In France nine consumers out of ten now look on the Internet before going shopping at a store, according to a recent survey carried out by route planner specialist Mappy and French market studies firm BVA. This eye-popping figure should be enough to convince local traders that they need an active online presence.

‘Web-to-Store’: Local Traders in France Not Taking Sufficient Advantage

Contrary to what local traders and retailers in France tend to believe, what customers are mostly looking for when they go shopping at their neighbourhood stores is not advice and the personal touch. The Mappy-BVA report reveals that only 40% and 28% respectively of those polled in the survey mentioned these two service aspects, lagging well behind being able to see a product (65%); being able to touch and feel it (46%); and being able to take it away immediately upon purchase (50%).
A little over half (55%) of the consumers responding to the survey reckon that going forward they will be able to manage perfectly well without advice from specialised sales people at local stores, although the local traders surveyed felt that this would apply to only a third of their customers.
Local retailers who read the results of the 2nd Mappy/BVA survey on ‘Web-to-Store’ may well find their preconceived ideas shaken up. The report indicates that a massive nine out of ten people in France now search on the Internet before buying a product at a local store, up from 78% a year ago, while the local traders polled believe on average that no more than 14% of all French shoppers follow this practice. So there appears to be a wide gulf in expectations separating shopkeepers and retail customers. Another ominous figure for the non-digital traders is that 97% of the respondents had completed an all-digital transaction – from searching and browsing online to making an e-commerce purchase – at least once during the year.

The Mappy-BVA report states that only 48% of the traders polled have a website. And even fewer commit substantial time and money to their online presence, 78% admitting that their investment in digital amounts to less than half of their marketing budget.
Unsurprisingly, appetite for ‘Web-to-Store’ varies among consumers according to product. Such items as electronics and household appliances are top of the list of products for which consumers go first to the Web to obtain information. When it comes to food and even for example shoes, customers prefer to get their advice directly in-store and maintain the bricks-and-mortar approach to shopping.
The report therefore underlines that the store “remains an integral aspect of the customer journey”. However local traders ignore digital at their peril. If they really want to make their mark on the customer’s buying journey and boost footfall at their sales outlets then they ought to be thinking in terms of ‘multichannel’, argue the Mappy/BVA experts.

By Virginie de Kerautem