When expanding into the French market, there is a lot to take into account during the localisation process. Here we have a look at some of the cultural elements that need to be considered to resonate locally and improve website conversions.
In France, the device mix is changing year-on-year. The study below shows the devices most used by the French, with the top number showing the percentage of internet traffic and the smaller number showing the change from the year before. Computers and laptops currently still make up more than half of internet sessions, but this is down 14% from last year. Mobile traffic has gone up 49% in the last year, showing the growing importance of making sure your website is mobile friendly for French customers.
Unsurprisingly, a key consideration for French websites is good quality translation. French people will notice if a website hasn’t been translated by a mother-tongue speaker, and it will have a negative impact on user experience. There is even legislation in France (Loi Toubon) which protects the French language against the use of English words where there is a French alternative.
Spelling mistakes, missing accents, typos and incorrect grammar discourage French users from using a website. Using a mother-tongue linguist and ensuring any translation has a vigorous proof reading process is key.
When it comes to tone of voice, it shouldn’t be aggressive or too informal. French users tend to want clear and easy-to-access information. However, this does vary depending on the nature of your business and the customers you are targeting. It is usually recommended and preferred to use the polite form of “you” (“vous”) when addressing customers.
Again, depending on the type of business you are in, adding a bit of humour to your tone of voice or using puns can have the opposite effect of what you are trying to achieve. Usually websites will use a serious and formal tone in France, while communicating on social media tends to be slightly more informal.
Consistency is key: stick to the tone of voice you choose and don’t switch around.
French customers like to communicate with French speaking customer service support. Any customer service queries should be dealt with by a French-speaking customer service advisor and the experience should feel as local as possible. This reinforces the need to have a localised French site that will foster trust.
Complaining via Twitter is not widespread in France, and many customers would rather use the customer service details on a website to report their customer service issue. The main reason for this is privacy as French people would rather log their complaints on a one-to-one basis than in the public eye, especially if it involves divulging what they bought and why it did not work.
There are a few trust signals that will help with conversions in the French market:
- Reviews – any new product or service will usually be thoroughly researched, and customer reviews will be taken into account during the buying process.
- Data security – a survey from 2016 shows that France leads the way with SSL encryption certificates on e-commerce sites (70% of online French shops). This is definitely a must.
- Trust seals – some of the most well-known French ecommerce sites do not display trust seals on their homepage, but it might be something to consider for new shops or foreign sites that are planning to expand in France. A few of these trust seals can be seen below:
In terms of ecommerce, card payment is largely used and preferred by the French. Whilst credit or debit cards are the preferred option, PayPal is not far behind. It is always best to include secured payment “paiement sécurisé” along with the payment options. Another method is to pay by instalments: for example, if a customer buys a TV online, or any expensive hi-tech item, some shops will offer an interest-free payment plan.
The graphic above shows how French people perceive new technologies and data protection in 2018. It provides a good insight into the users’ mindset when browsing online:
- 41% think new technologies bring more opportunities than risks
- 64% would rather perform a task digitally whenever possible
- 91% think security and data protection are highly important
- 42% would like to delete cookies in order to protect their privacy
- 36% would use an ad blocking tool to stop ad displays
As GDPR becomes European law when it comes to data processing and privacy, businesses should be very transparent about the data they get from their customers – they should also make sure they can access the data, edit it or remove it.
DELIVERY, STORE COLLECTION AND RETURNS
The French are accustomed to paying for delivery, but if it is free it’s a bonus. In certain cases, if the user is a registered customer of a site, they may get perks and discounts, such as free or a next-day delivery.
Store collection is a widespread option and many people will use it. Some online shops (like La Redoute) also deliver to local shops, such as the town’s florist, so customers can collect their orders.
Usually, French online shops will provide the user with the option of “échangé ou remboursé” which literally means “exchanged or refunded”. This is usually within a time limit, which can be from 15 to 30 days. Wherever possible returns should be free of charge.
It is also worth noting that there is a law in France called the “Loi Hamon” which enables consumers to return any purchase within 14 days of receiving it without specifying a reason or paying any fees except the return cost. Many companies do offer this type of return for free “Retour gratuit” (free return), but legally they don’t have to.
If you need any more information about localising and optimising your website for a French audience, please contact us on: +44 113 468 9777