Success of the drive, acceleration of delivery, services of the future: the latest trends in food e-commerce in France

Two hundred key players in the retail sector gathered on Thursday 27 September at the Drive Workshops, organised each year by Linéaires and Olivier Dauvers. Brands, distributors, service providers and specialist journalists were able to discover the latest figures, analyses and trends in food drive and e-commerce.

An overview of e-commerce in France, consumer behaviour and expectations, future services (or not?): here is what we have learned from it.

“The drive, a French exception like champagne”

After spectacular growth in recent years, is the drive running out of steam in France? Still no! It is even the distribution channel that is growing the most, with 445 openings over the last year, bringing the number of drive units to 4,671. Drive revenue is expected to increase by a further 8% this year to €6.4 billion at the end of 2018.

Nearly one in four French people visit the drive and Marie Cheval, former director of digital transformation at Carrefour (now director of hypermarkets in France) talks about “a French exception, such as champagne! “The phenomenon is closely observed by our foreign cousins who are just starting to set up this circuit (in the USA: Amazon, Walmart).

Out of €2 in drive, €1 is still spent at E. Leclerc Drive, even though this year the brand is experiencing a very slight erosion of its penetration rate for the first time. Competitors such as Carrefour Drive, Courses U or Casino are accelerating their investments to catch up.

Why do French consumers like the drive so much?

Freedom and time saving are the main reasons for the success of the drive.
According to a Segments study, the first obstacle to frequenting the hypermarket is the loss of time, for 42% of those questioned. And logically, the main motivation for using the drive and delivery is speed (for 84% of respondents for the drive and 70% of respondents for the delivery).

And if the drive is preferred to delivery, apart from the price, it is above all because it leaves more freedom: 61% of respondents prefer it because they can pick up their shopping when they want and 44% because they are not stuck at home waiting.

Time management is therefore becoming the first criterion of choice for consumers in the way they shop.

How do the French do their shopping by drive? Their behaviours and expectations behind their screen

The drive is the routine shopping circuit, as evidenced by a decrease in attendance during holidays and public holidays. According to an IRI study, drive enthusiasts, who are mainly young parents with babies or children in primary school, shop behind their screens more during the week (note a peak on Wednesdays and Fridays), at lunchtime, and pick them up after work.

The time spent shopping by drive decreases but remains relatively long compared to other circuits: 22 minutes in 2016 (vs 26 minutes in 2015). This is because drive users are more relaxed behind their screens than in stores and spend more time reading product information.

However, the screen leaves little room for impulse: consumers make mostly recurring drive purchases and far fewer unplanned purchases than in stores. According to IRI, 6% of unplanned purchases are made by drive and 22% in store! 1 in 3 orders is placed behind a mobile phone, which further reduces product visibility and impulse. On their screens, users locate themselves mainly through photos (70%) and words are very important.

Regarding expectations, consumers want fewer disruptions: the first irritant and a major loss of revenue for distributors since only 48% of customers buy a substitute product and 52% do not buy the product on the same day. They also want more choice, including local products. Even if the assortment is not performance-related (E. Leclerc Drive having one of the smallest number of references), all needs must be covered.
Finally, drive customers are looking for good deals, preferably personalized: 40% of them go first to the promotions page and 65% click on the promotion banners.

What about the delivery? Traditional distributors are accelerating the pace

For its part, delivery continues to progress but is relatively less attractive to the French. Apart from the release of the trolley (for which Monoprix is the leader), the e-commerce part is still in its infancy: delivery from an online order only generates 800 million euros in turnover, or 8 times less than the drive. And the Parisian “cybermarkets” such as Auchan Direct or Carrefour delivered to you represent only 250 million turnover.
In question? The price especially! The service is too expensive for 53% of the respondents to the Segments study.

However, the threat of Amazon’s arrival in mass distribution, with a very competitive delivery offer and service, is approaching and French distributors are working at high speed to improve delivery costs and logistics. Many of them are currently equipped with giant warehouses and order-picking platforms, close to major cities. Monoprix even called on Ocado, an expert in this field.

Which future services for e-commerce?

Large-scale distribution is being disrupted by e-commerce and the transformation of everyday shopping is far from over.

Will it be possible to order your groceries soon by talking to your voice assistant or directly to your fridge? And have them delivered to your home or in your car trunk in your absence thanks to the connected locks? Will autonomous cars quickly replace delivery drivers?

These new services are already being tested in France! But will they be adopted by consumers? Given the enthusiasm of customers for a service such as the drive that makes their lives easier and saves them time, it is likely that if these new services are well executed, they will meet with public support. And innovation will continue to transform retail and the daily lives of consumers.