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The Mighty Mouse Click: Four key areas of focus for successful entry to the German market

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Author: Georges Berzgal, VP EMEA, Pitney Bowes Global eCommerce Group

 

Ecommerce industry watchers are paying close attention to the German market, with continued growth, a stable economy and low interest rates boosting its strong figures.

According to the report, Interaktiver Handel in Deutschland from German ecommerce association BEVH, the ecommerce market in Germany was worth almost €60bn in 2015 with further growth forecast. “The increase in sales is a vote for the mouse click,” proclaimed BEVH’s president Gero Furchheim. A.T. Kearney’s Global Retail Ecommerce Index 2015 is consistent with this, identifying Ger-many as Europe’s second largest online market after the UK but having around three times the growth potential.

 

For organisations looking to enter the German eCommerce market, it’s worth integrating careful planning time into your strategy. Although part of Europe, there are considerations particular to the region – payment specifications, and a regulatory environment perceived to be highly complex, for example – so time spent localising your ecommerce strategy will help you avoid pitfalls when it comes to execution. Here are some areas on which to focus your planning:

eCommerce in Germany

1) A highly competitive market

Amazon.de is the current market leader in Germany. Research from Pitney Bowes’ 2015 Global Shopping Survey1 highlights Germany’s preference for online marketplaces with 71% of consumers surveyed in Germany choosing online marketplaces compared with 59% buying through retailers’ websites.

 

German ‘catch-all’ retailers such as Lidl, Tchibo and Otto are well-established in their domestic eCommerce market, and are also experiencing success penetrating European markets outside Germany. But businesses which focus on just one specific category, such as Zalando, are gaining more revenue and snapping at the heels of the firms with broader product lines2.

 

The popularity of these brands is generating interest in German retailers from shoppers outside the continent, marking Germany firmly on the map as a credible shopping destination. It is the most desirable e-destination for online shoppers in France and Russia in particular2. Of all the countries included in the global survey, Germany was behind only the US and the UK as the most desirable e-destination for consumers to purchase goods outside their own country.

 

This triptych of established brands, encouraging buyer behaviours and consumer interests from within and outside Germany is stimulating a very healthy competitive environment, attractive to global eCommerce firms looking to enter new markets.

2) A technology-loving nation

The largest market in Europe ‘in terms of population, internet use and total purchasing power levels’, says Germany Trade and Invest, Germany also has the largest number of internet users in Europe claiming 56 million people regularly go online. Smartphone ownership, at 91%, is higher than the UK and France according to new research from Pitney Bowes. 27% of the 1,000+ consumers surveyed owned wearable technology – adoption also higher than consumers in the UK and France.

 

Optimising websites for mobile use is a given for eCommerce retailers. Those looking to penetrate the German market should consider the following when planning their digital strategy:

  • 19% of consumers in Germany are making the most online purchases on mobile devices – including mobile / smartphones, tablets or other devices – or a mix of devices
  • The majority of online shoppers in Germany are using search engines as the preferred method to find products (64%), while 46% are visiting a retailer’s website
  • Germany has the highest percentage of online shoppers that said they would consider purchasing products they found on search engines3

3) An individual nation

Retailers who create a localisation strategy are likely to perform better than those who do not. They must make it easier for shoppers to spend money, providing accurate translations, understanding cultural trends, localising pricing strategies, currencies and alternative payment methods. Consideration of payment methods is one area of focus as alternative payment methods make up around 75% of total online transactions in Germany, with reports demonstrating uplift of 20-30% when eCommerce firms added alternative payment methods such as ELV and Giropay.

 

A 2015 PayPal / Ipsos Cross Border Report found 73% of shoppers want to pay in local currency, and almost half do not feel comfortable buying in a foreign currency. Prices shouldn’t be exact currency conversions but should be set at market rate, so rather than $39.99 representing €35.63 euros the price should be rounded up or down according to cultural norms.

 

Shipping strategies need careful planning, with techniques such as free shipping thresholds, flat-rate shipping, priority deliveries and accurate delivery windows. Think about how you’ll provide customer care services and manage returns. Deploying local carrier networks will demonstrate trust and credibility to your prospective buyers. And you can stay on top of the individual strands of your go-to-market strategy without risk of them unravelling by using cloud-based applications such as Commerce Cloud.

4) A complex web of regulations

Consumers and business interests are protected in Germany by regulations which may seem complex to firms outside the geography, and specific regulations also apply to individual industries. Ecommerce Worldwide in its Legal German Passport outlines that some of these which may apply to eCommerce retailers looking to enter the German market include:

  • The Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG) which applies to all organisations responsible for processing personal data
  • The German Telemedia Act (Telemediengesetz - TMG) which protects the individual telemedia user from any possible danger that may occur through data processing, regulation of data processing
  • The Telecommunications Act (Telekommunikationsgesetz - TKG), focused on the protection of participants and users of telecommunication systems from data processing through corporations or persons providing telecommunication
  • The German Civil code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch – BGB) divided into a general part, law of obligations, property law, family law and succession law

 

When entering any new market, localisation is critical to success. Ecommerce firms must look closely at every stage of the customer journey and recreate it as if they were the very best local retailer – from merchandising and pricing, to payment methodologies and preferred shipping methodologies. They must provide a consistent, memorable, engaging shopping experience which cuts through different devices and across channels, converging the physical and digital worlds to generate growth.

For more information, please consult our Germany ‘passport’ trading guide.

 

 

1,3 - Pitney Bowes Global Shopping Survey 2015
2 - Report from Germany Trade and Invest

 

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