The 2012/06/23 at 05:30
The symbolic bar was crossed in 2011. There are now 100,000 e-commerce web sites in France. The figure went up by 23% compared to the previous year. Around 38 billion euros were spent online last year, compared with 31 billion euros in 2010. Amongst the countless businesses in the sector, the giants have the most reason to celebrate. 29% of e-commerce web sites are micro-sites, with under 10 transactions per month, and 44% of platforms register 10 to 100 transactions per month. Only 27% of web sites have over 100 monthly purchases. Over the four last years, companies with over 10,000 transactions per month have enjoyed the strongest progressions.
Their figures have tripled since 2007. According to the iCE 40 Panel, an index measuring the growth of e-commerce web sites compiled by the FEVAD (Fédération de l’e-Commerce et de la Vente à Distance or Federation of e-Commerce and Long-Distance Sales) representing the domain's major players, leaders have seen their turnovers progress by 11% over one year. Web sites selling general consumer products have progressed by 8%. Clothing sales has developed with a 12% rise, while the rhythm of growth of technical products is stable at + 6%. In the e-tourism branch, companies maintain a strong sales growth rate (+14%), after 2010 already marked a record (+20%). Only the rate of growth of sales to professionals has slowed somewhat, at + 4% in 2011.
"Cybernauts are buying more and more this way due to very competitive offers," says Ulric Jérôme, Executive Manager of Pixmania (see our video interview). "In e-commerce, we generally keep lower margins than traditional stores – this is why prices can be 15 to 20% lower." The advantage of low prices is all the more relevant in a currently tense economic climate. According to the Observatoire des Usages Internet (Observatory of Internet Usages) of Médiamétrie, in the 4th quarter of 2011, 30.7 million cybernauts made online purchases. Almost 3 million new cyber-purchasers emerged since the previous year. According to Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet, CEO of Priceminister, "reticence about paying online is no longer a problem now". 66.5% of cybernauts declare that they trust online purchasing, and the figure is constantly growing.
The growing influence of the sector's giants is also the result of a phenomenon of concentration, as exemplified by Priceminister, taken over in 2010 by the Rakuten group, one of the e-commerce leaders in Japan. This Japanese company produces a yearly turnover of around 2.5 billion euros and has 64 million registered members, in other words six times more than Priceminister. Rakuten has also taken over AVendreALouer.fr and VoyagerMoinsCher.com, owned by Priceminister. The Japanese giant had also acquired Linkshare in the United States and has now set its sights on Europe. "The synergies offered by such a group are a great opportunity. We are going to be able to accelerate our growth, in France as well as in other neighbouring countries on the continent," rejoices Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet. The Japanese company is also a global specialist in BtoBtoC, an essential aspect of the market represented by Priceminister. "It's up to us to benefit from this foreign experience to further develop the quality of our relationships with professional sellers in Europe," he continues.
The struggle to preserve market shares looks tough, particularly in the face of mass retailers that make up a new wave of rivals ready to spread to the sector. In the United States, mass retailing has successfully joined the e-commerce adventure, following the trail of the global leader Walmart. The US giant recently announced the takeover of the Chinese e-commerce company Yihaodian, becoming a majority shareholder with a 51% stake. Walmart had already snared 18% of the capital of the Asian web site in May 2011. Positioned in the niche of multi-product sales, Yihaodian has a catalogue featuring 180,000 articles and 5,400 employees. Last year, the group generated a turnover of 326 million euros. In China, around 4% of distribution is currently carried out online, that is, twice less than on the American market, and three times less than in the United Kingdom. But the situation is changing very rapidly. A survey carried out by the Boston Consulting Group reveals that China will represent the world's largest e-commerce market in 2015. Classic retailing is expected to undergo an average yearly progression of 15% in the next three years, while the volume of online trade should grow twice as quickly.
The arrival of these new players has so far been timid in Europe, but the trend is turning around. In Britain, the mass retailing chain Tesco has already turned its Internet platform into a success and is extremely innovative in this domain. "We keep a close watch on the projects of major distributors in particular because we know that they can quickly become direct competitors," admits Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet. The advent of online trade has gradually wreaked negative effects on traditional players in general consumer goods, triggering a break with former consumption modes and social behaviour, backed up by a return in demand for proximity. The development of Internet raises the issue of adapting brands to client relationships no longer restrained by geographical limits.
Leaders in distribution thus find themselves forced to change their batting strategy. In France, the Leclerc hypermarket group is currently negotiating this curve and endeavouring to integrate a digital dimension in its strategy. The group wishes to be the leading multi-channel brand in 2015. From this year onwards, it is getting set to open a number of specialised sites on its web portal. The domain of travel is amongst its great innovations. Future platforms will also propose multimedia offers or cultural products. By 2015, the brand's web portal will also provide access to around 400 "drives", specific spots where purchases pre-ordered on Internet can be picked up. Auchan was the first group in France to embark on this new type of distribution circuit. "Drives" produced a turnover of 1.4 billion euros in 2011, and are expected to represent 5% of the market share in 2015. This form of consumption is even spreading beyond the food sector.
To develop new assets, hypermarkets are gradually getting reorganised around more specialised consumption universes. This is a strategy that will undoubtedly give rise to more direct competition with large retailers providing specific offers such as Fnac (entertainment), Boulanger (electronics) or Décathlon (sporting equipment). But businesses solidly planted on the web seem conscious of impending competition and ensuing tensions. "In e-commerce, we are always in a context of acquiring market shares. It's not just a matter of maintaining one's profitability. New clients appear every week on Internet. Most major players set up know this and invest massively, which complicates things for new arrivals, even more so if they are SMEs," concludes Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet.