Each international market has specific features that are important to take into account when looking to expand globally. The French market is no exception.
Why would you want to include French customers in your business exploits? There are plenty of reasons. France is the fourth most populous country in the EU. By November 1, 2018, its official population reached 67,372,000. France has the largest venture ecosystem in Continental Europe, attracting leading international investors. Located in Paris, the newly opened Station F was called the biggest startup incubator in the world by Forbes. Furthermore, nearly 90% of the French population uses the internet daily, which is good news for the owners of e-commerce businesses.
As you can see, the French market holds a lot of potential. However, it has its challenges too. Let’s focus on what you need to know to enter the French market successfully.
1: CONSIDER STARTING WITH REPRESENTATION
If you are the owner of a small to medium-sized business, it may be best to start with representation through a liaison office. This could help you cut back on costs, operate on a remote basis, and integrate more smoothly as your representatives help you understand all the nuances and cultural distinctions.
In this case, you won’t need any VAT registrations or financial statements until you decide to incorporate. This will also make you invisible to competitors.
2: KNOW WHEN TO INCORPORATE
The best time to incorporate is as soon as you want to establish a visible entity, be it for financial visibility, credibility, or billing purposes. Non-resident investors often decide to incorporate as an SAS, appointing a national as a CEO and a non-resident as a chairman. This practice is the most convenient for many; however, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to implement it or not.
3: START WITH REGISTERING A VAT
As soon as you decide to incorporate, you should register VAT, set up an administrative address, and introduce a ruling request for R&D credit tax. We advise doing so even before you incorporate: this will save you a lot of time and nerves later.
VAT registration is also essential for businesses that offer products or services online to French customers. Such businesses need to register for VAT once they reach a particular threshold: €82,800 for goods and €33,200 for services.
4: PREPARE THE REQUESTED SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION
This is just as important as VAT registration. Keep in mind that the French administration is very formal and pays strict attention to all the supporting documentation you provide. Lacking certain vital documents can be perceived as disrespectful. On the contrary, having all the documents ready will help you make a better impression and will add to your competitive advantage.
5: ANTICIPATE DELAYS
As the French market is very competitive, delays in the administrative process do occur. If you don’t want to miss your deadlines, always keep potential delays in mind when setting them up in the first place.
6: INVEST IN WEBSITE AND APP DESIGN
As mentioned above, most of the French population uses the internet daily, so your e-commerce business has a good chance of finding its footing here. However, this also means that you have to invest in website and app design.
Aim for straightforward and well-functioning web design. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly and that all transactions are easy to perform on both desktop and mobile devices. Also, if you do have mobile apps, make sure they work with a variety of devices.
Of course, never neglect the translation and localisation part of website and app design: this will play a huge role in the success of your services and campaigns.
7: FAMILIARISE YOURSELF WITH LOCAL PREFERENCES
Your international customers will expect local shipping from your company—and you need to give them that if you want to succeed. Checkout options and shipping solutions are the main factors you should pay attention to.
French consumers are used to home delivery, thorough tracking options, and shipping choices that are either free or reduced. Keep that in mind and do your best to offer the services they are used to.
International expansion is a challenging process. However, doing your research and learning more about the countries and cultures you plan on expanding into will make you more prepared to meet those challenges and overcome them. We hope this article will help you better understand the French market and its consumers!