This past week I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the eCommerce 1-to-1 Conference in Monaco. This conference brings together a great community of French eCommerce and multichannel retail leaders. In fact the conference reminds me very much of what Shop.org was like years ago in the US. This community is full of passionate, bright, thoughtful business leaders collaborating to share information and support the development of eCommerce and multi-channel retail in France. The conference was not too large, and the venue was great one for meeting and discussion. Discussing ecommerce and learning together was exhilarating. From the many great conversations I had a few things really jumped out at me:
- Marketplaces is a hotter topic in France than anywhere. From how brands should think about them, to retailers and media companies building them Marketplaces represent a big question in France. Pure play marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Priceminister, BrandAlley, and Zalando are having a huge impact on the French market. Amazon sites today have the largest traffic in France (ComScore). And now retailers like Galeries Lafayette are building marketplaces as well. As media companies begin to show interest in marketplaces the questions around marketplaces take on a new urgency. For strong brands the answer seems simply to participate, but this is becoming more complex as wholesale channels and control over demand shifts. For retailers marketplaces represent a possible massive disruption to their business as their foot-fall in-store consumer traffic numbers begin to decline and traditional methods to driving demand through advertising erode. Soon we may see the same push back on Amazon and other marketplaces we are beginning to see in the US market and brands are discouraged from participating and retailers get really serious about meeting the challenge. Which leads us to…
- Multichannel gains momentum ever so slowly in France. Retailers are faced with a triple-threat of a weak domestic economy, online pure-plays gaining mind and wallet-share, and a shift to less a efficient and controllable advertising environment. The French consumer may love stores – as is true around the globe, but maybe even more-so in France – but the French consumer shares the same reality of a changing lifestyle with less and less time for the routines of life. Shopping shifts from a pleasure to a chore. A visit to the shopping core of Paris for example is now a messy battle of traffic, noise, and tourists (spoken as one). While not every city in France can compare, contrast that with the ease, control, and convenience of the web and the consumer will save those trips out to their favorite retailers for special occasions. Retailers are beginning to see the pressure and disruptions in their business. Mall owners, retailers, and others are beginning to respond, but many business leaders at the conference continue to share that their company’s’ senior leadership – who hail from a pre-digital era – are slow to understand what is really at stake. I believe that will change quickly as the current trends increase, even if slowly as the tram up to the Basilique du Sacre-Coure (a must see in Paris, BTW). In fact…
- France should be the ‘Roi of Omni-Channel’, and mobile is the path to the crown. The French consumer’s lifestyle with many urban commutes and retail presence is an advantage for retailers. This combined with the advance of mobile makes France the prime market for Omni-channel. Mobile and the web are creeping into the lives of the French consumer, with a 53% smartphone penetration rate today (Comscore) and mobile now represents over a quarter of Ventee-Privee’s traffic in France. Tablets today are a small percent of traffic in France at only 2.6% but represent a premium consumer target. In-store or locker-based pick up in subway or train stations – or even malls – is an obvious next step to pull mobile and web together with stores. Retailers must not let the pure-plays like Amazon make this first move, as that real estate will be coveted. Even collaboration between retailers should be explored.
- And finally I learned something very important. Brian is a very famous name in France, with many French schoolchildren on a quest to find ‘Brian’. I was pleased to finally help everyone in Monaco realize the answer to this important question. My family would concur.
Monaco was of course a pleasure, though perhaps socio-economic distortion as one begins not to notice each Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, and Maserati passing you by. But the real pleasure of the visit was to learn about the French eCommerce and multi-channel environment from such a strong and intelligent group as I found at eCommerce 1-to-1. I hope to be back next year.
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