Making The Most of Your Website to Drive Sales Overseas: Social Media, E-Commerce and Online Buying Behaviour in the German market

To help make the most of your website to drive sales overseas, we’re taking a look at trends around social media, e-commerce and general online buying behaviour in a number of key markets. Germany has long been recognised as one of the world’s economic powerhouses, and, despite the global recession, the country’s economy is still incredibly strong. Germany is currently the largest European economy and, in fact, one of the largest in the world, with an annual economic value of over £2 trillion.

In 2011, Germany’s imports had a value of around £750 billion, with around 5% coming from the UK. Some of the country’s main imports include machinery, computers, foodstuffs and textiles. There is undoubtedly a wealth of opportunities for UK companies, but taking time to consider the marketing tools to communicate effectively with potential new customers is crucial for successful expansion. Your website will of course be included in the toolkit. Research has shown that the majority of online customers will only buy from websites that have information presented in their own language. The higher the value of the product or service, the more important this becomes.

Germany has the second highest internet penetration rate in the world

82% of the country’s 81million population is now online, the second highest Internet penetration rate in the world. During the month of July 2012 the average German Internet user spent 25.2 hours surfing the net.

Germans are also increasingly using their phones to access the Internet, with the number of consumers using their mobile phones to go online rocketing by 4.7 million to 10.6 million (a 79% rise) in 2010. By the end of 2011, 37% of the nation owned a smartphone. With that amount of potential customers in Germany going online, they need to feel at home when visiting your website.

A booming German e-commerce market

Germany has the second largest e-commerce market in Europe. By the end of 2010, the market had a value of over £33billion, and around 41 million residents were predicted to buy online during 2012. By 2013, over 80% of the internet population is expected to shop online.

Clothing, entertainment and consumer goods are the big online sellers in Germany. And thanks to the increase in mobile phone use, consumers are buying more and more goods from their phones, with mobile e-commerce purchases up 157% in 2010.

However, German consumers are wary buyers. They like to buy from trusted brands and one of the first things they look for when visiting a new website is a security policy or reassurance that a transaction will be safe. Research also shows that German internet users like to see evidence of awards, company mission statements and corporate values. If your website caters to their needs, there is no reason why German consumers shouldn’t buy from you.

Search engines of choice in Germany

Google is undoubtedly the search engine of choice in Germany, accounting for over 95% of all searches. A key benefit for UK businesses is that most will already be confident using Google and can use familiar facilities such as adwords and pay per click campaigns to target German users. don’t underestimate the importance of translating and localising your keywords. It’s not as simple as translating keywords directly into other languages. Ensure you use a native speaker to research the right key words. The most effective keyword for a product or service in another market might not always be a direct translation of the English term.

Social media usage in Germany

There are more social media users in Germany than anywhere else in Western Europe. By the end of 2012, it is predicted that over 29 million people will be active on social networks – and by 2014 this is expected to grow to 34.7 million users, around 43% of the population.

Facebook is far and away the most favoured social networking site in Germany, with 24 million users as of June 2012. YouTube is also a popular destination, with over 35 million people watching their video content in March 2012. And despite the dominance of the global sites, there are also some notable locally based platforms, including Dol2day and StudiVZ.

Of particular interest to businesses is that social media users in Germany engage heavily with brands online. According to a survey carried out in April 2012, 66.8% of people who followed brands on social media read the posts and messages of the brands and products they followed, while 29.6% shared posts and 26% commented on their sites.

Business based social networking in Germany

Business based social networking sites have also proved themselves to be highly popular in Germany, with the Hamburg based site Xing the local market leader for the majority of the last ten years. 76% of all Xing’s page views come from German viewers, but since LinkedIn’s decision to localise their site into German in 2009, the local professional social networking market has become highly competitive, and the American site now boasts over 1.5 million German users.

Setting up a German website

So, what is website translation? Website translation, also referred to as website localisation, involves adapting your existing website to suit the local language and culture of a market. More than just translation of content, it also takes into account specific terminology used in the market, together with the relevant style.

If you have any questions about developing effective communication material for the German market or specifically German website translation services, please get in touch with a member of our customer services team on +44 (0) 1926 3335 681 or email

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