Germany is the third most active e-commerce country in the world, behind only the United States and the United Kingdom.
German businesses mostly sell (in number of cross-border sales) to
• France: 5.9 million
• Austria: 5.5 million
• Italy: 5.0 million
• Spain: 3.9 million
• The Nordics countries: 3.5 million
German online shoppers buy cross border, in number of cross-border sales, mostly from the United Kingdom (11.1 million), the United States (8.6 million) and China (6.2 million) (The Paypers 2013).
GDP (USD):3.4 trillion
Ecommerce SitesMany large U.S. players are also well established in Germany. In April 2014, the most popular shopping websites in Germany were
amazon.de—22.5 million visitors
ebay.de—21.0 million visitors
otto.de—4.7 million visitors
Tchibo—4.0 million visitors
Zalando—3.8 million visitors
Digital AdvertisingMany successful ads are placed on apps via mobile devices. In a recent 7,000-person InternetWorld survey, 72 percent said they were open to having retailers communicate with them on their mobile devices and wanted to use point-of-sale technology to help inform purchases. Price-related promotions were most popular among those surveyed; 47 percent said they would like to receive special offers and discounts, 43 percent expressed an interest in accessing detailed product information, and 43 percent wanted to be
able to reserve or arrange delivery using their smartphones in the store. The advertising expenditure in the e-commerce sector in Germany for 2014 was EUR 1.198 billion. Ströer Digital reached 38.33 million users with its advertisements in 2015, InteractiveMedia CCSP reached 34.49 million, and Axel Springer Media Impact reached 34.18 million.
FulfillmentNumerous qualified fulfillment centers are available throughout Germany and the European Union as a whole. The U.S. Commercial Service can assist in identifying a reliable partner.
- Payment on account is most popular: 58 percent of customers who buy online do not pay immediately but prefer an invoice after shipping.
- Online payment service providers, such as PayPal: 52 percent
- Direct debit: 46 percent
- Credit card: 34 percent (About-Payments 2012)
Current Market Trends
Social MediaFacebook is by far the dominant social media site. More than 20 million Germans used Facebook in July 2012, according to Sonncomm Marketing.
- Facebook: 56 percent
- Stayfriends: 9 percent
- Google+: 6 percent
- Twitter: 6 percent
Major Buying HolidaysThe Christmas season is the key e-commerce season. Green Monday (the first Monday in December), an online shopping promotional event prior to Christmas, is the biggest online shopping day in Germany.
- In 2014, the blog Econsultancy reported that 15 percent of German consumers make a monthly purchase on their smartphones.
Promotions and DiscountsInternet Retailer Magazine studied effective e-commerce promotions and found that surveyed customers cited the following as the most persuasive promotions or deals (bit. ly/1Q4FuGt):
- 73 percent—free returns
- 70 percent—section on sales and specials
- 62 percent—coupons or rebates for cash or percentage off
- 56 percent—percentage off price or products
- 54 percent—rewards/loyalty points
- 46 percent—limited-time deals
- 43 percent—free shipping based on minimum purchase amount
- 42 percent—buy more, save more
- 34 percent—free gift with purchase
Current DemandA Pitney Bowes poll asked Germans which products they had purchased online over the last 12 months and had delivered to their home:
- Books: 61 percent
- Clothes: 61 percent
- Magazines: 45 percent
- Shoes: 42 percent
- Electronics: 38 percent
- Movies: 33 percent
- Beauty products: 32 percent
- Groceries: 27 percent
- Toys: 26 percent
Data CollectionData protection and privacy laws are stringent, and consumer protection guidelines and competitive advertising also are highly regulated. Companies should consult with a lawyer before collecting, storing, or processing any sort of data in Germany. Other potential challenges involve laws pertaining to unfair competition and rebates.
The European Union’s general data protection directive spells out strict rules concerning the processing of personal data. Businesses must tell consumers that they are collecting data, what they intend to use it for, and to whom it will be disclosed. Data subjects must be given the opportunity to object to the processing of their personal details and to opt out of having them used for direct marketing purposes. This opt-out should be available at the time of collection, and at any point thereafter. While the EU institutions are considering new legislation (the General Data Protection Regulation), the 1995 directive remains in force.