The German eCommerce market is full of potential. Here are some tips for how to successfully connect with German shoppers.
As with any market you’re trying to enter, you need to consider the best ways to relate to your audience – getting through to German shoppers starts with speaking to them in their own language. Even though Germans rank high in English proficiency, they expect eCommerce content to be in their native language. On top of that, you want to meet the key expectations German online shoppers have, especially about delivery methods, payment options, security and social media.
It’s difficult to be successful in the German eCommerce market without understanding and embracing these cultural expectations. Here are some recommendations that’ll help you succeed.
WHAT GERMAN ONLINE SHOPPERS WANT
It’s not enough to just tell German shoppers that they should want your product – you have to show them why. There’s a list of things they’re looking for as part of their eCommerce experience that online retailers need to provide if they want to maximize engagement with German online shoppers.
Clear product information & pricing
In Germany, less is more. Slogans claiming to be the biggest, the brightest and the best will have little impact. Instead, Germans prefer understatement and modesty, so avoid wording that comes across as boastful. You can prove that your product is the best through the product information you provide, as well as the product’s functionality, not through loud slogans without substance.
Germans regularly compare prices across several websites to ensure they are getting the best deal. So if your product and pricing information (including tax and delivery rates) are not easily accessible and understandable, German shoppers will lose interest and shop elsewhere.
Flexible, high-quality delivery
44% of German consumers value greater flexibility when choosing a delivery date, while 33% prefer options for collecting a package at a convenient retail location (source: Comscore). Clearly, flexibility is important, especially when it comes to delivery, and just like consumers in the US, German consumers expect to receive delivery and product tracking information, which should be localized in German.
In fact, 83% of eCommerce shoppers in Germany would choose one online retailer over another offering the same product because of a positive delivery experience (source: Lengow). As a result, German online consumers are used to having choices and expect overseas companies to provide the same, or better, level of service as their domestic rivals. If you’re facing a lot of competition in Germany and your site can’t keep up, they’re likely to buy elsewhere.
German shoppers have deep-seated reservations about putting their personal details online. Data privacy is a big issue in Germany, exemplified by the huge fines placed on social media companies by the German authorities in June of 2017 (source: Business Insider). Contactless payments and mobile payments via smartphones are also facing resistance due to trust concerns.
Germans are generally reluctant to create online accounts to purchase items, or to pay via credit card. In fact, “Schulden,” the word for debt in Germany, originates from the word for guilt, “Schuld.” So it’s no surprise that Germany remains one of the most credit-sensitive economies among developed nations with only about 25% of all online transactions processed using traditional credit cards.
This often comes as a surprise to US companies localizing their eCommerce sites for the German market. To maximize the chances of selling your products online, it’s a good idea to offer alternative methods of payment online, such as via bank transfer, as well as cash-on-delivery payment options, wherever practical and possible.
While Germany has a relatively high level of English proficiency, 43% of German shoppers prefer to make buying decisions in their own language (source: CSA). If your products are competitively priced and unique in your target market, locally relevant, quality content is less of a factor in a consumer’s decision to buy. However, since Germany is a competitive market for many eCommerce brands, localizing your eCommerce site, and ensuring the content is both high quality and optimized, will be critical to your in-market success.
It may be tempting to use machine translation from both a budget and time-to-market perspective. However 47% of German shoppers would rather view content in English than endure poor German. If you want to succeed, keep in mind that literal translation likely won’t cut it. Your content and keywords should be natural and adapted for the market. In the long run, it’s better to invest in quality human translation of your brand and product information, especially since literal German translations could eat up your character count. For example, “summer sale” in German is “Sommerschlussverkauf.” That’s a lot of characters in each description line!
It’s critical to localize the content that German shoppers will be interacting with. Be strategic about how you localize your site, and be sure to work with professional in-market linguists, who can masterfully relate your brand and content to your audience.
HOW TO CONNECT WITH GERMAN SHOPPERS
Having covered off the basics around what German consumers expect online, here are some things to consider in building strong customer relationships and brand advocacy with German online shoppers.
Product research is an important part of the customer journey, so your website should provide easy access to the information shoppers are looking for. This includes product information and pricing/delivery details, which should be clearly visible from an early stage. It’s also important to include properly localized post-sales support.
To really appease German customers’ concerns, you could have your website audited by TÜV, (a technical inspection association) to receive an official quality certification, as well as indicate your compliance with German data privacy regulations on your website.
According to a YouGov survey of German consumers, 80% of people who responded positively to content marketing went on to make a purchase, with 63% going on to make a long-term switch to the brand (source: eMarketer). Clearly, then, content marketing can make a huge difference.
To capitalize on this, provide meaningful, data-driven (and of course in-language) content that avoids showing off, but don’t be afraid to add some humor, which your customers will appreciate. It would also be good to mention your delivery/returns policy directly in ads. Germans aren’t overly fussy about ad positioning, so feel free to play around with their location on the page to find out what works best.
Despite lower usage than other countries, social media in Germany shouldn’t be ignored. Over 80% of German millennials now use Facebook, so it should be a pivotal part of any online campaign. Other platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Xing are popular with different demographics, so use them in addition to Facebook to target your market more specifically.
When marketing to German shoppers, it’s important to understand their online preferences. You need to speak to them in their own language by creating relevant messaging that’s natural, optimized and on brand. With relatable content and consideration for local user preferences, you’ll set yourself up for success and maximum engagement with the online German market.