If you have been lucky enough to reach a certain level of success in your business, you may be looking to expand your activity beyond borders. More specifically, you may have already considered selling your products to the French market. But you may be also wondering if you’ll eventually need to learn French (good luck with that), if you’ll need to open a subsidiary in France? Or maybe even pay taxes over there? Relax, the answer is ‘no’. But here are a few hints for you about marketplaces selling in France.

How’s e-commerce doing in France?

France is Europe’s 3rd market in value with around 45 billion € in cumulated online revenue in 2012, just behind Germany (50 billion €) and UK estimated to be a 90 billion € market the same year.

Specialists estimate that France counts 110.000 to 130.000 online shops (source) but professionals and service providers consider that the amount of e-shops that are ‘active’ (meaning ‘the ones who actually make money online‘ basically) is much smaller.

France has a slowly decreasing average basket value of 85€ per transaction (-1% versus year before). But this particular KPI being decreasing year on year is not necessarily a wrong sign. As shoppers integrate more and more online purchase in their consumption patterns, they tend to shop more often for smaller amounts and for a wider range of articles. This is compatible with the increase of number of transactions that went up by 25% in 2012.

Should you sell your products in France ?

Well, depending on the type of products you’re specialized in, the answer can be somehow different. However, French shoppers are sensitive to a wide range of offers including fashion, travel, home furnitures, high-tech and electronics, so there’s a lot of product categories that can appeal to French people.

10 reasons why you should bet on marketplace selling :

1°) Marketplaces are among the fastest growing e-commerce websites worldwide. French versions of Amazon, eBay, Pixmania or Rakuten’s PriceMinister receive millions of visitors each month. So, it’s highly unlikely that you will not reach your target, even abroad.

2°) Marketplaces’ role is to drive people through their product pages. They do it quite well. That and building large, efficient and scalable e-commerce platforms, optimized for shopping. So let’s just not reinvent the wheel and take advantage of this huge expertise, most in particular if you decide to do business outside of your home market ; these platforms are strong and reliable.

3°) Marketplaces operating in France are either ‘general’ or ‘specialized’ which allows to acquire very targeted audience ; this is why you’re likely to get better conversion rate on those website than on your own.

4°) Marketplaces have the SEO experts so that they will be better positioned than you are, most of the time. If you plan selling to France and you do not actually speak French, the marketplaces will do the SEO work on your behalf.

5°) Customer service in France must be in French, sorry. That’s kind of a problem if you do not speak French. It’s not if you let the marketplaces deal with customer service, and Voilà : you can then focus on sourcing and shipping

6°) Marketplaces are among the most business-driven places on the web. Generally speaking, their third-party sellers are being treated equal and aim to encourage ‘sales factors’ above all others. There is a lot more transparency about the rules of their internal SEO than on any other type of secret algorithms…

7°) Let’s put it simple : everywhere, marketplaces are hype. There’s a dozen of new ones launching every week. France counts at least 15 marketplaces that worth being eye-checked. You’ll be able to choose between very well-known ones (like Amazon, eBay, etc) and specific, very-targeted ones, on which margins are better and the market less concurrential.

8°) Marketplaces’ pricing is performance-based ! Although most popular marketplaces ask for a monthly subscription fee (around $35 / £25), the majority doesn’t and only makes money out of commissions on sales. So above a certain limit, you’ll be operating on a no-sale/no-fee basis with very low investment at stake. Why not giving it a shot, then?

9°) Translating all products’ descriptions in French is going to take a while… Maybe less than you think: nowadays, most marketplaces use products’ reference numbers to gather similar products together under the same product description. So there are fair chances that you’ll barely need to translate a word in French

10°) Forget about translating your website, foreign currencies, specific payment methods and give up French VAT rules, trade tariffs, etc. : Marketplaces does it all! They are already operating in France and ready to deal with Euros, French multiple tax rates, shipping methods, etc. You just have to focus on what you do best, sourcing good products and put it online.

France’s marketplaces landscape :

For all the reasons described above, France counts a LOT of marketplaces : there are at least 15 significative marketplaces that you should seriously consider selling on. Here are a few major ones :