2021 France Messaging Engagement Report
A deep dive into French consumers' email and SMS preferences
Last year, we released the 2020 Global Messaging and Engagement Report to share how (and why) people across the world engage with email and SMS/MMS messages. That report dove into the behavior and messaging preferences of Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers in the US, UK, France, Germany, and Japan, but we wanted to take a closer look at how French consumers, specifically, want to engage with brands.
In this France-specific report, you’ll get an in-depth look at how French recipients engage with email and SMS and learn best practices to increase your customer engagement.
To gain both qualitative and quantitative insights into the French population’s email and SMS preferences, we interviewed and surveyed over 800 respondents ages 18 to 60. In this report, we categorized respondents into the following four generations: Gen Z (ages 18-24), millennials (25-35), Gen X (36-50), and baby boomers (51-65).
We interviewed 22 individuals of all ages to get a more in-depth look at how they prefer to interact with branded messages. With five or six respondents from each generation, we collected their thoughts and opinions on how they use email and SMS, manage their inboxes, and how often they interact with each channel.
To support this qualitative research, we also conducted an online survey of over 800 French consumers. Their diverse perspectives helped us gain even more insight into customer messaging expectations and preferences across different age groups.
Unsurprisingly, French customers prefer to receive branded messages on channels they opt-in to, like email and SMS/MMS. When we asked respondents to rank the top three communication channels they engage with the most, the top contenders were:
3. Social Media Ads
These channels significantly beat out display, search, video, and audio ads, push notifications, phone calls, and webchat.
And, what do these top two channels have in common? They require customers to explicitly sign up to receive messages from your brand, whereas customers don’t have the same option to opt out of seeing your company’s ads. It makes sense—customers who take the initiative to opt-in to your marketing communications will be more likely to engage with your messaging.
That said, while email and SMS were the most popular communication channels across all generations, age-group-specific data revealed some varied results. For example, respondents aged 51-65 actually preferred to interact with web ads over SMS messages. For Gen Xers, phone calls beat out SMS messages. And, lastly, Gen Zers ranked social ads above SMS/MMS.
While it’s important to note these differences, for the sake of this report, we’ll be diving into why email and SMS are consumers’ overall preferred channels and how brands can ensure their communications strategies engage French customers.
Email is a highly effective channel for businesses to communicate with their customers. Overall, most email recipients in France had very similar email preferences regardless of their age. Most people tend to check and read their email throughout the day, rather than at specific times. Then, if they’re interested, they’ll click. If they’re not, they’ll delete a message and move on.
To better understand how often customers want to hear from their favorite brands as well as what gets them to open and click on an email, we asked them to shed more color on what makes a good or ineffective email. Scroll down to see what they had to share.
The vast majority of respondents (35%) agreed they want to hear from companies once a week.
The results were a bit more divisive after that. The next most popular answer was a tie between once a month and every day, with 23% of respondents voting for each. Rounding out the results, 11% expect to hear from brands every two weeks, while only 9% want bi-weekly emails.
For the most part, these preferences were mirrored in each age group. Millennials and Gen Xers were slightly more open to receiving daily emails from brands. On the other hand, baby boomers were the least likely of any generation to want once-a-day emails (18%). Interestingly enough, 34% of boomers preferred once-a-month messaging, the highest percentage of any age group.
While it’s always important to listen to your audience, this is especially true in regard to send frequency. The overwhelming majority of our respondents said they’d unsubscribe if a company emailed them every day.
While some customers might love hearing from your brand every day, others might prefer less frequent weekly or even monthly updates. Before you lose valuable subscribers, give your recipients control over how often they hear from you by creating a preference center. This allows your recipients to control email frequency during your email sign-up process or when they go to unsubscribe from your email list. That way, customers can decide for themselves whether one email and week or month is right for them, or if they only want you to reach out with company news or offers.
But while understanding how often your customers want to hear from you is important, it won’t mean much if your customers aren’t opening or engaging with your emails. To learn what types of emails win consumers’ clicks, we asked our respondents to rank the top factors that strongly impact their decision to open an email. Here were their top responses:
1. Email sender (42%)
2. Email content (38%)
3. Subject line and Offer/Promotion (34%)
One factor our respondents didn’t seem to give much thought: time of day.
While marketers can sometimes obsess over email send times—A/B testing different times to find that secret sweet spot that boosts open rate and clicks—customers don’t seem to let the time an email hits their inbox impact their decision to open it. In fact, our respondents admitted to checking their personal inboxes throughout the day from their laptops and smartphones, rather than at a set time. They were confident sender name, email content, subject line, and relevant offers were more impactful on their decision to engage with a message.
Email content also plays a large role in how open your customers are to receiving your messages. For example, customers say emails containing deals and promotions are more likely to stand out in their crowded inboxes. Twenty-five percent of respondents ranked both branding and fun content as the second most memorable factors.
The one factor that failed to wow subscribers was email layouts. Almost a quarter of email subscribers (21%) said an email’s appearance doesn’t help make an email memorable. That might be a hard pill to swallow for marketers who pride themselves on their beautiful emails.
Lastly, we asked recipients to share what makes them more likely to click on an email. If you’re looking to improve your email click-through rates, we recommend you start by offering more eye-catching offers. Thirty-four percent of respondents said emails sharing promotions are enough to get them to click. Aside from promotions, respondents ranked critical information, relevant products, and engaging content as the next most influential factors in their decision whether or not to click.
Not every email your business sends will be a winner, but you’ll want to do your best to ensure your emails aren’t pushing recipients to unsubscribe. We asked our respondents to vote for the top factors that turn them off from emails. The top three that irk them the most were when an email contains:
1. Grammatical or spelling errors (73%)
2. Irrelevant content or an unknown company (both 70%)
3. Poorly designed graphics / layouts (32%)
Luckily, most of these grievances are easy to avoid. Here are our quick tips to help your brand avoid these common email mishaps:
We’ve all experienced that stomach-sinking moment when you push send just to notice a misspelled word or broken link at the top of your email. Mistakes happen, but to help reduce the likelihood of significant errors slipping past you, enlist the help of a trusted colleague to look over your work before you hit send, or send yourself a test email to see how your message will appear to your recipients. Sometimes it just takes a fresh set of eyes to catch something you may have missed.
When your email slides into a customer’s inbox, the last thing you want them to think is: “Why is this company emailing me?” If subscribers don’t realize they signed up for your emails or feel they’re being bombarded by your messages out of the blue, they can get frustrated. Even worse, they might be more likely to unsubscribe, mark your emails as spam, or refuse to do business with you in the future.
Sending a simple confirmation message after a recipient subscribes to your email list can help clear up any miscommunication and inform subscribers how often they should expect to hear from you. Setting those expectations early can ensure customers know they’ll be hearing from you so there are no surprises later on.
“WHAT IS ANNOYING IS WHEN YOU EVEN DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS ABOUT!”
— GEN X
Customers don’t want to receive emails with offers or content they don’t care about. This lack of personalization can turn customers off from your brand for good. For example, if they shop or browse for women’s clothing on your brand’s website, they might be annoyed to receive an email for a men’s shoe sale. Use customer data to target your emails to your recipients’ unique interests and needs, so you can send them highly personalized messages and increase the likelihood of them opening and clicking an email.
SMS/MMS messaging has significantly grown in popularity amongst marketers over the last decade. With an average open rate of 94% versus email’s 14.5%, SMS/MMS marketing is becoming an increasingly popular way for brands to send targeted, relevant, and concise messages to customers. It provides a more direct way to reach your customers, allowing you to bypass their crowded inboxes and increase the likelihood of catching their attention. And with 100% of our respondents saying they’ve signed up to receive text messages from their favorite brands, it’s clear consumers are buying into SMS/MMS marketing too.
Similar to email marketing, you don’t want to pester your fans with too many texts – especially because some French consumers find branded SMS messages to be intrusive. Here’s how often our respondents said they’d ideally like to receive SMS/MMS messages from their favorite brands:
1. Once a week (31%)
2. Once a month (30%)
3. Everyday (16%)
4. Twice a week (15%)
5. Every two weeks (10%)
Obviously, there’s a large discrepancy between once a week and once a month, so remember to listen to your unique audience and test different send frequencies to find the right cadence for your subscribers.
We also wanted to better understand how often recipients actually interact with the SMS messages they receive. Overall, we found that interaction is fairly hit or miss. The vast majority of subscribers (36%) only sometimes interact with branded SMS/MMS messages. Forty-one percent seldom or never interact, while only 23% frequently or always view or click a message.
When looking at the results by age group, it’s apparent that millennials and Gen Xers are the biggest fans of SMS/MMS marketing. While 30% of millennials and 29% of Gen Xers frequently or very frequently engage with SMS messages, the youngest and oldest generations were less receptive to this form of communication. Only 21% of Gen Zers and 14% of baby boomers reported they frequently or very frequently interact with SMS/MMS messages. In fact, 49% of Gen Zers and 46% of baby boomers admit they seldom or never open or click on branded SMS messages.
Send frequency isn’t the only factor that impacts a subscriber’s decision to interact with your messages. We asked French consumers to share the top reasons they would engage with an SMS or MMS message. Here’s what they listed as their top three factors that would significantly impact their decision to read or click a branded text:
1. Offer/discount (33%)
2. Content (27%)
3. Relevant products or brand (26%)
Many recipients view branded communications as intrusive and unwelcome because of the more immediate and personal aspects of SMS/MMS messaging.
Not all consumers feel this way, but we wanted to investigate what exactly it is about SMS messages that get under people’s skin. The top reasons our respondents gave were:
1. Send frequency (72%)
2. Message irrelevance (61%)
3. Grammatical and spelling errors (60%)
Again, when your customers and prospects first opt-in to receive your messages, make sure you share how often they should expect to hear from you. Also, take the time to understand your customer’s interests and deliver them relevant messages and promotions. For example, sending them a personalized abandoned cart MMS message with a photo of the exact item they left behind might be more interesting to them than a generic new product announcement. And lastly, as always, read over your copy to make sure it’s error-free.
When we reviewed our research and interviews with French consumers, we identified a few key trends on how they prefer to engage with brands. From unknown senders to bland content to poor customization, here were the biggest email and SMS/MMS pet peeves every generation agreed on, as well as how to fix them:
Our respondents said the email sender plays a key role in building their reassurance and trust in a message. If they aren’t familiar with a sender, they are more likely to distrust the email/brand and ultimately reject it—whether that’s by hitting delete or marking a message as spam. Messages from unknown or unfamiliar senders are seen as very intrusive and promptly deleted.
Make it very apparent who your email or SMS is from. When your company name is the sender, recipients have a clear understanding of who’s sending them a message and why. Misleading sender names can confuse subscribers and push them to delete your messages or mark them as spam.
Another way to ensure your customers and prospects know to expect your messages is to send them a confirmation message after they opt-in to your communications. This can remind them that they’ve opted-in to your messages, give them an opportunity to opt-out if it was a mistake, and familiarize themselves with the look and feel of your messages. That way, the next time you reach out, they’ll be more familiar with your brand!
French consumers are also quick to dismiss messages that have a very basic design. When messages lack fun, vivid visuals, customers assume they are boring and not worth their time.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your brand visuals and messaging. Images, gifs, and videos can add excitement to run-of-the-mill communications. Younger generations were more attracted to brands that use emojis 😊 and humor 😂 in their messaging, although all age groups appreciated when companies use modern, simple, and easy-to-follow messaging. Don’t be afraid to play around with your brand voice to craft witty messages that help your brand stand out from the crowd.
A big pet peeve for our respondents is when they receive offers and content that aren’t targeted to their unique interests and needs. A few respondents even said they felt artificial intelligence should be advanced enough to help businesses serve up more personalized content to their email and SMS inboxes.
These customizations don’t have to be too sophisticated—our audience admitted they think more favorably of a brand when their name is included in an email or text. Customers also said they’d be willing to fill out a detailed survey with their preferences and interests if it helped brands serve them up more applicable content.
At the very least, your brand can increase the segmentation of your lists based on audience demographics or on-site behavior to send them more targeted emails and SMS messages.
Consumers from different countries and generations have their own unique messaging preferences. Identifying these differences and ensuring your marketing strategies cater to them can help increase your messaging engagement and ROI.
And while the findings in this report should inspire your own segmentation and campaign practices, always keep in mind that your audience is unique. As always, use your own engagement metrics and A/B testing to optimize your messaging tactics to cater to your audience segments’ specific interests and needs.
Want a more detailed look at how other countries engage with messages? Download our 2020 Global Messaging Engagement Report to learn how different generations across the US, UK, France, Germany, and Japan interact with channels like email and SMS. Or, check out our US 2021 Messaging Engagement Report for a more in-depth look at American consumer’s messaging preferences.
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