that says “Shepherds building, London”.
By adapting their products and redesigning their packaging with French consumers in mind, Gü was able to succeed in the French market.
Despite the stereotypes, French consumer behavior is complex and nuanced. By adapting your brand or products to meet French expectations, navigating this cultural minefield and achieving marketing success is possible.