France and fashion go together much like a fresh croissant goes with a piping hot café au lait. But, the retail world has seen a drastic shift from in-store to online purchases in recent years, and brands all over the world are finding unique ways to adapt to selling online without losing their identity.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Laurence Faguer, a French retail and e-commerce consultant who has been advising B2C retailers for upwards of 20 years. She works with clients in fashion, food and beverage, department stores, large restaurant brands, publishers and agencies. Her main focus is advising French retailers and agencies about the best and most suitable digital tools and solutions to improve online sales. Laurence scouts mostly US retail tech companies and brings her recommendations back to France to share with clients. She stumbled upon Curalate a few years ago and has been in touch with us ever since.

To gain a new perspective on French versus U.S. retailers, I asked Laurence to name a few of her favorite French retailers and discuss why she sees them as leaders in the digital and e-commerce space. Her answers are below.


Laurence Faguer: For me, the U.S. is at least 18 months ahead of France in terms of marketing innovation. (I know, I’m not gaining French friends saying that :)), so when I was asked pick my favorite French brands and describe why they are successful with online digital marketing, I was surprised, but I was happy to share my thoughts!

     1. Etam – Personal shopper in-store

Although e-commerce is top of mind, retailers still strive to get customers to visit their stores. Via its brands Etam, 1.2.3 and Undiz, the Etam Group, a family-owned business in France, aims to make women feel more beautiful. With more than 4,300 sales outlets in 40 countries, Etam is a true pioneer. They’ve always been quick to innovate in order to stand out as a recognized player in women’s fashion.

For example, Etam offers an in-store personal shopping service where customers can spend 30 minutes with a fashion consultant to shop for anything they want. On Etam’s website, interested customers are able to fill out a few preliminary questions before their personal shopping session. The questionnaire asks customers to answer practical questions such as their preferred date, time, and address of the store for the consultation, but also allows for personal details like preference on the cut of the neckline; favorite styles of swimsuit, their hair color, etc. It’s perfect! This type of personalization is exactly what today’s customer is interested in seeing online and will ultimately get them to visit the store. And best of all, the service is free!

     2. Pick ‘N’ Mix, from Feelunique

Feelunique is an international website dedicated to new and exclusive beauty products, and its founder and CEO Joel Palix is French. After successful executive positions in the fashion and beauty sector (the last one being the CEO of Clarins Fragrance Group), Palix created an online-only beauty mecca for skincare and makeup lovers. Feelunique’s beautiful website incorporates innovative digital tools that allow them to engage with and retain customers while competing with traditional retailers and growing their share of the e-commerce space. One tool that’s yielding great success is called Pick ’N’ Mix.

With Pick ‘N’ Mix, a customer can pay a small fee of 5.95€ (refunded with the next purchase) to choose from a number of samples that he or she would like to test out at home before purchasing. It’s an easy way to attract customers to an e-comm only store, especially for beauty products. “We solve the test dilemma,” explained Joel Palix during an interview with me. “We recruit a lot [of new customers] by running SEO campaigns dedicated to samples.” Testing a beauty product in-store is can be disenchanting – it’s often noisy, with a salesman who is trying to push you to buy! So, Feelunique created Pick ‘N’ Mix to alleviate any in-store chaos and also give online shoppers the confidence to try new products. And it works!

     3. Luxury: be where your customers are with BSPK

Believe it or not, millennials are buying luxury products. A study from Altagamma (Italian federation of luxury companies) reported that consumers born in the 1980s and 1990s account for 85% of the luxury sector’s growth and will represent 45% of customers by 2025. But too often, it seems that luxury retailers aren’t focused on the right tools to attract to the worldwide millennial shopper, especially on mobile.

In France, some innovators in luxury are seeing great results by equipping their store associates with BSPK. BPSK is a mobile sales app that allows store associates to chat directly with customers between store visits. For example, associates can answer styling questions or alert customers of newly arrived products that fit their preferences. The app allows retailers to engage with customers while they’re not in the store in a very personal way, which is increasingly important to the millennial shopper. The app integrates with SMS and chat apps like Whatsapp and WeChat, it’s very easy to set up, and the customer’s preferences are saved within the app to make future interactions even better.

BSPK is already in use in France at a famous shoe designer and at a French luxury leather goods company. It’s a brilliant solution that speaks to the importance being where the always-on customer in today’s world lives: on their smartphone.

Laurence Faguer is a digital marketing specialist based in France who founded her own consulting agency, Customer Insight, over 15 years ago. Laurence travels to the United States to scout American marketing innovations in the digital, social, and mobile space for her French clients, often long before they are known in France. She works with French General Managers, CMOs and CDOs, as well as agencies who are looking to save time implementing successfully proven American strategies. Notable clients include Carrefour, IKKS, Groupe La Poste, Groupe Carrefour, Groupe Publicis, Advancis, and WPP.