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Digital Economy

E-Commerce in Germany

Germany is Europe's e-commerce leader offering a myriad of opportunities for international online retailers and service providers alike.

Ninety-five percent of Internet users in Germany 16 years of age and older purchase goods and services online. This corresponds to 58 million digital buyers according to digital association Bitkom. The Bundesverband E-Commerce und Versandhandel Deutschland - bevh (German Federal Association of E-Commerce and Mail-Order Trade) reports that gross sales of e-commerce goods grew by 19 percent to EUR 99.1 billion in 2021. This represents more than one in five euros of pure e-commerce sales excluding the food retail sector (one in seven euros including food sector).

E-commerce sales are expected to grow to EUR 111 billion (12 percent increase) in 2022. This puts Germany in first place within the EU and in sixth place worldwide – behind China, the USA, Great Britain, Japan, and South Korea respectively.

Germany's B2C and B2B Markets

Both markets boast huge potential for international companies as both markets have been expanding rapidly within the last years. Consumers and businesses alike are becoming more and more online-oriented. Especially developments in the B2B market signal significant potential of an expanding virtual business environment.

B2B e-commerce market

Innovative technologies will become more and more relevant in the e-commerce B2B sector.

According to a 2019 ibi research study, some 77 percent of surveyed companies buy online. More than two thirds of purchasers rate product availability, expected delivery times and price overview the most relevant information on B2B websites. More than 50 percent of respondent companies consider it likely that products will be partially reordered automatically via the “Internet of the Things.” The study also found that 75 percent of companies already generate online revenue – with 17 percent  generating more than half of their revenue online.

However, in contrast to the most relevant information for purchasers, around 25 percent of companies still do not offer information on product availability, price overview and expected delivery times (approximately 30 percent do not provide this information). Ninety percent of interviewed companies expect more than half of their B2B purchases to be made online by the year 2025.

B2C e-commerce market

The German e-commerce market is expanding rapidly. During the period 2017 to 2022, B2C e-commerce grew by 69 percent – from EUR 58.5 billion to EUR 99.1 billion. With 58 million people – 84 percent of the German population over the age of 16 – purchasing online on a regular basis, Germany boasts not only the most internet users in Europe but also the greatest e-commerce customer potential. Fashion, Electronic Goods, Computer, Games and Software followed by Household Goods and Furniture, Lamps and Decoration were the five sectors with the highest revenue in Germany in 2021.

Top 10 Online Shops in Germany 2021

Online shop

Assortment

Turnover 2020

1

Amazon EU S.a.r.l.

amazon.de

All-rounder

EUR 13,876 million

2

Otto GmbH & Co.KG

otto.de

All-rounder

EUR 4,500 million

3

Zalando SE

zalando.de

Apparel, textiles, shoes

EUR 1,944 million

4

Media Markt Saturn E-Commerce GmbH

mediamarkt.de

Computer, consumer electronics

EUR 1,842 million

5

Media Markt Saturn E-Commerce GmbH

saturn.de

Computer, consumer electronics

EUR 1,104 million

6

Lidl Digital International GmbH & Co. KG

lidl.de

All-rounder

EUR 1,016 million

7

Apple Distribution International Ltd.

apple.com

Computer, consumer electronics

EUR 878 million

8

IKEA Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG

ikea.com

Furniture, household goods

EUR 861 million

9

notebooksbilliger.de AG

notebooksbilliger.de

Computer, consumer electronics

EUR 818 million

10

H&M Hennes & Mauritz GBC AG

hm.com/de

Apparel, textiles, shoes

EUR 713 million

Source: iBusiness 2021


Combined with an extensive, highly developed logistics infrastructure, Germany is the clear continental leader and offers a myriad of opportunities for international online retailers and service providers alike.

B2C online market places

In 2021, some 51 percent of B2C e-commerce revenue was generated via online market places in Germany. Revenue of EUR 50.5 billion for the year represented an almost 20 percent increase on 2020 turnover levels.

There are 214 B2C market places in the DACH region (German-speaking countries in Europe Germany, Austria, Switzerland) – three times as many as in 2015 when only Amazon and eBay were of real relevance. In the last two pandemic years  more than a hundred new players have emerged and 30 have been forced to close down. Nearly all categories show a considerable diversity of providers. Seventy-two of the 214 market places focus on sustainability or offer second-hand products.

Thanks to better price conditions, a broader product offer and higher comfort, online marketplaces are becoming more popular among consumers in Germany. A recent study by sendcloud found that 87 percent of German consumers regularly purchase via online market places and 38 percent intend to increase their purchase intensity levels on digital market places.

Delivery options play a crucial part. Sixty percent of customers would cancel their order process on a market place if their preferred delivery option is not available. Forty percent of consumers have signed up to a delivery subscription service, the most popular of these being Amazon Prime.

Top 10 online market places in Germany 2021

  1. Amazon
  2. eBay
  3. Otto
  4. Zalando
  5. Etsy
  6. About You
  7. Shop Apotheke
  8. Alternate
  9. Hood.de
  10. Avocado Store

German Online Shoppers' Consumer Behavior

As the biggest market in terms of population with one of the highest total purchasing power levels in Europe, Germany offers lucrative opportunities for international companies seeking to expand operations.

Germany's market potential: most internet users in Europe

Germany is home to more internet users than any other country in Europe, with more than 66 million active online users (almost 94 percent of the total German population aged 14 years and older). Online shopping is widespread – and not just among younger members of the population.

While close to 100 percent of the population between 18 and 49 years of age use the internet, the share of adults aged 50+ who surf the web is also increasing dramatically. Ninety-one percent of people 50 to 59 years of age use the internet, while around 60 percent of all adults aged 6o years of age and older are online.

The last two groups are of particular importance for retailers as they constitute the age group with the highest purchasing power. The pandemic has brought even more people behind their screens – both mobile and stationary devices – to shop online.

Rising online shopping spendings

Seventy-five percent of consumers in Germany have made online purchases in the last month, of which 43.6 percent have made a purchase within the last 7 days (41 percent of this group have ordered more than once in the same period). The purchasing frequency among these shoppers has increased by 23 percent in comparison to 2019.

The average shopping basket online grew by almost 20 percent to EUR 144.25 in 2021. On average, EUR 207 is spent online each month. The 30-49 years of age group spends the highest amount online. Electronics and travel are the two categories where consumers spend most online. 

Factors affecting online shopping satisfaction

Some 96 percent of customers are satisfied or very satisfied with their online purchases (including services including delivery times, payment options and customer service)

Price and free delivery are the most important factors for consumers in Germany when selecting an online shop before personal positive personal experience and free returns. Customers in Germany are very price sensitive as three of the top three factors for choosing an online shop are price related.

Consumer behavior during the Coronavirus pandemic

Forty-three percent of consumers have increased their online purchases since the start of the coronavirus pandemic – of which nearly 90 percent will continue to do so to an increased degree. Fifty percent of consumers have invested more time in shopping online since the start of the pandemic. This is particularly true of the 60+ age group that has dramatically turned to online shopping during the pandemic. Despite lockdown eases, these silver surfers plan to continue to shop online thanks to their excellent online shopping experiences.

Payment and Logistics: German Specifics

Consumer power is not to be underestimated in Germany, in both B2B and B2C markets. Payment methods, delivery and return managment are crucial for a successful e-commerce business model in Germany.

Payment preferences

Online shopping is typically credit card driven, but Germany also proves to be an exception in this respect. In Germany, just 11 percent prefer to pay by credit card whereas almost 30 percent prefer to be invoiced for their items (i.e. invoice that can be settled from bank current account). The proportion of shoppers preferring this method of payment increases significantly according to age and gender but the price of the item and the likelihood of a return also plays a role. Online payment systems (e.g. PayPal, SOFORT Überweisung and giropay) are as a consolidation directly behind payment on account (28.2 percent).

Payment method as crucial

Method of payment in online shopping has become an increasingly important component of e-commerce. A majority of online shoppers cancel their online order because their favorite payment method is not offered - meaning future businesses who utilize multiple payment methods will most probably enjoy a competitive advantage.

In B2B e-commerce, payment by invoice and PayPal are the preferred online payment methods.

New logistic complexity

With a highly developed logistics infrastructure of 3,500 courier companies and 60,000 logistics service providers, Germany remains an ideal location for companies looking to provide online and multi-channel services. This concentrated network also makes services such as same-day delivery more calculable.

Parcel service providers are facing new challenges as a result of the e-commerce boom and accompanying developments. Increased B2C traffic has resulted in higher total shipping costs as deliveries become more decentralized with smaller quantities per stop.

Return champion Germany

Another important factor affecting these rising shipping costs is the rate of returns experienced by many online shops. Germans are returns champions: 15 percent of items sold online are returned (corresponds to one in seven orders). According to the German Federal Association of E-Commerce and Mail-Order Trade bevh, 75 percent of online companies offer free return to their customers for competitive reasons.

Customers expect free delivery and free returns which explains partly why customers in Germany make use of this possibility. In comparison, the return rate in the UK, France, the US and other countries is half or less of the return rate in Germany.  A recent study shows that an increasing number of consumers in Germany do not plan to return purchased items for environmental reasons but that certain items (e.g. fashion items) are more prone to returns than other products (e.g. electronics). The payment method selected is another factor of a potentially planned return, with Rechnungskauf (purchase on account) often indicating higher likelihood of a return.

Returns management challenges 

Return management represents a significant e-commerce challenge. Some 44 percent of retailers have admitted that returns have increased to such an extent that they put pressure on their business.

Despite increasing e-commerce turnover, many online shops record low profits due to the high costs of returns. According to Bitkom, one in seven orders is returned. Even though the return rate is 10 percent or lower for certain retailers, specific product groups – including fashion, textiles and shoes – experience higher return rates of up to 80 percent.

As a result, companies that are able to provide accurate product descriptions and visual representations with the help of AI, big data and virtual reality tools will most likely experience a significant comparative advantage in the online market place due to reduced return costs.

E-commerce business opportunities in Germany


Because of these increasing customer demands, innovative delivery methods and digital technologies could prove vital for online companies seeking to stay ahead of the competition, especially solutions that take sustainability and the environment into account. Businesses who provide innovative solutions to these emerging issues will find themselves with a distinct advantage in the German marketplace.


Contact us to find out how to succesfully settle your business in Germany. 

The E-Commerce Job Market in Germany

E-commerce continues to be a rapidly growing market, and this growth is reflected in the corresponding job market. Growing applicant levels are to be expected in the coming years - with changing qualification demands by the industry.

Job market opportunities

According to a survey by the German Federal Association of E-Commerce and Mail-Order Trade – bevh, two thirds of recruitment consultants expect more and more applicants to pursue careers in online and multi-channel businesses in the coming years. Because the internet is becoming more common as a sales channel, graduates - including those without a computer science-related degree - have a plethora of opportunities in this industry sector. Graduates with degrees in marketing, management, business engineering, and even graphic design can find themselves with a rewarding career path in this field. Germany's e-commerce industry is expecting rising applicant levels from these areas of expertise within the next years.

E-commerce training programs 

The demands placed upon e-commerce professionals are increasingly less technical and more business and marketing based. Moreover, e-commerce career entry points are incredibly diverse thanks to the young nature and new fields of activity in e-commerce. The requirements placed upon prospective employees can vary significantly. The number and range of market players in e-commerce is constantly growing: from mail order companies and specialty suppliers to auction and price comparison platforms.

Accordingly, e-commerce offers numerous career opportunities including online shop manager, content manager, online marketing manager and affiliate manager positions to name but a few. Online retailers and industry associations also promote young talent: the industry association bevh introduced a new E-Commerce Kaufleute (“E-Commerce Merchants”) training program in 2018.

Demand for the new profession in the economy is high. More than 80 percent of online and multichannel merchant members of the bevh plan to train e-commerce professionals – for trade with both end customers and commercial clients. These training programs merge knowledge in the specialist fields of informatics and economics and provide e-commerce with a versatile and growing pool of well-educated young talent.

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