The French online booksellers that run efficient businesses are already establishing a clear lead, and among them, Fnac is the clear winner, according to a new Technographics® Report by Forrester Research B.V. (Nasdaq: FORR). BOL, once a key player in the market, has lost ground badly, and its only hope is to start the sector’s consolidation.

“Virtually a French national institution, Fnac successfully exploits its powerful brand and strong offline presence,” said Luca Paderni, senior Technographics analyst at Forrester’s European Research Center in Amsterdam. “The entrenched retailer scores high on the raw traffic figures, does an average job at converting browsers into buyers, and has an impressive churn ratio. Overall, thanks to the sheer size of its offline customer base and a Web site that works, Fnac is the leader online as well. alapage and Amazon are a distant second, Cdiscount is the only efficient niche player, and BOL is a surprising loser along with France Loisirs and Chapitre. BOL loses ground with its worse-than-average conversion efficiency ratio and the worst churn rate of the category. France Loisirs can’t overcome having the smallest customer base, while Chapitre performs terribly on conversion efficiency and the loyalty score.”

Even by 2003, the French market for book e-tailers will not be large enough to support all the current players — book buyers will purchase only 7% of books online. Fnac, alapage, and Amazon will consolidate their leadership while most of the followers will struggle. To survive, Forrester advises that BOL acquire alapage — as they both attract consumers from different consumer groups and alapage has a better chance of grabbing traffic from high-volume destinations like Fnac and Amazon.

To assess how effective the various French Web book retailers are, Forrester examined how consumers used each retailer for each of the three steps in the buying process — awareness generation, conversion of consideration into purchase, and boosting customer satisfaction to get repeat buyers. In France, just as everywhere else, convenience and price are key drivers when considering online shopping, and security and easy navigation are crucial to turning browsers into buyers.

“Fnac understands that the potential of the Net is not limited to the additional sales generated through the Web site,” Paderni added. “Its effective online presence has a positive impact on its brand image, increases the loyalty levels of the most appealing customers, generates additional sales for the shops, and preempts new entrants from challenging its leadership through innovative business models.”

The data used for the Report “French Web Book Winners,” was drawn from Forrester’s Consumer Technographics Q4 2000 Europe Benchmark Study, which surveyed 6,000 French Internet users using a mail panel as part of an overall consumer mail panel of 26,700 European in 13 countries. The 13 markets are Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. All data was weighted to represent the countries’ populations demographically.