Localizing for Germany

by | Jul 31, 2021

After the UK finally left the EU, Germany became the largest e-commerce market in Europe. Considering that German is the 10th most used language for websites, localizing for Germany is undoubtedly a smart move. Here are some things to consider if you are thinking of expanding into the German Market.

localizing for Germany

Consider the German Consumers

These days, people around the world are shopping online. However, shoppers in different countries do it very differently. So how your target audience shops should always be one of the first things to consider when approaching a new market. Here’s what’s important to know about localizing for Germany.

  • Online shoppers in Germany are likely to be thirty to forty-year-old urban dwellers. Young enough to be thought of as tech-savvy and progressive, yet old enough to still adhere to typical German consumer habits.
  • Germans are both savvy and private in their online dealings. This means they’ll need more reassurance about the privacy and security of any information they hand over.

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

  • You can gain traction with your German prospects by catering to their core values around quality, familiarity, security, and trust.
  • Germans are incredibly discerning. A mature market like Germany offers plenty of competition, so your customer experience will be of paramount importance. 
  • Germans are much more likely to buy from German language sites and respond better to local currency and payment options.

Understand What Proceeded the E-commerce Market

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

Because of this, there is a strong emphasis on buy now and pay later. Even though this paradigm is shifting somewhat, offering various payment options will endear you to your audience. Consider implementing a payment option like Klarna that provides the consumer with flexible choices of how to pay.

  • No other European country returns more packages than Germany, so be prepared to handle a lot of potential returns.

Focus More on Facts

If you must use inspirational phrases, do so sparingly. There’s nothing more frustrating for the average German than scrolling down a website looking for actual information about the product only to find inspirational founder quotes, aspirational phrases, and product descriptions that only provoke more questions. So, provide your prospect with information on your product’s features and what it actually does.

  • Use German use cases and testimonials. The more your German prospect can identify with a person, the more likely they will trust your product and your company.

Consider the German Market

The German market is considered to be mature. This means there are both rewards and risks for those trying to break into it.

  • Germany has a stable and efficient infrastructure, so logistics are exceptional. And they need to be since 87% of Germans prefer home delivery to other methods.
  • German customers look for superior product quality and value for money. Once consumers have experienced a brand and developed trust in its quality and service, they tend to be loyal customers.
  • Customer loyalty is essential for retention, but prizing consumers away from their existing preferences can be challenging. German expectations are high, so if you approach the market without being fully committed, you’ll be in for a very bumpy ride. 

Avoid the Berlin Bubble

Don’t regard the German capital as representative of the country as a whole. Berlin is a start-up tech hub where entrepreneurs are likely to speak fairly good English, but the city doesn’t reflect reality for most Germans. Here’s why:

  • The average German’s English isn’t that great compared to some other Western European countries. This is simply because most people don’t actually use it when they leave school. So make sure your product is fully translated and localized. 
  • Purchasing power in Berlin ranks among the lowest of any region in Germany. If you have a high-end product, you need to ensure that you target an audience that can actually afford it. 
  • Conducting market research only in Berlin might lead you to the wrong conclusions. Does your target audience actually live in Berlin? Maybe they reside in less popular but economically more robust cities like Düsseldorf or München.
  • Bear in mind that the further you move away from cosmopolitan areas, the more conservative people are. Your messaging should reflect that. 

In your ads, using the more formal Sie instead of the less formal du can significantly increase conversions.

Consider What Germans Buy

In Germany, as elsewhere, classic consumer items prevail, such as electronics, clothing and accessories, shoes, and books. Although these everyday items might seem to present a saturation risk, high quality, reasonable pricing, and strong consumer experience count for a lot.

With that in mind, here’s is an infographic indicating some of the items Germans like to purchase from abroad.

Localizing for Germany 1
Localizing for Germany: What Consumers Buy

You Must Offer Content in German

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the level of English in your German-speaking audience is good enough that you don’t have to bother translating your content into German. When localizing for Germany, it’s essential to offer content in the German language.

Surveys have shown that most Germans prefer German content. And, much worse, they are put off by English content. 

Translate Well and Localize Better

The importance of engaging accurately and authentically with your targeted audience cannot be overstated. It will provide you with increased traction and help you avoid any potential cultural faux pas. Some commonly cited examples made by well-known brands include:

  • Clairol launching a hair straightener product called Mist Stick. Unfortunately, mist is a German slang word for dung. German consumers weren’t keen on the notion of purchasing a manure stick for their hair.
  • Puffs pushing their tissue brand in Germany and keeping their branding. However, puff is German slang for a brothel.

Here is where using an in-country reviewer will pay dividends and ensure your branding message hits home in the right way when translated.

Localizing for Germany, a Mature Marketplace

We hope the above insights on localizing for Germany are useful and help you navigate your decisions as to whether or not to enter the German market. However, before launching your brand, make sure you sign up to a high-quality translation and localization service such as Localize. You’ll be surprised how well Germans will respond if you localize your product or service with them in mind.