What makes us Germans tick - and buy your products? A quick guide for sellers on the German Amazon Marketplace
Online shopping in Germany has shown an incredible development in the last years with annual increases of 3 – 5 billion Euros in net-sales. And the German Amazon Marketplace is a substantial driver of this development as one out of four Euros in German online shopping is made here (more...).
If you are a seller from abroad with attractive products and services there is a good chance that you can participate in this dynamic growth. But to get the most out of the German Amazon Marketplace, you need to adapt to the market. You need to adapt to Germany. And this means that you need to know what makes us Germans tick.
German virtues and habits
If you ask foreigners about German virtues and habits they often mention that Germans are:
- direct and straight to the point,
- efficient, precise and well organized,
- reliable and quality-oriented,
- critical and sceptical,
As a German I believe that these virtues and habits fit quite well and give a good impression of the “average German”. And even though there are much more sophisticated ways to define target groups and marketing strategies, considering these aspects when selling your products in Germany is valuable in a number of ways.
How can you benefit from knowing these German virtues and habits?
To be a successful seller you have to be customer-oriented. You have to know and understand your customers and their expectations. And with the above list of German virtues and habits you are on the right track.
Just look at the list again, lean back, close your eyes and consider what these characteristics could mean for your German business. Here are some of my thoughts which are backed up by some statistics.
We love quality products. And we take our time to look for quality and reliability on the Amazon Marketplace. This means that we compare products, read article descriptions, customer reviews, customer questions and look at the pictures. Thoroughly. And again. And again. And it hardly makes a difference whether it is a USB-hub for 20 Euros or a UHD-player for 200 Euros. We just want to be informed.
And if the text misses important information, is full of mistakes or if the pictures are not good or do not show the product from any possible angle we will become skeptical (“If the description is so bad – how can the product be better?” or “How would I communicate with the seller if there is something wrong with the product?”) and probably choose another product from another seller.
You should therefore invest in good text and good pictures. This means that text should be produced by native Germans. There are hundreds of websites making fun of the German language as it is so “special”. And if you have your product descriptions translated by Google Translator or non-native speakers we will realize that.
This does not have to be bad in every case because sometimes a non-perfect language can stress the exotic nature of certain products. But when it comes to products such as tablet pcs, power banks or bluetooth speakers, there is no room for exoticism. It is just about facts and figures.
You should also consider that – as we are skeptical – we like to know more about the seller. We need to trust him. And if the language is bad because it was translated by a computer we realize that the seller is far away from us and has no link to us or the German market. And we also notice that the seller did not put very much effort in building up a relationship. The seller does not care for us. And we therefore do not care for the seller either. If you are serious about the German market, this should be avoided.
And when it comes to the description: we like it formal, direct and straight to the point. We like bullet points, we like headings and subheadings, we like small text blocks with clear text. We don’t like long and cramped text. And we are not very keen on superlatives (the greatest, the best, the most effective …). Of course, we all would like to have the greatest and best products. But we are skeptical when it comes to supa-dupa-language used by the seller or the producer. We want proof. And credentials are the way to go.
As we like reliable products and are willing to spend more money on products which will probably last longer than other products we love customer reviews and customer questions on the German Amazon website. Shared experience is almost like own experience. And a good amount of happy customers is much more valuable than the own appraisal of the seller or the producer.
The relevance of customer reviews depends on the product category. When it comes to home and consumer electronics, 90,9 % of German customers consider reviews to be more or less important (important 70,7 %, sometimes important 20,2 %). When it comes to clothes, only 65,7 % think so (important 42,1 %, sometimes important 23,6 %) (Source: Splendid Research, Guetesiegel Monitor 2018).
An important factor though is credibility. And if most of your reviewers are members of the Amazon Vine club or if the customer reviews are too good to be true it will harm you rather than it will help you.
If a product breaks, we are often highly motivated to write a long, crushing review which – together with the corresponding photo-documentation – takes us a whole evening. For a 10 Euro product. For the seller or producer this may lead to a loss of image, time, visibility and sales.
76 % of online sellers in Germany believe that a loss of image is the highest threat of unfair customer reviews. 60 % believe it is a loss in time, 50 % think it is a loss in visibility and 45 % believe it is a loss in sales. (Quelle: Haendlerbund Studie 2017)
The best thing you can do in such a situation is to offer a good, uncomplicated and quick exchange service, if possible in German language. We very much appreciate that and often change the review afterwards with warm words for the seller’s service. But please do not ask for a deletion or an adjustment of the review in return for your exchange service. In most cases buyers are fair and will amend the review without any request.
And please keep in mind that it is much more likely that an unhappy customer will write a negative review than that a happy customer will write a positive review. This gives negative reviews a disproportionately high importance. Captain Obvious says: The best way to avoid that is to make your customers happy!
Return of products
Consumer protection is of great importance in Germany. This protection is achieved by a statutory right to return products which have been bought online. As this right has already been introduced in 2002, we have become accustomed to sending back products for whatever reason and without any risk to get our money back.
53 % of German online shoppers have returned at least one product in the last 12 month. The Netherlands come close with 52 %, France reaches 45 %, UK 40 % and Poland only 32 % (Source: PostNord, E-Commerce in Europe 2018). And 77 % of Germans say that the possibility to return products without much hassle is of importance for choosing a seller (Source: Centiro Customer Pulse Report 2017).
There is no way to force customers keep the products they want to send back (some sellers ask the customer though to pay the shipping costs which discourages some from sending back their products).
What is the best possibility though to reduce the return rate (besides selling good quality products which arrive undamaged)? To meet the expectations of the customers.
51 % of customers state that the main reason for returning products were disappointed expectations (Source: Centiro Customer Pulse Report 2017).
So what can you do to avoid disappointed expectations? You should manage the expectations of your customers by using precise product descriptions and good product photos. And you should analyze customer reviews and customer questions and update your products and descriptions accordingly. If 20 % of your customers complain that the tea strainer in your teapot is too small, make it bigger. And if three people ask about the length of the power supply cable of your rice cooker, insert that information into your description. This will lead to happier customers and fewer returns.
And of course you can control the return rate by the products you are offering. Clothes and shoes are returned much more often than electronic equipment, furniture or books (Source: PostNord, E-Commerce in Europe 2018).
The German Amazon Marketplace offers great opportunities for international sellers. To achieve the best results you should focus on the German virtues and habits and adjust your product descriptions and services accordingly. We like quality products, a well-structured product description without much fuss and credible customer reviews. Our threshold for returning products is rather low but if the quality is good and the product matches our expectations, we will be loyal and happy customers.
Daniel Hampe, 2 March 2019
PS: If you would like to share your thoughts on this article or discuss possibilities to optimize your sales on the German Amazon Marketplace, please get in touch with us.