PARIS — French consumers of high-end goods are becoming increasingly comfortable with the digital sphere, according to the luxury barometer of France’s Institut Français de la Mode, or IFM, and Matchesfashion.com
The online luxury retailer and the French fashion institute teamed up to form the index, issuing their first results in April this year. Since then, online exploration ahead of a purchase gained ground to reach the same level as in-store visits in terms of prompting a purchase, executives and a professor explained.
The survey, based on more than 1,000 interviews, also showed that the proportion of French luxury-goods consumers making a purchase online increased to 76 percent from 70 percent. The increase was partly fueled by nearly doubling of the number of Millennials using smartphones for a purchase since the last study, it said.
Meanwhile, the use of personal computers for luxury consumption is declining, particularly among younger consumers.
Executives at Matchesfashion.com approached the IFM after seeking studies about online commerce among French luxury consumers.
“We started out by looking at what information was available on the French market from a luxury point of view, on the Internet in particular, and we didn’t find much because there were very few studies, and none of them were based on the French luxury consumer on the Internet,” said Nicolas Pickaerts, the fashion retailer’s e-commerce director.
The parties decided to create a joint index.
“Knowing that furthermore, we were well-placed to know that a real revolution was taking place in luxury around the world, specifically on the Internet,” added Pickaerts.
“Our first study already showed us that the French market was not so far behind; we had had a feeling that France might be behind a bit, in comparison with the U.K. for example, when it comes to online purchasing,” said IFM professor Franck Delpal, who heads the program for the institute.
For Matchesfashion.com chief executive officer Ulric Jerome, the industry is undergoing a dramatic change, which is being pushed by social networks.
“We put as much effort into the editorial part of our content as the selection of products — it’s really the association of the two that makes the difference,” Jerome explained.
It’s important to change content on a daily basis, he said, in order to generate loyalty with luxury consumers.
“Today the luxury consumer wants to be surprised. He is very curious and wants to be inspired every day,” added Jerome. As for the brands, they see the company as an extension of their marketing, according to the executive, and realize that associating with multibrand outlets provide them with larger exposure than if they stick to a single-brand strategy, Jerome said.
According to the latest study, multibrand sites grew 6 percentage points since the last study. Internet sites for department stores and other independent boutiques registered a 4 percent increase between the two studies.
The French luxury consumers prove less preoccupied with logistics, such as returns, than seeking inspiration, noted Delpal.
Apax Partners is in the process of purchasing a majority stake in Matchesfashion.com, which was founded in London by husband-and-wife team Ruth and Tom Chapman around 30 years ago. The pair started out with physical stores but made the shift to digital earlier than many rivals. They also made a push abroad, and around 85 percent of sales now come from outside of the U.K. with the U.S. its largest market.