Describes how widely e-Commerce is used, the primary sectors that sell through e-commerce, and how much product/service in each sector is sold through e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar retail. Includes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and, reputable, prominent B2B websites.
Last Published: 10/26/2018

The European Union’s Digital Single Market Initiative
Creating a Digital Single Market (DSM) is one of the ten priorities of the European Commission (EC).  The overall objective is to bring down barriers, regulatory or otherwise, and to unlock online opportunities in Europe, from e-commerce to e-government.  By doing so, the EU hopes to do away with the current fragmented national markets and create one borderless market with harmonized legislation and rules for the benefit of businesses and consumers alike throughout Europe.

The EC set out its vision in its May 6, 2015 DSM Strategy which has been followed by a number of concrete legislative proposals and policy actions.  They are broad reaching and include reforming e-commerce sector, VAT, copyright, audio-visual media services, consumer protection, and telecommunications laws.  New legislation has already been finalized on portability of online content and geo-blocking.
Many DSM proposals are still going through the legislative process.   DSM-related legislation will have a broad impact on U.S. companies doing business in Europe.
In addition, a new data protection legislation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) entered into force on 25 May 2018.
The three main pillars of the strategy are:
I: e-commerce

  • better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe
  • remove key differences between the online and offline worlds to break down barriers to cross-border online activity.
II: digital networks and services
  • achieve high-speed, secure and trustworthy infrastructures and content services
  • get the right regulatory conditions for innovation, investment, fair competition and a level playing field.
III: growth potential of the European Digital Economy
  • invest in ICT infrastructures and technologies such as Cloud computing and Big Data, and research and innovation to boost industrial competitiveness and skills
  • increase interoperability and standardization

For more information: Digital Single Market
DSM Strategy
The Electronic Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) provides rules for online services in the EU.  It requires providers to abide by rules in the country where they are established (country of origin).  Online providers must respect consumer protection rules such as indicating contact details on their website, clearly identifying advertising and protecting against spam.  The Directive also grants exemptions to liability for intermediaries that transmit illegal content by third parties and for unknowingly hosting content.
Key Link:  eCommerce

eCommerce  in Germany
Total online sales of goods and services was approx. EUR 66.8 billion in 2016. Germany had an online population of 62.9 million of people who were aged 15 and older.
Germany is known for its high return rate. Some reports claim that the percentage of orders being sent back is as high as 50 percent for some retailers. Online customers have the right to cancel orders and return goods or services within 14 days, for any reason and with no justification.

Popular eCommerce Sites
According to statistics from 2017, the 10 largest online retailers in Germany by turnover are: Amazon (EUR 8,123 million), Otto (EUR 2,743 million), Zalando (EUR 1,122 million), (EUR 706 million), Bonprix (EUR 587 million), Mediamarkt (EUR 533 million), Cyberport (EUR 517 milion), Conrad (EUR 472 milion), Tchibo (EUR 450 million),  and Alternate (EUR 432 milion).

Online Payment
Data from Ernst & Young shows that Paypal is the most popular method of online payment in Germany (43 percent of Internet users), followed by invoice, credit cards, direct debiting and other payment methods.

Mobile eCommerce
The strong e-commerce market in Germany can be attributed to the considerable proportion of the population who own smartphones (62 percent). In 2016, retail sales conducted via mobile devices in Germany were worth an estimated USD 19.14 billion, 33.2 percent of its total retail ecommerce sales. This growth is likely to continue as retailers improve their mobile websites and provide even more convenient ways of shopping on mobile devices. Demographics suggest a stronger tendency for females to make purchases via mobile devices in most categories, particularly in the clothing and book sectors. 18 to 44 year-olds are also the biggest user group in these sectors but older groups are still showing a strong propensity to use mobile channels.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting

More Information

Germany eCommerce Industry Trade Development and Promotion eCommerce