Despite the floundering Euro-zone economy – the German ecommerce sector is in rude health. Germany currently has the largest online population in the EU – there were more than 50 million German Internet users in late 2010 and this year, the online trade in goods in Germany increased by about 17% to €21.48 billion. 2011 is the first year that revenue from e-commerce has broken the 20 billion euro turnover mark and outstripped traditional mail order sales by 10%.
Clothing and sporting goods were by far the most popular product category in German B2C E-Commerce in 2010, followed by “Books/Magazines/E-Learning Material” and “Films/Music”, and “Household Goods”. In 2011, clothing was still the most purchased items with all other categories trailing significantly. Below are the 5 top-selling merchandise categories from 2011:
1st Clothing / Soft Goods / Footwear – €2,728m
2nd Media (image and sound) – €792m
3rd Computers and accessories – €682m
4th Consumer electronics / electronic appliances – €681m
5th Furniture and decorative items – €568m
In 2010, Amazon was the most popular ecommerce site in Germany, followed by EBay. Weltbild.de ranked third, followed by Otto.de and Tchibo.de.
In 2011, the landscape looked substantially different, although many of the same major players are involved. Ebay swapped positions with Amazon in to first and popular French shopping club Vente Prive became the third placed site. Former third placed site Weltbild dropped significantly to become the 21st most popular E-Tailer in Germany.
Similar to the UK, voucher shopping sites such as Chicago-based site Groupon are becoming increasingly popular in Germany. Groupon.de, DailyDeal.de and CooleDeals.de are the leaders of the German market for voucher shopping sites in 2011.
Recent talks in the German media signal that there could be a threat on the horizon for the continued growth of German e-commerce – or at least for those undertaking shady practices. Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger is calling for improved consumer rights for online shoppers after a reported 5 million complained about hidden costs and non-committal delivery times. These are problems that many of us are familiar with, having blighted online consumers for some years now and driving many customers to do most of their shopping from a handful of trusted sites.
Christian Gross, Spokesman for German Industry and Commerce argues that the current system already provides consumers with sufficient protection against the pitfalls of the internet. The stakeholders of the industry are annoyed that an entire industry is being persecuted over the actions of a few bad apples.
Tighter restrictions could arguably actually boost online sales in Germany. There is the idea that it will generate more trust in online retailers with consumers – especially the older generation of Internet users rather than restricting retailers from going about their normal business. Whatever happens in Germany it is clear that the industry is growing at a rate that will require tighter regulation at some point if it is to develop in to a mature market for products of all kinds.