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To make it in Germany, you’ll need to get to grips with German consumer behaviour. Here’s what German shoppers expect online – and how you can win their hearts.

Der E-Commerce. Die SEO. Das Internet.

It’s not hard to work out what these German words mean.

The German language has been borrowing English words for years (there’s even a song about it). This might make you think there’s little difference between Germans and Anglophones. But you couldn’t be further from the truth.

Yes, Germany has one of the highest English proficiency levels in the world. But 50% of Germans won’t buy from a website that’s not in German. And language isn’t the only differentiator.

To break into the market, you’ll need a German touch. Here are five ways you can wow German consumers.

1. LOW COST

Cross-border commerce is not the norm in Germany. 68% of German consumers only shop domestically. It’s usually to buy smartphones, electronics, clothes, books and films.

These items aren’t particularly high-value. The most expensive of Amazon Germany’s top products in October 2018 cost just over £250. Many items were much cheaper. Given the popularity of price comparison sites like idealo.de, clearly price is a big driver of online German consumer behaviour.

It’s also one of the primary motivations for cross-border commerce. The majority of Germans who do shop abroad buy from China – thanks to cheaper prices. And they don’t want to pay a fortune for delivery.

To stand out, make your pricing competitive and easy to understand. Displaying pricing information in euros will be a big help.

2. FLEXIBILITY

Fast, free shipping. You want it – and so do your German customers.

But they also value flexibility. Home delivery may be the most popular option, but a fifth of German shoppers opt for workplace deliveries. Click and collect or local shop deliveries are less popular, but 31% would choose locker delivery.

Make sure you have the logistical capacity to provide a range of delivery options. Good communication is also key – which is why we recommend localizing your post-sales and delivery support.

3. SECURITY

German consumers value data privacy. Look at the huge fines placed on social media companies in June 2017.

That explains Germans’ reluctance to pay via credit card. Just 8.5% named it as their preferred payment option. Debit cards are similarly unpopular. By contrast, 41.3% prefer to pay via invoice, while 32% would choose PayPal. As with delivery, offer a range of secure payment options to avoid abandoned baskets.

To reassure German consumers, consider having your site audited by TÜV. Once you pass, you’ll receive a quality certificate to show you comply with German law.

4. HUMILITY

In Germany, less is more. Brash, hyperbolic slogans or product descriptions will have little impact. Opt for subtlety and modesty instead. The same goes for brand logos – German brands like Adidas and BMW favour minimalist designs.

5. LOCALIZATION

If half of German consumers won’t buy from a non-German site, localization is essential.

Here are two questions to consider before diving in:

1. How will you address consumers? You can either use the informal ‘du’ or more formal ‘Sie’. Research customer expectations to avoid offending your audience.

2. How will you adapt your tone for a German audience? Read our advice on getting your brand personality right in every market here.

Each channel needs a different approach too:

1. WEBSITE

First, do your research – especially when it comes to keywords. Local keyword research is always more effective than keyword translation. Especially in Germany, where language can have a big impact on your SEO strategy.

Work with a specialist digital copywriter to integrate keywords into your copy. ‘Summer sale’ is ‘Sommerschlussverkauf’ in German. That’s a lot of characters for a title tag. Product descriptions can be equally lengthy. You’ll need lots of creativity to incorporate keywords into compelling copy.

2. CONTENT MARKETING

80% of German consumers who respond positively to your content marketing go on to make a purchase. And 63% will make a long-term switch to your brand. Clearly, content marketing can make a big difference to your success in the market. Capitalize on this by providing meaningful, data-driven content that avoids showing off. Don’t be afraid to inject some humour either.

3. SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media use may be lower in Germany than elsewhere, but it’s becoming more popular. And there are a range of platforms to choose from depending on your target audience. Find out how to get your German social media strategy right here.

Influencer marketing is also an important part of the consumer buying process. Check out how famous Instagrammer Caro Daur shows off her connections to Dior, Fendi and Adidas.

FINAL THOUGHT

Understanding online German consumer behaviour isn’t rocket science. They want good customer service. Start by localizing your content and comms. Then champion security and flexibility, and keep prices reasonable. You’ll soon earn their trust – and their wallets.

Want help launching your brand in Germany? Check out how we approach market research, then get in touch – we’d love to help.

Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn on Unsplash