Paris Retail Week : The French E-commerce ecosystem has a bug

I have the pleasure as many to visit the #ParisRetailWeek – it’s a big expo at Portes de Versailles where all the French spoken retail market has is B2B annual meeting. It’s not only the web and digital but also the brick & mortar and physical shop B2B actors.

I won’t comment the brick & mortar and physical shop B2B scene even if it’s the majority of the expo but only focus where I am myself: the French E-Commerce Scene and the Digital aspect.

I have the chance to talk with great professionals on many interesting subjects but my personal feeling is the French E-Commerce Scene has something « bugged ». It’s only an impression. 

I am perfectly aware that is a personal judgment.

First, there were too few international actors at the expo.

The Big Five (Amazon. Facebook. Google. PayPal. Microsoft ) was not there or with a minimal presence.

Nothing really «wow » we can expect from them.

They did the « minimum syndical » like we say in French: « The minimum they needed to do ».

Chineses companies were the only ones with a « wow » effect with augmented reality for in-store for example but not only and the only one where I have seen something new to be very honest.

Even if it was not my research there: we don’t focus on in-store innovation and we don’t focus on the Chinese market now, I found interesting their approach and their intention to show something different. For me, it is the only companies who made a big effort to show something to the people at the expo.

Marketing automation and marketing automation

Marketing automation is the new graal of the e-commerce.

The funny thing is that we had the same brand playing with marketing automation with the same actors who were only making the same speech. References were often the same showing that brand(s) are testing different suppliers.

They try – the brand – to demonstrate the impact at the R.O.I level using X or Y. 

This market seems then, in France,  not at maturity step.

The policies also how to use marketing automation don’t seem to be so clear and people are searching for how to use them in the best way

We will be part of them then I am not throwing any stones at nobody.

I also spotted that it’s always the same brand playing with market automation and this brand is competing with low margin.

Perhaps they try to find in marketing automation a way to gain some % in their very hard margin journey.

A very good conference was held by the French managing director of Yext, and it’s perhaps for Monday, the one I preferred. The voice impact will be heavy but why no industrial(s)  actors of this revolution were present at the retail week with their product? Perhaps I missed them – and then I apologize because my stay was short – but I did not see Amazon, the Apple Siri or the voice assistant of Google in a demonstration at this retail week.

This revolution was not, physically, there.

The voice was represented by a French company who is doing a great job: Allo-media but it’s was quite the only one suggesting that voice and data are in the same boat. 

Very strange that Amazon and Apple are not considering Paris « as the place to be «  to educate about the new revolution they are running.  Microsoft, Google had a minimal presence. PayPal was there with mollie another good payment solution provider.

where is A.I ? 

Few stands with real A.I were present like the Swiss company founded by people from one of the best world school: the EPFL called Prediggo and I really encourage you to go to the stand of this company. 

Another stand seems to use A.I as a tag for marketing call or to attract attention but my feeling is, that AI is not represented there. We don’t see it. We don’t smell it like the other revolution the voice. Perhaps a lot of stands was intensively using it but based on what research and on what scientific labs? You can’t do A.I using classic developers as they are now, you need to be backed by universities and research labs to do something serious and/or big R&D team of big corporations.

In the latest conference of the day about innovation, the panel of experts seems to consider the artificial intelligence not as a threat – which is a good point – but not as a business revolution too.

This last thought is very strange for me: how you can’t consider a deep change of the human being finally as « not a revolution » or more « only a marketing stuff ». Elon Musk was saying in a recent interview that we are already Cyborg.

Why the tech-french scene is always very “shy” about new disruption and need to take distance and needs to play down the issues? I have not the answer but the minitel syndrom is still there.

Why « speaking about the long cycle of innovation with the word ‘nothing was invented’ » when the TOP 5 big companies in the digital world were not present 20 years ago? perhaps because like I said before R&D and Business are two separate world in the French mentality while they are living together in the American ecosystem or Swiss one.

The use of companies here in the expo of this term is often, yes, a commercial call and not really a good understanding of what is A.I : OK but it’s not the reason to consider this as « secondary »and not as the core of the progress in the next(s) decade(s).

I found also in the speeches of the day – I have seen 4-, that the orators were very shy about speaking about business finally and marketing was used a lot of time in a negative way.

I am a born French speaker and I perfectly understand the hidden sense of the way to use the word in my own language and this spirit seems to be far away of the startup nation « slogan «  loved by some people.

I was also surprised to not have seen any academic actors: no labs of no university was there…

there is a lot of deep research done in France about UX / predictive analysis and others bridges between the world of the research and the business world.

One time again, we « taste » the division between business and research in such occasion in France and it’s still a major error.

The problem is that it seems to be a deeper error closer to a cultural error and political historical atmosphere which is not really business and research-friendly.

I can be wrong but my only feeling coming back to Switzerland is that France won’t be the place where innovation will come in our E-commerce sector and it’s why i say the French e-commerce scene has “a bug”. A part of this bug may be fixed showing more bridges with academic research sectors.

There is a lot of good ideas but it’s hard to innovate when there is no bridge between the academic R&D on one side and the little and medium firm ecosystem on the other hand.

Swiss is doing that very good with a lot of schools as EPFL and EPFZ, France has big difficulties to link them both.

I am not sure to make a good futurologist then you can only forget my sentence if you wish because it’s only a feeling.

A part of this critics, I am French in any case then we love to debate and seeing the world as grey then nothing surprising for people who know French people, I come back after one day with a good impression on some companies I visited  : 

Email building with dartagnan.io (stand X 097)

Marketing automation with Actito. (Stand V124)

Voice cookies and voice data management with Allo-Media (stand T111)

Intelligence Artificielle for e-commerce website with Prediggo ( stand X061)

Visit them if you are still 1 day in the #ParisRetailWeek expo, you won’t regret it.