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DHL Guide > Blog > Blog > Using e-commerce to sell to Germany: Top tips from Practicology

Using e-commerce to sell to Germany: Top tips from Practicology



On 1 July, we attended the event Cross-Border E-commerce. These are the key learnings from Practicology’s Bianca Mercer, who gave an overview of successful e-commerce strategies to tackle the German market – a huge economic destination for British online retailers.

ecommerce-in-germany

Germans love to shop online from British retailers

As June’s e-commerce study by OC&C Strategy Consultants, PayPal and Google showed, the UK is the most popular place of origin for German shoppers.

So regardless of whether you’re a small business looking for a European target market, or a large operation looking to improve your German online sales strategy, the market offers tremendous opportunities for growth.

However: there are key differences between selling to the British and the German market through e-commerce

To find out how to effectively adapt your e-commerce offering to the German market – and which changes you should prioritise to succeed – Practicology analysed the German localised websites of 25 UK retailers and brands.

Localisation aspects

URL

To succeed in the German market, consider how to best adapt your URL structure. According to Practicology, having a separate .de site (as opposed to .com/de or de.xxx.com) is better for SEO.

Language and translation

To trade in Germany you need fully translated Terms and Conditions and Privacy policies. For your website content, use colloquial German, local product names and descriptions and avoid English terms such as ‘best seller’ where possible. Be as consistent in your translations as possible – avoid switching between English and German, especially on the same page.

Don’t underestimate the smaller things – for example, placing the euro sign after the price does better in Germany (so 49€ rather than €49). Many retailers also neglect to translate their drop-down navigation, which can look careless.

To take it further, take a look at your filters and search function – will entering German terms (and their synonyms) bring up the right results?

Translation also goes beyond words, so don’t forget to localise sizings.

Homepage merchandising

Do market research to determine which of your products would perform best in the German market. For example, when clothing retailer Boden researched local consumers, the company found German women prefer to wear separates rather than dresses – so Boden.de features dresses less prominently than the British website.

Promotions

Put in place a local calendar to make sure you celebrate local market events. For example, Crabtree & Evelyn made sure to not make special offers for British (and American) Father’s Day in Germany, where the event is celebrated in May!

Customer service, reviews, blogs and other extras

Consider offering a local customer service option – ideally a phone number, or otherwise a German email form. If you can’t offer reviews in German, posted by German users, Mercer suggests “don’t bother.” The same applies to additional website features such as a blog – if you’re unable to provide the service in German, don’t carry it across until you feel it’s ready.

Pricing and payment options

Ensure your prices are localised to the German market, and consider breaking down the costs to show the German VAT equivalent, the Mehrwertsteuer (MwSt). Giving payment options that are accepted in Germany is essential to achieving conversions. Most importantly, look into invoicing which is a relatively common payment method for the German market (though not widespread in the UK).

Shipping

Customers value a quick and reliable service – including express delivery options. Some retailers in the report offer free delivery. Also think about how you will manage returns, including who will bear the costs these international shipments.

Beyond website localisation

If social sharing is important to your brand, consider creating local language links, and if you give the option to sign up for emails, consider whether you can produce this content in the local language.

For a comprehensive overview, including best case examples, you can access Practicology’s full report here.

Next week, we’ll go beyond Germany to share general insights about taking your e-commerce global from event speakers who included Marks & Spencer, Wiggle, UKTI and Green Man Gaming – subscribe to our Trade Update and follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss it!

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