French consumer purchasing behavior under the microscope

[January 2023] The first annual edition of the BPCE Digital & Payments Barometer survey, which uses anonymized payment data from more than 20 million bank cards and analyzes more than 40 different sectors, provides an X-ray of changes in French consumer purchasing behavior in 2022.

What changes can be noted in the purchasing behavior of the French considering, in particular, the succession of unprecedented crises they have had to face? The first annual edition of the BPCE Digital & Payments Barometer survey sets out to answer this question using the wealth of anonymized payment data from more than twenty million bankcards, i.e. one in five cards currently in circulation in France. The scope of the survey consequently provides a unique perspective on the purchasing behavior of French consumers. The research includes an analysis of 40 different sectors and a scrutiny of major trends.

Trends and trade-offs in the face of declining purchasing power

One of the major findings of the Barometer survey is that the French are adapting their spending to their financial limitations. Forced by shrinking purchasing power and inflation (the price of fuel rose by 29% in 2022) to devote an ever-larger share of their spending to certain items, the French are having to tighten their belts in other areas (spending on food has fallen by 9%). Despite this, however, they are still prepared to indulge in pleasure spending with, for example, 44% growth in spending on eating out, a 154% rise in travel agency spending or a 15% rise in spending on cosmetics.

Digital payments remain well-placed

The rise of e-commerce enjoyed a booster effect in 2020 and 2021 with a 36% jump in the space of just two years. As the effects of the health crisis faded in 2022, e-commerce boasted ‘only’ 10% growth over the past year. The use of digital solutions, however, is continuing to grow, especially among the under 35s, who do 34% of their shopping online. It even seems that digital solutions have strengthened their status as the natural environment for the younger generations, whether their aim is to grab a bargain or to take a break. 

34 % of the under 35s' consumption is done online

Responsable consumption: choosing between making ends meet and averting the end of the world

Responsible consumption (buying second-hand goods, organic food, fair trade, etc.) is losing momentum except as far as donations are concerned. Indeed, the generosity of the French found expression in the 21% increase between 2021 and 2022, largely explained by an exceptional influx of donations in March 2022 following calls from NGOs for solidarity with Ukraine. The signs are more ambiguous in other areas of responsible consumption. The least ambiguous is the decline in organic food brands, which suffered a 10% downturn in 2022, thereby almost totally erasing the growth recorded since 2019. The second-hand economy is also experiencing a slowdown with growth cut in half compared to last year. This category has nevertheless enjoyed impressive growth since 2019 (+ 183%) and the sub-category of second-hand clothing remains dynamic (+ 15%).

10 % decline observed for organic retailers

Trends for payments

French bankcard spending, which rose 12% in 2022, has almost kept pace with the growth enjoyed in 2021, in contrast to 2020 which was a lost year owing to the health crisis. Cash spending continues to decline and shows no sign of having recovered from the drop recorded during the pandemic. The number of contactless payments continues to grow at a strong rate (+23% per year) and the initial reluctance of the French now largely seems a thing of the past. In 2022, contactless payments accounted for more than one out of every two proximity payments. Mobile payment is emerging as the next blockbuster. As proof, the amounts paid via mobile phones have more than doubled since 2021 and have been multiplied by a factor of 12 since 2019. Finally, e-commerce is losing steam but is becoming a regular feature in French people’s everyday lives. 

The new face of the French consumer appears more complex than ever. Read the unabridged survey report (in French only) below.

For further details (only in French)

Baromètre BPCE Digital & Payments – janvier 2023

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