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Exporting to Germany: A guide to doing business in Germany

E-commerce advice · 8 min read

Exporting to Germany: A guide to doing business in Germany

Germany is Europe’s powerhouse economy. It is the continent’s largest economy and the fourth-largest in the world. Is it the right place for your business to export to?

The short answer is yes. Germany is one of the largest e-commerce markets in Europe, second only to the UK. With a huge number of e-commerce consumers (nearly 70 million by 2027), very high e-commerce penetration with 81% of the population bought online in 2023, and a high average spend per user (although less than two-thirds of the UK's), it presents a powerful proposition for businesses looking to export to a new market.

Every country is experiencing unusual year-to-year e-commerce growth figures following the COVID-19 pandemic, but Germany's total e-commerce revenue is set for a steady upward path of 8% CAGR.2

 

80% of the German population uses a smartphone. And as of 2021, the smartphone has become the most popular device for online shopping in Germany, closely followed by the laptop.3,4

 

E-commerce sector market trends in Germany8

  • Smartphones are vital for online shopping, especially for those under 50. But for those over 50, smartphone usage decreases for online shopping.
  • The use of social networks has become an important step in the buying process to read reviews and comments about products for decision-making. 
  • Luxury goods, especially luxury fashion, are growing in Germany.5     
  • German consumers are increasingly willing to pay for green products: either products made from recycled materials or through carbon offsetting schemes or offers. Sustainability is becoming a bigger part of the decision-making process. 
  • Express delivery services are in high demand – especially in the grocery & food market  
  • The majority of e-commerce and online shopping is done on large international e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, etc. But local platforms have gained increasing popularity in recent years.

Germany's most popular e-commerce platforms6

amazon.de

ebay.de

kleinanzeigen.de

otto.de

idealo.de

53% research before buying

Just over half of Germans say they research on the internet before a major purchase, while 47% say online reviews are very important.7

Key shopping dates in Germany 

 

Similar to other parts of the world, Valentine's Day has transformed into a more commercialized event in recent years. Many individuals tend to purchase gifts for their significant others or love interests, such as accessories, clothing, chocolates, or flowers. These items are readily accessible and are heavily promoted during the weeks leading up to February 14th.

 

Easter is important in Germany for both religious and secular audiences. Before Easter, Germans are keen to show off and decorate their houses which leads to ordering various indoor decoration articles on one hand but also improving their outside appearance by buying outdoor furniture and gardening tools for the upcoming spring and summer season. As Easter has increasingly become a commercial event, parents in particular take part in the classic "Easter nest" shopping. Sales of products such as children's toys and sweets are likely to rise during this period.

 

Centred around the magazine Glamour, the Glamour shopping week takes place twice a year in Germany. The March and September version of the magazine includes a shopping card with an individual code for several brands. It is primarily for fashion and accessories, but over the past years, more and more luxury brands, cosmetics and electronics are also taking part. 

 

Cyberweek and Black Friday are huge online shopping events that originated in the US but have become popular in Germany and elsewhere across Europe. During this period, many online platforms offer massive price reductions on electronic devices and other products. Shoppers can find great bargains and deals on items they want or need.

 

Few countries celebrate Christmas in quite the way Germany does. It's an important and highly traditional holiday, celebrated with family and friends. People start preparing for the festive season in late November, by buying advent calendars, wreaths and candles. They also shop for Christmas gifts for their loved ones, choosing from various products, vouchers and services. However, this also means that there is a high rate of returns in the following weeks, as some gifts may not fit or suit the recipients.

Reading the regulations: German import regulations

When exporting to any country, it is important to comply with local import regulations.  

  • Germany has strict customs procedures that can be time-consuming and complex. Shippers need to provide detailed documentation to comply with customs regulations to ensure the shipments can be cleared without delays. Germany imposes import taxes and duties on many products which will add to shipping costs.  
  • If you want to pay customs duty instead of your consumer purchaser paying it, you need to state which account the duties and taxes should be billed to within the booking process on the Airwaybill.
  • Make sure you contact the German Customs authorities, a valuable partner in getting the information for proper importing to Germany. You can find more information on their website at www.Zoll.de

Products needing government approval 

The following products may require additional documents or other governmental agency approvals prior to clearance:  

The insider’s guide: DHL’s 3 tips for exporting to Germany

Understand the importance of reviews and research:

German consumers rely on research before buying, perhaps more so than consumers from other nations. German consumers are very well-informed and discerning when it comes to making purchase decisions. They do plenty of research before buying, comparing different products, prices and features. They also rely heavily on reviews and recommendations from other customers, experts and trusted sources. So it's crucial for exporters to Germany to provide accurate, detailed and transparent information about their products and services. Importers to Germany should also encourage and respond to customer feedback and reviews, as well as showcase any awards or certifications they have received.

Offer reasonable shipping costs and returns options:

Avoid charging high shipping costs and always communicate shipping prices transparently—before the checkout process begins. Set a threshold for free shipping: Considering the high order average order values, particularly among German online shoppers, it’s a great idea to offer a price threshold for free shipping. Free shipping on orders above a certain amount, such as €150. Convenient return shipping is slightly more important than free returns.

Find a local partner:

Consider partnering with a local distributor or retailer to help navigate the German market and reach customers more effectively. Exporting to Germany can be challenging if you do not have a local presence or network. You may benefit from partnering with a local distributor or retailer who can help you access the market and reach potential customers. A local partner can also provide you with valuable insights, feedback and support on various aspects of doing business in Germany, such as marketing, logistics, customer service and legal issues. You should choose a partner with experience and expertise in your industry and who shares your vision and values.

Export to Germany: Get started with DHL 

You've learnt all about the German e-commerce market – you know it's a vibrant, growing sector. So how do you get your products to Germany? DHL's logistics and delivery experts are ready to help. Open a DHL Express Business Account today.

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