If you’re a British retailer who sells internationally, Germany should be your first target market. Germany is just a stone’s throw away, and when considering their spending power and population, then it’s obvious: if you’re not putting energy into growing in Germany, you’re simply doing it wrong. Sure, it’s a different market, and each market is unique, but the potential there is enormous.
Want proof? PayPal commissioned a survey which was conducted in 32 countries with approximately 28,000 consumers surveyed in total. Let's take a look at some of those results.
Notes on the survey: On behalf of PayPal, Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 800 adults (aged 18-74) who use an internet-enabled device across Germany. Interviews were conducted online from 26/09/2016 – 02/10/2016. Data was weighted to adjust for panel bias based on external trend data.
It turns out that Germans love buying British goods! Edging out both China (10%) and the USA (7%), the UK takes the number one spot (11%). Based on the responses from 620 respondents who were asked which region/country’s websites they shop from (including their own country), the UK is clearly a favourite destination for German online shoppers.
Interestingly enough, what Germans purchase domestically doesn't reflect what they buy from abroad. The top categories for cross-border shopping in Germany are Clothing/apparel, Footwear & accessories (38%), Toys & hobbies (22%), Consumer electronics and peripherals (22%), and Entertainment/education (physical items) (22%).
When 130 respondents were asked on what occasions they shop cross-border, it seems that Germans don’t really need a special occasion to shop.
In fact, “none” dominated the responses with 64%. It's worth noting that Christmas came in second with 25%, seasonal sales followed with 15%, and Black Friday trailing at 9%. Cyber Monday and Easter tied for the 5th spot with 6%.
Below are a series of statements pertaining to the attitudes and opinions that Germans have when cross-border shopping. 620 respondents were asked to agree, to disagree or to answer “not sure”.
The most lop-sided responses came with the third statement (i.e. I prefer large global stores (e.g. Amazon) when purchasing from another country.). 70% of respondents agreed with this, while only 14% disagreed.
In my opinion, this is an indication of trust (or mistrust). Buying from abroad always seems risky and big companies have the advantage of a reputation. Localising your website is definitely one option.
BONUS DOWNLOAD: Check out our guide for localising your online shop:
However, small businesses could definitely benefit from review systems or trustmarks offering a money-back guarantee as well. The Trusted Shops trustmark is the most recognised trustmark in Europe and simply dominates the German market in terms of recognition.
These trust issues are reflected with the other statements as well, especially statements 5, 6 and 7.
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Though it is worth noting that the sample sizes were small here, it’s still interesting to see why German shoppers shop at UK shops. The top reasons here are basically price, availability, variety, discovery, preferred payments, and reputation.
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When it comes to motivators for shopping abroad, we can see that the top 3 reasons deal with transparency, availability, and safety (all with 37%). Free shipping (34%), native language support (33%), and free returns (32%) round out the top answers.
Conversely, it’s interesting (and very informative) to look at what stops German shoppers from buying internationally.
As you can see, there are many reasons, but it’s worth noting that most of these reasons have to do with shipping (time and costs), and mistrust. Here, again, are opportunities for small businesses to build up their reputation with reviews, trustmarks, and good old fashioned transparency.
You never want your customers to feel like they’ve been lied to. If shipping takes 10 days, just say so. Customers who felt they’ve been cheated might end up sharing their negative experiences online and really hurt your bottom line.
You might want to consider offering multiple shipping options for your customers. Some might not mind paying a bit more for timely delivery.
German online shoppers buy internationally and they especially love buying British goods. However, they do it with caution. Building trust with that audience is imperative to motivate them to shop from your store. This can be accomplished with transparency and tools such as trustmarks and review systems. Building rapport is simply vital to growing internationally.
Related reading: Trusted Shops conducted a survey of 1,000 UK online shoppers