Back in December, German waltzed into 5th in our review of the top 10 languages to translate and localize.

After the UK unceremoniously crashed out of the EU, Germany became the largest e-commerce market in Europe. With the explosive growth of e-commerce due to the current pandemic, many companies are carefully planning their international expansion strategies. Considering that German is the 7th most used language for websites, translating into German is certainly a smart move.

Here are five things to consider before broaching the German Market with your plans for world domination!

#1. Consider The Consumers

Although people around the world shop online, we all do it very differently. It should always be your first step when approaching a new market, and Germany is no different.

Online consumers in Germany are likely to be between 30 to 40-year-old urbanites. Young enough to be considered progressive and tech-savvy, yet old enough to still prescribe to typical German consumer habits.

Germans are both private and savvy in their online dealings. They’ll need more reassurance around the security and privacy of any details they hand over.

“Before buying a product online, 82% of Germans will read the terms & conditions of the sale first.”

– Karolina Kulach, Selling To Germany

You can gain traction with your German audience by catering to their core values around quality, trust, familiarity, and security.

Furthermore, they are incredibly discerning. A mature market offers plenty of competition, so your CX is going to be of paramount importance. They are substantially more likely to buy from German-language sites and respond better to the local currency and payment options.

#2. Consider The Market

As touched on above, the German Market is considered a mature one. It poses both risks and rewards for those trying to break into it.

As a mature marketplace, Germany already has a stable and efficient infrastructure present to make the most of it. Logistics there are exceptional. And you will probably need it since 87% of Germans prefer home delivery to other methods.

Customers generally demand superior product quality and value for money. Once the customer has experienced a brand and developed trust in the quality and service of that brand, they tend to be loyal customers.”

– Joe Irons, Charles Tyrwhitt

Customer loyalty is crucial for retention but means prizing customers away from their existing preference can be tricky. Expectations are high, so if you approach the German Market half-cocked, you’re in for a bumpy ride. Establishing an emotional connection with your customers is integral to succeeding here. A focus on narrative bodes well and will help you legitimately connect with the locals.

Understanding what proceeded the e-commerce market is important too.

“German shoppers are used to paying for their online purchases by invoice. It was already Germans’ favorite way to pay when they were still shopping via old-school print catalogs.”

Harriet Brown, Entering the sophisticated and stable German Market

There is a strong emphasis on by now pay later in Germany because of the above. Even though that paradigm is shifting, offering a range of payment options will endear you to the consumer base. Consider implementing a payment option like Klarna. No other European country returns more packages than Germany so prepare to handle a lot of potential returns.

#3. Translate Well. Localize Better.

You are probably sick of us making this point but, we cannot overstate the importance of engaging accurately and authentically. It will grant you increased traction with your target market, showing appreciation for your effort. Also, it ensures you avoid any potential cultural faux pas that companies so often make during globalization.

It is especially important in Germany, given how much stock they put into trust and familiarity as mentioned above.

Some commonly cited examples specific to German include Clairol launching a set of hair straighteners known as ‘Mist Stick’. Unfortunately, the word mist is german slang for dung or thereabouts. One can understand German consumers being incredulous at the idea of purchasing a manure stick for their hair.

Puffs pushed their tissue brand in Germany and kept their branding, without considering the meaning of the word, Puff. If they had, they would know that puff is German slang for Brothel and would have perhaps reconsidered localization.

Even giant multinationals are not exempt. Starbucks’ Gingerbread Latte line flopped in Germany, much to their surprise. What Starbucks did not consider was localizing the term to one more digestible to the German Market; Lebkuchen. As soon as they updated the product name, sales took off.

Here is where an In-Country Reviewer pays dividends and ensures your branding message hits home when translated.

#4. What do the Germans Buy?

There is of course general crossover around the globe regarding e-commerce and commonplace purchases. Nevertheless, geo-specific nuances of course exist and it pays to know what the shopping preferences of a place are.

Of course, the classics prevail such as clothing and accessories, shoes, books, electronics. These items might seem a saturation risk but good pricing, high quality, and strong CX count for a lot.

There’s a strong likelihood you are approaching the German market from elsewhere if you are reading this. With that in mind, below is an infographic indicating some of the items Germans like to purchase from abroad.

infographic of what the Germans purchase the most
Selling to Germany: The Mature Marketplace Attracting Global Sellers

We hope these insights are useful and help you navigate your decisions around entering the German market. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with TextUnited to see how we can help.