1 Have a mission that runs deeper than a slogan
Brands are increasingly realizing that offering great products and services is only the beginning of their task; consumers want to associate themselves with brands that have a deeper purpose beyond simply selling things. They’re looking for brands that, as well as making money, are genuinely working to improve society, the environment, and conditions for their staff. The key word here is “genuinely”. Simply jumping on the green bandwagon won’t just fail, it will likely lead to a backlash from a cynical public who wonder why the brand didn’t show that it cared about pollution or social justice until now. The mission has to be real to be believed.
2 Think about life in the slow lane
With the digitization of daily life making change happen ever faster, many people are looking for ways to relax and make life slow down a little – even if that’s only in small ways. In fact, 80 percent of French consumers say they want to slow down the pace of their lives and savor more time with family and friends and pursuing simple hobbies such as gardening and meditation. It’s also leading people to rethink their relationship with the items they own and use. While the so-called sharing economy is yet to gather the same momentum seen in many other mature economies, a growing proportion of French people report feeling that their possessions are sometimes a burden to them. And already, 41 percent of households here produce at least some of their own fruit and vegetables. Consider how your brand relates to the need for some down time.
3 Innovation is paramount
French people are keen to try new things, and sales figures for packaged goods show that where there are new brands, products and variants, there are spikes in interest and purchasing. A decade ago, 48 percent of people said they were looking for new things to try, and that figure is now almost 57 percent. But innovation isn’t just about launching something new; it can be providing a new, higher level of consumer experience, or creating a shopping space that feels like more fun, or is more convenient or perhaps more relaxing. Anything, however small, that changes people’s lives for the better, can count as innovation. Innovation doesn’t just fulfil people’s desire for change, it also refreshes the way they feel about the brand that provides it. Of course, large-scale innovation can transform a category. Think of banking, automotive and hospitality, which have all been shaken up by innovative newcomers. All brands need to acknowledge that what has sustained them in the past may not be enough to secure their future.
4 Online shopping has room to grow
With 34 million French consumers having bought something online last year – 13 percent higher than a year earlier – you might be tempted to think that all the people prepared to use e-commerce are already doing so. Yet there remains considerable room for online shopping to grow, in terms of value, the number of shoppers, the number of shopping occasions for each buyer, and the number of categories that people buy over the internet. Technology and fashion are the go-to categories online, but penetration of other sectors – especially fast-moving consumer goods, two-thirds of which are still bought in physical stores – remains low by global standards. What’s holding many people back from spending more is convenience. Kantar research shows that 70 percent of people say they’d try it for the first time or use e-commerce more often if websites were easier to navigate, especially on a mobile phone, and delivery was faster and free of charge. The fastest-growing areas for e-commerce are women, under-35s and residents of smaller towns and cities.
5 Balance technology with trust
Connectivity has transformed people’s lives in ways that people now wouldn’t dream of being without. But the pace at which this transformation has happened is leading many to wonder whether they need to retake control over aspects of their digital life. Half of French people say they’re concerned about how much is known about them by businesses, and a quarter think they already spend too much time on their mobile phone. Over half of consumers object to a connected device monitoring their activity, even if that monitoring leads to more personalized services that ultimately make their lives easier. Besides thinking about efficient targeting, content and media channels, brands also need to keep transparency and confidence at the heart of their digital strategy. Just because technology means you can do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose.
6 Older people could well be the future of consumption
Don’t call them “seniors”, “silver surfers” or “golden oldies”; treat them like they’re your best customers, because if they’re not already, they soon might be. Already, 31 percent of the French population is aged 55-plus, and this proportion is growing. What’s more, they spend more than millennials and generations X, Y and Z, accounting for over 40 percent of spending on consumer goods. These are people who generally report feeling much younger than they are, and they’re on the lookout for great food, fashion, travel and tech. But they’re not all the same, so work hard to understand segments within the “older” audience to make the right connections.