Germany flag Germany: Buying and Selling

E-commerce in Germany


Internet access
With a population of 82 million, Germany is the largest country in Europe and benefits from a strong and stable economic environment. In 2017, revenues in B2C ecommerce recorded a 39% growth in Germany. Internet access is widespread in the country with 89% of the population using the internet (World Bank, 2016). The number of smartphone users in Germany was about 55 million in 2017. Google is the leading search engine in Germany, both on mobile and desktop devices, with Bing and Yahoo the other key players.
E-commerce market
E-commerce is developing at a steady pace in Germany. According to German e-commerce association Bevh, the market’s total revenue in 2017 reached US$ 63.5 billion and is expected to be US$ 69.7 billion in 2018. The two biggest online stores in Germany are American giant Amazon and German founded Otto. Berlin based online clothing store Zalando comes in third place. These three actors dominate the e-commerce market in Germany. A few other stores are smaller: Notebooksbilliger, Cyberport, Bonprix, among others. In 2017, consumers bought more frequently and spent more on average than the previous year. 79% of internet users in Germany are considered online shoppers, which is a higher share than ever before. In Germany, 10% of online sales are made with smartphones. The country is the third most active market worldwide in terms of import and export e-commerce, behind the USA and the UK. In Europe, Germany ranks third for B2C online turnover, after the United Kingdom and France. Cross-borders online sales made by Germans come mainly from the USA, the UK and China, and lower prices are among the main reasons to shop from foreign websites. Moreover, Estonia benefits from a privileged relation with Germany as private distributors from both countries have developed business agreements in order to facilitate e-commerce between the two markets. 
E-commerce sales and customers
Trust and security are crucial values in Germany. Traditionally, at least for durable goods, Germans will prioritise quality, trust and comfort over price. Thus, a German buyer will preferably visit a store where they can touch and try the product instead of a website. For everyday goods, Germans tend to be very concerned with price and will often seek discounts. For this type of goods, e-commerce represents an opportunity in Germany. Out of the 72 million persons using internet in Germany, more than 70% make purchases online. The profile of the average buyer is a person between 30 and 40 years old living in an urban area. In 2017, the average revenue per user was US$ 1,251. Even if there are still differences in consumption habits between the western and eastern parts of Germany, e-commerce tends to overpass them. Online purchases in Germany are mostly made in clothing and footwear, books, DVDs and CDs, home electronics and cosmetics. Books are most commonly purchased via mobile devices. Even though computers are the most popular device when it comes to shopping online, mobile commerce is growing steadily in Germany. Smartphones are increasingly popular, with the mobile share of retail e-commerce sales amounting to 38%, making Germany one of the m-commerce leaders in Europe. Most of online purchases are made by credit card or online payment services such as Paypal and e-wallets. However, as mentioned above, trust being very important in Germany, some buyers might be reluctant to use this method of payment and will then prefer paying after the purchase through invoice.
Social media
At least 75% of internet users in Germany have an account on a social media platform and use it frequently. Facebook is by far the most popular social media in Germany, with about 32 million users (38% of the population). Instagram accounts for 9 million active users, according to the company, and is popular with people aged bewtween 14 and 29, but isn’t used much by older demographics. So far, Twitter’s use has been limited in Germany, with 5.7 million people using it in the country. The German language is made of long words and is very descriptive while Twitter only offers a limited number of characters to communicate. Google+, Linkedin and Youtube are present in the country as well but there are also homegrown social media platforms, like Xing (the German version of LinkedIn) and StudyVZ (a students’ network). It is also important to note that almost 80% of Germans say they use WhatsApp for daily communication.

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Latest Update: May 2023