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: 9/28/2017


There are more than 51 million Internet users above the age of 14 in Germany. With transactions of over USD 62 billion in 2015 and e-commerce sales expected to rise to $83 billion in 2018 (a growth of 34% from 2017,) Germany has one of the largest digital buyer populations in the world. Online sales in Germany account for 8% of total retail sales, and more than half of German GDP was expected to be e-commerce related in 2017.

The German regulatory environment is following the European Union “Electronic Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC)”, providing 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. The European Commission released a work plan in 2012 in order to facilitate cross-border online services and reduce barriers and released a report on implementation of the action plan in 2013.

Key Link: Internal Market E-Commerce

Current Market Trends

The most popular product categories are clothing/footwear, books, magazines, consumer electronics, films, cosmetics, groceries and toys. Particularly in the categories ‘consumer electronics & computers’ and ‘media’ (books, music, movies, video games,) German consumers are more likely to shop online instead making offline purchases. Price, trust and product diversity play a major role when buying. German consumers show a tendency to compare prices, whilst also placing great value on quality.

Domestic eCommerce (B2C)

Total online sales of goods and services was approx. 66.8 million euros in 2016. In 2015, the German B2C ecommerce turnover grew by 13.3% to €59.7 billion. Germany had an online population of 62.9 million of people who were aged 15 and older.

Of the total online population, 51.6 million bought something online in 2015. The average spending per eShopper was €1,157 in 2016.

Cross-Border eCommerce

The U.K., the U.S., and France are the top countries to benefit from cross-border eCommerce in Germany, primarily due to better product availability. Germany is also a popular shopping destination for European countries. 23% of digital shoppers in Italy make purchases from Germany, as do 17% and 15% from Spain and Sweden respectively. 

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, to unlock online opportunities in Europe, from e-commerce to e-government.  By doing so, the EU hopes to have a way with its currently 28 member countries and create one borderless market with harmonized legislation and rules for the benefit of businesses and consumers alike throughout Europe. The aim is to allow better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe, and to remove key differences between the online and offline worlds to break down barriers to cross-border online activity.

The European Commission set out a high-level vision in its May 6, 2015 DSM Strategy which will be followed by a number of specific and concrete legislative proposals and policy actions to be developed in 2015-2016.  They are broad reaching and include reforming e-commerce sector, VAT, copyright, consumer protection and data privacy laws.  DSM-related legislation will have a broad impact on U.S. companies doing business in Europe.

More information can be found here.
DSM Strategy

B2B eCommerce

Businesses are increasingly becoming more online-oriented and trends suggest that the virtual B2B environment is rapidly expanding. An ibi research study conducted in 2015 found that 83% of interviewed companies frequently bought online. In addition, 20% of interviewees expected a strong increase in online purchasing within their company, and a further 53% expected at least some increase.

eCommerce Services

eComerce events are regularly organized in Germany and throughout Europe. For more details please click on the following links:

ecommerce events in Germany.

The German eCommerce Association, Händlerbund, is the largest online trade association in Europe. It supports digital and stationary by promoting exchanges between traders and service providers.

Popular eCommerce Sites

Amazon and German-founded Otto own almost half of the online market. According to statistics from 2015, the 10 largest online retailers in Germany by turnover are: Amazon (€7,790 million), Otto (€2,300mn), Zalando (€1,031mn), (€610mn), Cyberport (€404mn), Bonprix (€484mn), Tchibo (€450mn), Conrad (€433mn), Alternate (€376mn) and Apple (€369mn).

Online Payment

Data from BITKOM shows that invoice is the most popular method of payment in Germany (63% of all transactions), followed by online payment services such as PayPal, debit and credit cards, immediate transfer/Giropay, payment in advance and cash on delivery. Other payment methods include ELV, Sofort Überweisung and RatePay.

Open invoice and direct debit are much more common forms of payment in comparison to many other countries. Open invoicing mean that a third party pays merchants for products purchased and collects a shopper’s payment after the products are delivered.

It is also worth remembering that Germany is known for its high return rate. Some reports claim that the percentage of all orders being sent back is as high as 50%.

Mobile eCommerce

The strong e-commerce market in Germany can be attributed to the considerable proportion of the population who own smartphones (62%). In 2016, retail sales conducted via mobile devices in Germany were worth an estimated $19.14 billion, 33.2% 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

Germany eCommerce Industry Trade Development and Promotion eCommerce