July 28, 2011

French Mobile Users and m-Commerce

A shift is taking place in the French mobile internet.

French mobile surfers are mainly using the internet for three reasons: (1) to have fun and play online, (2) to look for services and information like phone numbers, addresses and the next party to go to and (3) to read and access mobile content.

Most of the French brands don't get this, though. They've been too focused on SMS marketing to their existing databases to see the advantages of mobile advertising. And ad agencies have been reluctant to use long-tail networks like BuzzCity due to lingering doubts.

But this is changing as French brands begin to use the medium to attract new consumers, rather than targeting campaigns to existing clients and some companies – like La Redoute – are discovering innovative ways of integrating m-commerce into their business models.

The French Mobile Environment

Data charges are scary – and prohibitively expensive – for many French consumers. Unlimited subscriptions are not the norm. I know a lot of people, young and old, who feel lost with smartphones and don't know how turn off the browser when not in use. That said, smartphones are the norm. More that 97% of French phones have an XHTML browser and most have a music player and 3G as well.

The number and percentage of mobile phone users who access the mobile internet has also risen steadily over the past several years from 30% of SIM card owners at the beginning of 2008 to 43% today. And about 70% are on post-paid plans.

We also see that mobile phones are a very personal device for the French. We like to use our phones to take photos and watch videos, even more than our German and English neighbors.

And because our phones are personal, we take offense if ads appear to be intrusive.

Meanwhile, we're likely to use our mobiles to access the mobile internet while in the office. French companies often set up firewalls to keep us from using the office PCs to access our favorite sites or check our personal emails. Of course, we tend to thumb our noses at these policies by using our phones instead.

In this graph, you can see that mobile usage climbs steadily throughout the morning, peaking in the early afternoon. Usage drops off in the evening when we're out to dinner with friends and has evening peak around 10pm as we check emails and play online before going to sleep.

Finally, it's worth noting that nearly one-third of French mobile surfers are aged 35 – 49 (another 30% are under 24) and the largest demographic group are Parisians.

Embedding Mobile in Your Business

One French company that we think is leading the way in mobile is clothing retailer La Redoute. Traditionally, La Redoute has relied on magazine ads to fuel sales. More recently, though, La Redoute is not only advertising on mobile, it's making it easy for consumers to make a purchase. All you have to do is take a photo of the item you want to buy (from a catalogue), upload it to a mobile site, choose your size and then, voilĂ , you can buy it from your phone. Mobile banner ads also provide a code for free delivery.

La Redoute has the right idea. Market products with mobile ads, create a good mobile website, integrate the mobile campaign with the rest of the business and, above all, make it as easy as possible for consumers to buy what they want!

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Privacy is a big issue for French consumers as well as ad agencies and brands. We explain why and discuss BuzzCity's take on the issue in this column.