Local business: the French advocate for a digital turning point

23 November 2016
    • There is a clear match when it comes to the French and local business: for more than 80% of the French population, local shop-owners meet their requirements in terms of product quality (88%), in-store welcome (82%) and product availability (80%).
    • Although local business appeals to them, the French also know its limits: shorter opening times (28%) and insufficiently customised communication (21%).
    • To modernise this type of business, the French recommend resorting to the digital world: 65% are convinced that switching local businesses to the digital era is a question of survival.
    • Furthermore, the French are willing to get involved to speed this modernisation process up: more than 7 out of 10 people would agree to assess the outlets they shop in (74%), provide feedback on the products purchased (71%) and communicate their email address (64%).

    Wednesday 23 November 2016 – Internet has made its way into the daily lives of French consumers. Attracted by the limitless possibilities of online shopping, French consumers spent close to 57 billion euros online last year. In addition to this appeal for e-commerce, the French have stated an increased interest in local business – even though its features are clearly opposite to those of the digital world: proximity, humanity and immediateness. This all-new situation, whereby consumers combine their appeal for digital activities and their interest in local business, raises a number of questions: how can local business adapt to connected consumers whilst keeping its DNA intact?
    Dolmen – a specialist in local customer marketing – and the Opinion Way Institute conducted a study with 1,025 French citizens. Their conclusions can be found below.

    A summary of the study’s results is available by clicking here.


    • There is a clear match when it comes to the French and local business-owners

    The French are quite obviously satisfied with their local shop-owners.
    More than eight out of ten consider the latter as meeting their expectations in terms of product quality (88%), in-store welcome (82%) and product availability (80%).
    Better yet, most claim that local businesses are the ones that best know their expectations. For 67% of participants, bakers were the local business-owners that knew them best. Shortly after came their favourite restaurant owners (61%) and butchers (58%). Surprisingly enough, retailers specialised in data collection and its use are not among the French’s favourites. Proof of this is that 50% of them consider that Amazon knows them; and for supermarkets/hypermarkets this figure drops to 47%.
    “It seems that the French associate direct contact and customer knowledge, as if they were synonyms. For instance, my baker or butcher probably knows me better than Amazon, who has all my purchasing data and product preferences. Yet as opposed to Amazon, my local shop-owners “recognise” me in the human sense of the word, and I trust them. The idea of recognition and trust are key when building a durable and high-quality relationship. Physical shops alone are able to build this human relationship. This is why the digital world should be at the service of the human world, and not the other way around”, explains David Godest, CEO and founder of Dolmen.

    • Communication campaigns: the local touch wins once again

    The French admit to a bias for local communication. Close to one out of two people acclaims it (49%). It comes way before national (26%) and regional (20%) campaigns. Without any surprise, the French are mostly liable – (59%) to be precise – to be contacted by their local business-owner. Going more into detail, 24% would agree to be contacted once a month, 16% once a week and 12% twice a month. Quite obviously, the French do not wish the communication to be more frequent than that, and thus more invasive.
    “Content is the main focus of all shop-owner communication. The acceptable and accepted frequency is intimately linked to that fact. If my local shop-owner sends me an SMS to tell me that lawn-mowers have come into stock if I live in an apartment, there is a strong chance I will refuse to receive anything else from them. However, if I am informed that the product I ordered is available and we discuss a pick-up time, I wouldn’t mind receiving 3 SMS messages the same day! “, adds David Godest.


    • The French have pointed out the limits of local business and its communication

    In second place after promotional offers (51%), the French mostly expect local businesses to extend their opening times (28%). This is shortly followed by more customised communication (21%). The French put this insufficient customisation down to a lack of proficiency in modern communication tools (31%), vague customer knowledge (30%) or even a lack of willpower from business-owners (28%).
    “The French are realistic. Although they are particularly inclined to local business, they know what improvements it needs to make to align with their new lifestyles and new expectations”, punctuates David Godest.

    • To modernise local business, the French recommend resorting to the digital world…

    Vital. A question of survival. This is how the French consider the use of digital tools (websites, mobile applications, etc.) by local business-owners. More precisely, 66% consider this necessary for attracting new customers. And 65% even say it is the key to their economic survival!
    “The French have an overall vision of retail. They have noticed that the sector is unstoppably moving towards an increased integration of digital tools, to align with consumer lifestyles, and understand that local businesses won’t be able to pass on these tools if they want to survive”, adds David Godest.
    Moreover, for the French, proficiency in modern communication tools (social media, mobile phones, Internet, etc.) would improve communication for local businesses.

    • … And are even ready to get involved…

    The French are prepared to involve themselves to give local businesses the means to personalise messages.
    More than 7 out of 10 people would agree to answer regular surveys (74%), assess the outlets where they go shopping (74%), and provide feedback on the products purchased (71%). Or even provide their email address (64%). As such, the 25-34s are those most prepared to get involved. In the above items they are on average seven points ahead the national score!

    In addition to the above actions, the French would find it relevant to share certain information about their personal life. Such as their food preferences (76%), shopping list (67%), household members (65%) and even their shopping budget.

    • … But all to a certain extent

    Get involved? Yes, but all to a certain extent. The French refuse intrusiveness and are extremely protective of certain personal aspects.
    This is why only 25% of the population would accept to be geo-located to receive relevant offers, and just about 22% and 17% of participants would be happy with having their income and religious beliefs divulged to benefit from bespoke offers.

    “Local businesses are the most legitimate when it comes to communicating with their customers. Yet they do not have the proper tools for managing and developing local customer relations. Two major obstacles prevent them from going digital: they are generally scared of tools considered too complex, and most importantly they do not have the time to train or take care of their digital communication on a daily basis. To transform, these economic stakeholders need a simple and sensible solution. This is why Dolmen has made a simple customer marketing platform available to shop-owners, so they can get to know their customers better and communicate with them, concludes David Godest.