Best Practices in English to French Translations: Expanding to Amazon.FR

Sep 1, 2023



Expanding to Amazon.FR, or Amazon France, is a fantastic idea – so let’s cover the best practices in English to French translations in this week’s blog. We’ll go through the robust Amazon.FR market, the mentality of the French consumers, and the challenges and benefits that face a seller who’s making the great decision to expand to France.

According to the Organization of International Francophonie, French has around 220 million native speakers, and around 320 million total speakers, and is spoken by 3.6% of the world’s population. This includes people from France, Germany, the UK, Canada, and various countries in Africa (which has 22 countries that use French as their official or co-official language). There are French speakers as far as Asia (Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam), South America (French Guinea), and Oceania (French Polynesia and New Caledonia).

SimilarWeb reports that Amazon.FR, which was founded in 1994, is ranked #1 in eCommerce & shopping in France, with an estimated 183.1M total visits a month, traffic that’s mirrored by top sites Disney Plus, ESPN, and Google. We’ll get into that a little later in the blog, but suffice it to say that with traffic this healthy and ranking this robust, Amazon.FR should not be ignored.

Naturally, French – in spite of its similarities to English – is a totally different language, and its people have very distinct buying habits. Read on to find the best practices in English to French translations, and how to expand to Amazon.FR the right way.

Expanding to Amazon.FR: Why This is a Great Idea

In 2019, the value of France’s online retail sector amounted to $114.4 billion, and it’s expected to skyrocket to $203.5 billion by the year 2025.

The digital consumer base in France is on a consistent rise, with nearly 71% of the population participating in online shopping as of 2020.

A compelling reason to establish a presence in France is that local consumers are unlikely to come to you. A study by the eCommerce Foundation revealed that a lack of trust keeps 60% of French online shoppers away from foreign websites. Without a local foothold, you’ll miss out on fully tapping into the lucrative French market.

How healthy is Amazon France?

Amazon France is a powerhouse in the French eCommerce landscape, pulling in an astounding 183.1 million total visits per month. With an impressively low bounce rate of 32.42%, the platform successfully retains users who, on average, browse 9.35 pages per visit. Though the average visit duration is a brief 7 seconds, the sheer volume of interactions indicates that consumers find what they are looking for swiftly. The site caters not only to local French patrons but also attracts consumers from Belgium, Switzerland, the USA, and Germany.

When it comes to driving traffic, Amazon France relies heavily on direct traffic, which accounts for a whopping 48.99% of desktop visits in the last month. Organic search isn’t far behind, contributing 26.98% to the site’s overall traffic. Interestingly, the display channel remains underutilized, indicating potential room for growth. Top referral sources to Amazon France are diverse but predominantly come from streaming and online TV sites, contributing to 23.32% of the referrals. Coupons and rebates follow with a 17.55% share, and categories like computers, electronics, and technology as well as price comparison and shipping and logistics fill in the rest, indicating the platform’s broad appeal.

Social media also plays a significant role in drawing attention to Amazon France, with YouTube being the top social media traffic driver, accounting for an incredible 69.47% of traffic from social sources. Facebook trails behind at 13.24%, suggesting that video content may be particularly engaging for Amazon France’s audience. All these statistics showcase Amazon France as a dominant force in online retail, one that leverages multiple channels and appeals to a diverse and international customer base.

Amazon Prime in France

As a seller considering an expansion to Amazon France, it’s worth noting the multitude of advantages that Amazon Prime offers to its French customer base. The Prime membership not only includes unlimited free delivery on an extensive range of products, often within just 1-2 business days, but it also gives members exclusive deals and early-bird access to lightning deals during sales events. This suite of benefits can increase customer loyalty and lead to higher sales volumes for sellers.

With an annual membership fee of €69.90 or a monthly fee of €6.99, customers can enjoy next-day delivery and free streaming on Prime Video and Prime Music.

Customers that aren’t that comfortable with their French can change the language settings to English for a more convenient browsing and shopping experience on Amazon.fr.

Shipping in Amazon France

You won’t see identical products on Amazon USA and Amazon.FR – that’s because the French platform caters to shops that offer standard shipping within and around France. Sellers need to be ready to cater to Amazon Prime members – and to offer standard delivery, expedited shipping, or same-day delivery for certain items. Also, shipping extends as far as Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, and the UK.

Challenges of Expanding to Amazon.FR and translating from English to French

When selling on Amazon FR, you’ll face competition from local eCommerce giants like Cdiscount and Fnac.

Keep in mind that when translating your product listings, the text will expand by 15-20% in French.

Additionally, be aware of the formality in the French language as there’s a distinction between slang and formal language.

Remember that there are different variations of French spoken across the world, so it’s important to understand the specific dialect in your target market.

Competition from local ecommerce

Despite the fierce competition from local eCommerce giants like Cdiscount and Auchan, Amazon France remains a significant player in the market with its strategic moves and popularity among French shoppers.

The leading e-commerce platforms in France based on annual net sales are as follows:

  • Amazon France leads the pack with yearly net sales of €3.351 billion.
  • Cdiscount follows closely with an annual revenue of €2.276 billion.
  • Veepee, formerly known as Vente Privee, generates €2.274 billion each year.
  • Auchan brings in €1.635 billion in net sales annually.
  • Apple records annual sales of €839 million in France.
  • Fnac rounds out the list with €784.8 million in yearly revenue.

Without a doubt, expanding to Amazon.FR is a great idea and a sound business decision, especially if you manage to convince the French consumer that your brand is trustworthy, and will cater to their specific needs. More on French consumer behavior later in this blog.

Longer text when translated into French

Although it may come as a surprise, translating English text into French often results in a longer and more expanded version. This is because the French language has unique characteristics that contribute to text expansion.

When translating from English to French, you can expect the text to expand by about 15% to 20%. It’s important to keep this in mind when preparing content for translation to ensure accurate and effective communication with French-speaking audiences.

If your secondary images employ only short text, expect the real estate taken up by text to increase once you translate from English to French. Same goes for your A+. It’s also advisable to generate new keywords for France vs. Canada, since the words vary in a big way. More on that in this blog on the best practices in keyword localization and SEO.

Formality: slang vs. formal language

Imagine the power of connecting with the French-speaking market by mastering the art of formality and understanding the nuances between slang and formal language.

When translating from English to French, it’s crucial to adapt your language to the appropriate level of formality. French has a more formal pronoun and title system used as a sign of respect.

Being aware of these cultural markers will ensure that your translations resonate with the French audience and create a positive impression.

Using formal vs. slang French completely depends on the brand’s voice, and if the brand positions itself as quirky or not. For instance, would you use ‘le truc” or “quelquechose” in your bullet points? It all depends who your customer is, and what kind of branding you wish to convey.

Oftentimes, a more casual tone of voice will appear to a younger demographic, which will feel that you’re speaking their language – Francais de la rue. Chances are, if you’re selling to a more corporate or mature audience, you’ll want to use a more formal tone of voice.

Let’s take apparel as an example. For obvious reasons, clothing is one of the top-performing categories on Amazon.FR – France being a world leader in fashion, of course. Are you selling casual street clothing to appeal to France’s youngsters? Then, yes, by all means, employ idiomatic expressions that the kids would use themselves when communicating with one another. However, are you selling more formal attire, or stuff that can be used in fancier occasions? Then a more formal tone of voice is probably a better option for you.

You see? Proper translation even within demographics of the same culture is key.

Different kinds of French across the world

With over 280 million speakers worldwide, French exhibits a rich diversity of linguistic variations across different regions and countries. These variations include differences in vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and even cultural expressions.

For example, Canadian French, also known as Quebec French, has distinct features that set it apart from Metropolitan French. Similarly, African French, spoken in countries like Senegal and Ivory Coast, has its own unique characteristics.

Translators must be familiar with these variations to accurately translate English into the appropriate form of French for the target audience. Are your products appealing to the French population as a whole? Then use neutral French. But if you’re selling on Amazon Canada as well, note that the French will have slight differences, and you might want to put some of those keywords in the back end.

Benefits of selling on Amazon.FR

If you’re looking to expand your online business in Europe, selling on Amazon FR is a great opportunity.

With an Amazon unified European account, you can easily access customers from multiple countries.

Plus, Amazon France is a leader in most online sectors in the country, attracting a large customer base.

Amazon Unified European account

Known alternatively as the European Marketplace Account, this single account grants you access to five different Amazon marketplaces. These include:

  • Amazon.co.uk
  • Amazon.fr
  • Amazon.de
  • Amazon.it
  • Amazon.es

For Pro sellers, this unified account comes with no additional fees. It also provides various tools to simplify, economize, and streamline the process of international selling:

  • Automate International Listings: Available at no extra cost, this tool is essential for any seller looking to go global on Amazon. It not only automates the creation and management of your listings across the European platforms but also adjusts pricing based on current exchange rates.
  • Product Translation Services: This tool makes it significantly easier to list your products on various European marketplaces by translating your product titles and descriptions into the relevant languages (but this translation is by no means perfect; we still recommend getting a native speaker to fine-tune the language).
  • Centralized Business Management: You can oversee your entire European Amazon business from this single, unified account, thus eliminating the complications usually associated with international selling.

Lots of customers buy from Amazon.fr

Many customers flock to Amazon.fr for their online shopping needs. With its wide range of products and competitive pricing, Amazon.fr has become the go-to platform for French consumers.

In 2022, the Amazon France team said, “94% of Amazon’s customers find the company useful in their daily lives, according to an IFOP survey ran in March 2022. This is even more significant in small municipalities (where 64% of the clients say they could not live without Amazon), as well as in rural areas (67%), territories where 85% of respondents who use Amazon believe that the company is able to offer them products that they cannot find in the shops near them.”

Furthermore, since its doors opened to external vendors in 2003, Amazon has cultivated a strong, trust-based relationship with countless small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in France. These SMEs collectively contribute to over half of all sales on the digital platforms. In the year 2021 alone, Amazon invested roughly €3.4 billion across Europe in logistics, various tools, services, training programs, and team development aimed at bolstering the success of SMEs that sell through Amazon. These businesses enhance the customer shopping experience by offering a broad range of products at competitive prices. This means that Amazon.FR is a viable marketplace for France-based sellers – but if you’re an international brand seeking to expand to France, don’t get dissuaded by these statistics. That just means that the French consumer is already on Amazon.FR, and you’ve got a captive market, thanks to these French SMEs.

Amazon France is a leader in most online sectors in France

According to Statista, here’s a list of the product and service categories that customers purchased online from the most in January 2023:

  • Fashion – 56%
  • Accommodations – 43%
  • Shoes – 41%
  • Beauty and hygiene – 40%
  • Transport ticketing – 39%
  • Cultural products – 36%
  • Toys and games – 36%
  • Textiles and household linens – 32%
  • Cultural event tickets (theater, museums) – 30%
  • Electronics and appliances – 30%
  • Furniture and decorations – 29%
  • Financial services – 28%
  • Food & beverage – 26%
  • DIY and garden – 26%

Which of these categories would you like to sell in?

Localizing to the French customers

When localizing to French customers, it’s important to consider both translation and cultural adaptation. French buyers have a specific mentality and preferences that should be taken into account to effectively reach and engage with them.

By understanding their cultural nuances and tailoring your messaging to their needs and expectations, you can successfully connect with French customers and increase your chances of success in the French market.

Remember, European customers have a different buying strategy from American customers – and you’ll learn more about that here in this blog.

Localization & translation

One of the major distinctions between English and French is the level of grammatical complexity. Unlike English, French has gender-specific nouns that vary based on factors like the speaker, plurality, and the noun itself, as well as intricate rules for verb and adjective agreement. There isn’t a straightforward rule to determine the gender of nouns, making it a challenging aspect of the language. This is precisely why you need to avoid machine translations when expanding to Amazon.FR.

To navigate the nuanced differences between English and French grammar, expertise in native French linguistics is essential. It’s advisable to collaborate with native French translators who possess a strong mastery of the language. We talk more about that in this blog on the Localization Triumvirate, and why YLT Translations’ translators can be a massive help when trying to expand to Amazon.FR.

Although they stem from different roots, English and French have numerous words that look similar but carry entirely different meanings. This is a result of both languages being influenced by Latin. Consequently, both languages have many Latin-derived words whose meanings have diverged over time, commonly referred to as “false friends.”

For example, the French word “Pain” means “Bread” in English, and “Coin” in French translates to “Corner” in English. It’s crucial not to make assumptions about word meanings based on appearances. Always consult a dictionary for accurate translations, and consider doing additional research on words that might be deceptive in their similarity.

Be cautious, as these “false friends” can be particularly tricky and can lead to misunderstandings. For instance, the French term “Avertissement” may look like it should mean “advertisement,” but it actually means “warning.” Similarly, “Déception” in French is not a grievous lie but rather “disappointment.”

Here are a couple of idioms that don’t translate well into English – but are definitely worth putting into your listing here and there (depending on your target market, of course) to increase your appeal:

  • “L’esprit de l’escalier”
    Literally: “The spirit of the staircase”
    Meaning: Thinking of the perfect retort or comeback too late, after leaving the situation where it would have been useful.
  • “Ça ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard”
    Literally: “It doesn’t break three legs of a duck”
    Meaning: It’s not extraordinary or exceptional.
  • “Poser un lapin à quelqu’un”
    Literally: “To put a rabbit on someone”
    Meaning: To stand someone up; not show up for a planned meeting or date.
  • “Avoir du pain sur la planche”
    Literally: “To have bread on the board”
    Meaning: To have a lot of work to do.
  • “Mettre son grain de sel”
    Literally: “To add one’s grain of salt”
    Meaning: To give an unsolicited opinion; to interfere in something that doesn’t concern you.
  • “Avoir un chat dans la gorge”
    Literally: “To have a cat in one’s throat”
    Meaning: To have a sore throat or to be hoarse.
  • “Il pleut des cordes”
    Literally: “It’s raining ropes”
    Meaning: It’s pouring rain.
  • “Coup de foudre”
    Literally: “Strike of lightning”
    Meaning: Love at first sight.
  • “Avoir le cafard”
    Literally: “To have the cockroach”
    Meaning: To feel down or depressed.
  • “Donner sa langue au chat”
    Literally: “To give one’s tongue to the cat”
    Meaning: To give up trying to guess an answer.
  • “C’est la fin des haricots”
    Literally: “It’s the end of the beans”
    Meaning: All is lost; it’s the end of everything.
  • “Chercher midi à quatorze heures”
    Literally: “To look for noon at 2 p.m.”
    Meaning: To complicate things; to make things harder than they need to be.
  • “Avoir d’autres chats à fouetter”
    Literally: “To have other cats to whip”
    Meaning: To have other things to do or more important things to take care of.
  • “C’est dans la poche”
    Literally: “It’s in the pocket”
    Meaning: It’s a sure thing; it’s certain.
  • “Être dans de beaux draps”
    Literally: “To be in beautiful sheets”
    Meaning: To be in a difficult or tricky situation.

French buyer mentality

Now let’s talk about the French buyer mentality. When translating English to French for your product listings on Amazon.fr, it’s important to understand how French shoppers think.

French consumers are generally open to new concepts and ideas, making them responsive both in casual conversations and sales pitches. However, when it comes to making decisions about products or services, the French prefer to take their time. Quick decision-making is often frowned upon in France, as people there prefer to analyze the details of any business deal before making a commitment. So, don’t get alarmed if your sales aren’t as quick as in the US market; this is a cultural thing, and should be taken into consideration when planning for shipping and inventory.

The digital shopping landscape is also growing in France, mirroring global trends. France has an aging population with an average age of 41.4 years, yet the majority in this age range are active online shoppers. A 2016 study revealed that 80% of French consumers between 34 and 44 years of age have made an online purchase.

As for online presence, YouTube ranks as the third most popular website in France. However, traditional TV still holds a strong foothold, with high viewership rates, indicating that France remains a country of TV enthusiasts. It’s a good idea to leverage on the popularity of visual media when trying to attract your French customer.

French consumers are driven by cost-effectiveness but without sacrificing quality. They are increasingly gravitating towards brands that offer high-quality alternatives at a lower price. Packaged foods that come with added health benefits are expected to see continued growth in demand. The French ecommerce scene is notably discount-driven; 62% of online shoppers are motivated by price over quality. The French even have their own version of Black Friday to offer additional discounts.

Eco-consciousness is also growing among French shoppers. In 2021, eco-friendly purchases surged by 42%. Current preferences indicate that 44% of French consumers prioritize locally made products and 29% opt for environmentally responsible products. Concerns about sustainability and social responsibility have escalated since the onset of Covid-19. Furthermore, a significant percentage of French consumers are now more critical of their own consumption patterns and the concept of mass consumption. They are demanding that brands demonstrate both sustainability and environmental responsibility.

Trust in a brand is now highly influenced by the brand’s alignment between its stated values and actions. Any disconnect or insincerity can quickly lead to distrust. A large majority of French consumers agree that brands need to solve societal problems, innovate effectively, and take up meaningful causes to earn their trust.

Prove to your French customer that your product offers value for money – while adhering to authentic and humanitarian values.

Here’s a snapshot of their wants and needs, as of 2022:

  • 44% prefer products manufactured in France or by French producers.
  • 29% prioritize environmentally responsible products.
  • 25% focus on products with the most affordable prices.
  • 20% appreciate products that bring them joy or pleasure.
  • 17% value products that prioritize client health and safety.
  • 16% favor products that simplify their lives.
  • 13% are willing to purchase products that support social causes and aid those in need.
  • 11% enjoy products that inspire or fuel their imagination.
  • 9% like products that offer an escape from daily routine.


So, if you’re considering expanding your business to the French market, it’s important to be aware of the challenges that come with translating English to French. Hiring an expert bilingual translator and paying attention to grammar, formality, and cultural markers are crucial.

However, the opportunities in the French-speaking market, especially in France, are significant. With a well-developed economy and a population that loves to shop, the French eCommerce industry is projected to grow exponentially. Tap into the French-speaking market with care and consideration of their discerning buying habits – a native translator can help you connect to your French customers much better.

And when it comes to selling in France, Amazon.fr is definitely worth a look. With its easy access to European markets and convenient shipping options, it can help you overcome the language barrier and reach a whole new customer base.