French shoppers rate e-retailers as high as stores on service

However, some Europe Top 400 e-retailers get less than stellar service marks.

Tamara Thiessen

When it comes to e-commerce sites in France, consumers in the country rank amazon.fr, laredoute.fr, fnac.com and darty.com as their favorites in terms of quality of service, a new survey from French polling organization the Institut français d'opinion publique (IFOP) finds. Amazon.fr was the only web-only player of the top bunch; the others are multichannel. The poll, conducted in March, asked more than 1,000 shoppers about the online retailers they feel offer the best all-round quality of service.

Additionally, the survey shows more than half of French shoppers feel online-only retailers offer just as good service as multichannel retailers that operate both stores and e-commerce sites, says Anne-Sophie Vautrey, head of businesses strategies and public opinion at IFOP. “The votes for online sales show a relative balance between web-only players and the web sites of bricks-and-mortar stores," she says.

The survey quizzed web shoppers on their preferred sites in terms of the quality of service offered by e-retailers in four product areas: culture and entertainment (books, music, toys, games, sporting equipment); fashion, clothing and cosmetics; high tech and consumer electronics; and household products.

In each instance consumers were asked “Which e-commerce sites offer the best quality of service for the purchase of x products” leaving consumers open to selecting as many sites they wished from a list of 8-15 players in each category.

In the four product categories, French online shoppers ranked retailers as follows in terms of quality of service:





Some of the French e-commerce players in Internet Retailer’s Top 400 Europe Guide fall behind in quality of service rankings, according to the poll.

For example, Rueducommerce.fr, No. 53 in the guide, was only ranked in the top tier by 15% of those polled, putting it in sixth place in the high-tech category. Online marketplace, priceminister.com, No. 136 in the guide, is ranked No. 8 in the same category, with 9% of consumers placing it on the top tier. Meanwhile, footwear retailer, spartoo.com, No. 119 in the guide, gets the lowest ranking out of 12 e-retailers of fashion, clothing and beauty with just 4% of consumers giving it top marks.

Martin Gill, an analyst at Forrester U.K. says loyalty programs and cost considerations play a big hand in pushing the popularity of e-commerce sites among French consumers.

“French shoppers are especially price-sensitive, and the approach French e-retailers take to loyalty is very different from the U.K. or Germany,” he says. “Major online retailers like Fnac.com (which sells high-tech items, books and music) leverage this type of approach to loyalty with discount schemes, where shoppers essentially pay a subscription to receive special offers, discounts and access to premium services.”

Gill believes loyalty programs, discounts, superior customer service, responsiveness and extensive product information offered by many of the top-scoring sites, such as amazon.fr and Fnac, has helped these retailers garner high marks by French consumers. Fnac began as a bricks-and-mortar retailer and then branched into e-commerce; amazon.fr is web-only.

“They are providing clear merchandising and product information, are transparent about delivery costs and pay close attention to ratings and reviews,” he says. “French web shoppers are heavily influenced by delivery cost and peer opinion when they make online purchase decisions.”




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