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French Products: the Saveur du Jour Business Case

With the number of Internet stores ever growing, many online businesses that face competition on their home market need to grow by exporting their products abroad. How easy is it to translate success at home into success in foreign countries? In this article, we will review how smart companies prosper by successfully exporting products in spite of multiple issues: language barriers and localization, local taxes and regulations, currency conversion and potentially international shipping.

Product quality is key

First, let's review the business case of an online store called Saveur du Jour that sells French products in the US and in multiple countries around the world. After a series of interviews with the founder and senior company executives, we have identified key criteria for success. First of all, Saveur du Jour carefully selects the products they sell and makes sure they are authentic, quality products from France that global consumers look for wherever they might be. What is people's perception of France and what French products are they likely to buy? For most, and at least in the US, the image of France is the Eiffel tower, food, wine, perfume and romantic gifts. Therefore Saveur du Jour sells typical French products including French food online (macarons, charcuterie meats, herbs de Provence, Dijon mustard, French chocolate, calissons and other French sweets), Paris souvenirs (Eiffel tower replicas of all kinds, coasters, espresso cups and mugs and Paris prints) and Provence products (Provence herbs and grinders, lavender and Marseille soap). In addition, they carry French gifts for women (bags, purses, French jewels, foutas, French perfume and beauty products) as well as French gifts for men (leather wallets, leather purses, scarves, Paris mouse pads and mugs).

Adopt local behaviors and customs

Second, they make the ordering process as easy as possible. For US consumers (who make the majority of their customers), product descriptions are in plain English (that's the obvious part) with references to local culture so US shoppers feel comfortable buying. Like in the US, prices are displayed in US dollars and without tax. In fact, US consumers who order products from France do not have to pay taxes. Yet, many French businesses who sell products in the US charge tax, because French prices generally include tax, which is the rule on most European markets. Saveur du Jour takes all major US credit cards and their payment system is based in the US, so there is no international fee charged to US customers. Again, put yourself in the shoes of the online shopper who needs to be constantly reassured about product quality, payment security and shipment speed, so act as a local company and blend in local habits.

In addition, Saveur du Jour offers the same level of customer service as US companies (easy refunds with no questions asked before the product has shipped) as well as a well defined return policy. Several staff members have lived in the US and are fluent in English so they can easily support customers by phone or by email. Like in any business, customer satisfaction is of utmost importance and is the key to building a solid base of return customers.

Interestingly enough, Saveur du Jour does not ship all its products from France. While all their gifts and Paris souvenirs ship from the city of lights, fresh food items such as macarons and charcuterie ship directly from the US, thanks to partnerships established by Saveur du Jour with French chefs and French meat resellers who make French products fresh in the US. That is a nice way to provide the best of both worlds: authentic products from France and fresh food products made in the US.

Choose the right business model

Last but not least, logistics are an important part of any online business that sells physical products. When exporting products from home to a foreign country, you have essentially two options: establish a foreign subsidiary that maintains an inventory abroad and sells directly within the target market; or ship directly from the home country if you can establish a strong partnership with a shipping company. In the case of Saveur du Jour, they have opted for the second option: they ship their products from France to the US and the rest of the world using FedEx. This means that their shipping costs are slightly higher than if they shipped directly from the US, but this gives them access to a virtually infinite range of products, and access to large product quantities as well. This has proven to be a more profitable option after all.

In this article, we have examined how a company has successfully marketed French products in the USA by carefully selecting authentic products, easing the ordering process for local consumers and optimizing logistics to increase gross margins. We have identified general rules that can be applied to any business from international countries targetting the US market. Click here to learn more about US companies who target foreign markets in Europe or Asia.

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