Senior International Digital Marketing Executive
The French online market is ripe with opportunities. With a population of over 65.1 million, of which 68% are active internet users, the ecommerce market in France is currently worth $47,085m and is expected to grow 6.2% each year. It’s a lucrative market for businesses who are looking to grow internationally.
However, there are key differences between France and the US and bulldozing into the market without understanding these differences is a sure-fire way of setting your expansion up to fail.
Western countries such as France and the US have similar ways of living, so it’s easy to forget just how different the two cultures are.
For example, French people prefer to be referred to in a formal way. Many brands in the US speak to and address their audience informally but this is disrespectful in France. The language used across all marketing messages in France needs to be adapted to take this into consideration.
Another thing to factor in is differences in national holidays and bank holidays. The holidays celebrated in France, and the days they are celebrated on, differ from that in the US, so promotional offers and sales will need to be planned separately.
The first mistake many businesses make when expanding internationally is replicating their objectives and KPIs from the US.
Consumers in France do not necessarily replicate those in the US, both in terms of what content they consume, and how and where they consume it. Campaigns that work in the US may not work in France, limiting what digital activity you can undertake or the results you can get.
Expecting the same growth rate or yearly revenue figures as you achieve in the US sets your expansion up for unnecessary failure.
The average word in French is 25% longer than its English counterpart, and sentences also tend to be lengthier. This needs to be factored in when writing ad copy and meta data, as the translated content may not fit into the limited characters available.
Another factor to consider when creating ad copy and meta data is whether your call to action (CTA) will be deemed acceptable in France. Strong and persuasive language such as ‘buy now’, which is often used in the US, creates mistrust in France, with consumers more likely to go for copy using softer CTAs.
For example, rather than ‘buy now’ it would be better to use “Commandez ici”, which, when translated is a much softer CTA of ‘order here’.
Good grammar is important worldwide, but while a typo is unlikely to put a US consumer off from purchasing from your brand, this is not necessarily the case in France. A spelling or grammatical error can instill brand distrust and send consumers to another site.
On top of this, grammatical rules in France are very particular. Navigating the various accents or the differing punctuation rules can be a minefield for non-native speakers. A small error, such as using the wrong accent, can reduce the trust users put in your brand, making it all the more important to have a mother tongue speaker conduct the keyword research, as well as write the content.
While there are similarities between the US and France, there are still differences in culture which need to be considered when localizing your website.
Duplicating and translating web content is unlikely to tap into the interests of French consumers. Instead, you will need to have a native speaking digital marketing expert conduct research to find out exactly what your audience in France is searching for and use these insights to create a bespoke content strategy. Everything from the about us, to product descriptions, to informational ranking content, will need to be tailored to what users in France want to know.
You will also need to localize the imagery used on your website. Stock images tend to reflect US and UK culture and may not get buy-in from French consumers as they can be unable to relate. Even product and bespoke lifestyle imagery may need to be retaken to better represent the French market.
In France, consumers are more aware of trust signals when it comes to online retailers than people in the US are. Ensuring you have all the relevant local governing bodies’ approval and that their badges are visible on your site adds a level of credibility that is essential in France.
It’s also important to ensure you use (and display) payment and delivery options that are well known and trusted in France, rather than assuming they are the same as in the US.
The best way to avoid mistakes when expanding into the French market is working with a mother tongue digital marketing expert who innately understands the linguistics and culture and can appropriately localize your website, content and brand message to best resonate with French consumers.
This blog is part of our wider B2B Playbook that is designed to help B2B businesses with all aspects of their digital marketing from leveraging data, acquiring more traffic, creating assets that resonate and succeeding internationally.
If you’re thinking of expanding into international markets, the international section is for you. Here we review everything you’ll need to take into consideration when going global.