Despite the uncertainties, e-commerce players say they are confident for the future

Fevad conducted a survey on the morale of French e-merchants in 2022. They look confident for the future despite the uncertainties.

The health crisis is not completely over, but the high vaccination rate (77.8%) reduces the risk of aggravation of cases and also has an impact on the relaunch of retail activities. Although e-commerce did quite well during the two years that the pandemic lasted, players in the sector developed some uncertainties and divergent opinions about the evolution of the market in 2022.

For the 11th year in a row, the Federation of e-commerce and distance selling (Fevad) releases the results and trends of its survey on the morale of French e-merchants. While 65% say they are more or as optimistic as they were last year, 35% of respondents say they are less optimistic, marking a clear break with 2021, when it was just 8%.

Two-thirds of e-merchants remain confident in the future and this is reflected in their business’ economic prospects: 67% believe their turnover will grow and 45% anticipate an increasing net margin. However, 15 percent of them anticipate a drop in their turnover for the year 2022, a figure that rises to 21 percent for net margin.

Among the other trends expected in 2022 by the leaders surveyed are: the increasing development of second-hand (for 90 percent of them), the signing of strategic agreements between e-merchants/retailers (71 percent) and the continuation of the concentration (64 percent).

E-commerce, an industry that will continue to recruit

Despite less optimism than in previous years, 54% of executives plan to increase their workforce and 37% believe they should keep headcount unchanged. In total, only 9% of e-merchants consider their workforce to be at risk of shrinking, which remains very close to the level recorded in 2021, 7%. Forecasts show that e-commerce should, again this year, continue to be a generator of jobs for the French economy.

More than 50% of respondents believe that the Covid crisis has accelerated investment. They are half of what they think the pandemic has slowed them down.

E-commerce priorities in 2022

This year, IT issues (IT, security) are at the top of e-retailers’ investment priorities, ahead of CSR, logistics and marketing/advertising. Thus, 66 percent believe that their investments in computer systems will increase and 29 percent believe that they will remain stable. For CSR, 57% of e-retailers expect investment to increase, up 2% from 2021, while 31% believe it will remain stable. Regarding logistics, it is more than 56%, with an emphasis on ecologically responsible delivery and packaging, and finally 55% for marketing and advertising.

As social networks are one of the priority investment channels for e-commerces, continuity is essential. 65 percent of respondents predict an increase in spending in this area.

In the medium term, innovation projects should focus on predictive marketing (64% have an ongoing or future project), website accessibility (61%); unification of shares (59% more than nine points); mailbox returns (42 percent) and connected parcels (40 percent). On the other hand, interest in voice assistants and virtual reality continues to wane.

The decrease in the risk of serious contamination is awakening an old ambition of e-commerce, internalization, which is back on the agenda and companies seem ready to set out again to conquer new markets. Of the executives surveyed, 85% believe their revenue will grow internationally over the next two years, up from 73% last year. They are therefore only five percent to judge that this will decrease. The desire for international expansion is clearly a priority for e-merchants and testifies to the dynamism of national players. Among the three favorite destinations, we find Belgium, followed by Spain and Italy.

Concerns about political and economic developments

Political and economic news is the main source of concern for e-commerce leaders. Seventy percent say they are very concerned about tensions affecting supply chains and actually driving up prices. Rising delivery costs, which stem in part from these tensions, are the second biggest concern cited by 60% of e-retailers. Third, the decrease in household consumption linked to the decline in purchasing power is an issue mentioned by 57 percent of managers.

To offset these concerns, there are also positive elements pointed out by the interviewees. First, 70 percent of respondents are very positive about the continued growth in the number of online shoppers, giving them hope for new opportunities. The second reason for optimism is the exponential growth of the mobile Internet, highlighted by 59% of managers. Third, 51 percent rate the growing digitization of physical gamers very positively.

Two weeks before the presidential election, two-thirds of executives believe this will have some effect on e-commerce, but 72% say the campaign is not up to the industry’s challenges so far. Among the expectations of the leaders regarding the future President of the Republic with regard to digital and e-commerce, the support of companies in terms of investment and innovation (93 percent) is at the top. This is followed by regulatory stability (91%), tax cuts (88%) and cybersecurity (87%). They also mention a growing expectation of greater consultation with professionals. When evaluating the public action of the five-year period in terms of electronic commerce, the government’s efforts compared to the previous five-year period stand out, namely in terms of support and development of start-ups (impact considered positive by 54% of executives, an increase of 28 points), digital business transformation (42%, up 25 points), or in the area of ​​global digital support (37%, up 28 points).

Overall, 88% of executives say they are optimistic about the future of their own company, a level similar to 2020, the year marked by the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study, carried out by OpinionWay for Fevad and LSA, is based on a survey of a hundred managers from the main French e-commerce sites. The survey took place from February 14 to March 4, 2022 with a panel of 104 e-commerce site managers. Fevad also specifies that two-thirds of responses were received after February 24, the date on which the invasion of Ukraine began.

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