How to sell online in Germany: E-commerce guide
Online retailers who want to reach the entire European market should research how to sell in Germany. Our quick guide tells you what you need to do.
Did you know the number of German e-commerce users is expected to reach 68.4m by 2025? German shoppers have increasingly switched to online marketplaces to fulfill their shopping needs. Germany offers huge development prospects to American e-commerce companies since it has the largest economy in continental Europe and the second-largest population after Russia.
However, there are a few considerations for small firms wanting to benefit from growing their e-commerce operations into Germany. In this article, we’ll explore the top e-commerce platforms in Germany, offer some advice on what to be careful about if you’re an online seller, and share guidance on selling in Germany from the United States.
The status of e-commerce in Germany: what sellers should know
The pandemic and the public’s extensive smartphone usage have both contributed to the recent acceleration of German e-commerce development. However, more buying also means more returns: almost 25% of e-commerce orders get returned by German customers. So, you need to have a robust returns system in place.
As well as accounting for increased returns, your platform must offer payment options that appeal to the German market. German customers have traditionally paid for services via invoice — as recently as 2020, 88% of German e-commerce stores still offered the option to pay via invoice. More recently, e-wallets are becoming more popular.
In February 2023, 54% of German e-commerce customers said their first-choice payment method was Paypal, one of the leading e-wallet services. A US e-commerce seller looking to break into the German market should partner with a payment provider that can easily enable these options for customers.
Best sites for e-commerce in Germany
Although some of the most popular online marketplaces aren’t unique to the German market, a few most certainly are. We’ve listed the top three German online marketplaces below according to their web traffic as of March 2023:
- 453.1 million monthly visitors
- Annual revenue of $21,224,600,000
- Amazon’s resources and reputation mean it’s a top e-commerce retailer in many countries (including the USA). Amazon
- 305.5 million monthly visitors (combined)
- Annual revenue of $1,023,000,000
Like Amazon, eBay is an enormous presence in the e-commerce industry. However, retailers new to the German market should notice that eBay’s classifieds site (eBay-kleinanzeigen.de) is more popular than the standard marketplace.
- 44.8 million monthly visitors
- Annual revenue of $6,063,700,000
- Otto is the largest German-based e-commerce retailer focusing on fashion and lifestyle goods. It’s part of the Otto Group, which includes multiple different companies.
Let’s briefly look at importing rules to help better understand how to sell online in Germany successfully.
Importing products into Germany
The German government lists three significant considerations businesses must consider when importing products into Germany.
The categories are as follows:
- Restrictions: If the German authorities restrict the goods you’re looking to import
- Duties and taxes: There will be duties and taxes to pay when importing your goods, as Germany levies tariffs on all goods imported from outside the EU. Excisable goods (alcohol, tobacco, and mineral oils like petrol) are subject to their own taxes.
- Procedures: Unless otherwise specified, all goods must be entered for a customs approval procedure.
If you want to sell throughout the EU and Germany, keep the EU Customs Union in mind. Once items have been successfully imported to Germany (or any other EU member country), they can be sent around the EU. No more customs charges will be applied if they cross an EU border.
VAT vs. Sales Tax
Germany uses VAT instead of the sales tax applied in the United States. If you’re selling goods to German customers, you must apply the correct VAT rates to your goods at checkout.
Luckily, this is much simpler than it is in the US, as there are no state, county, or city tax rates. Germany only has 3 VAT rates for the whole country. Despite the simplicity, you should still ensure your e-commerce platform can automatically apply the correct rate to the right product.
Making the most of e-commerce in Germany
There are numerous reasons to expand your e-commerce business for the German market. However, successful sellers will need to keep in mind and prepare for the unique preferences of German customers.
If sellers do their research and partner with businesses that enable easy e-commerce in Germany, there is no reason they can’t expand into a lucrative market. By serving customers in a booming sector, e-commerce sellers can grow their small businesses across German platforms.
Simplify international transactions with Zyla
If you plan to grow your e-commerce business by expanding into the German market, you’ll probably need to make and receive international payments. Currency transfer options used to be the only option for marketplace sellers and were the sole purview of banks and expensive third-party solutions. Luckily, these days fintechs like Zyla have your back.
The Zyla Account is the hassle-free way to pay business partners and get paid from marketplaces quickly.
- Open multi-currency accounts with local account details
- Make fast and secure global payments to suppliers, staff and partners
- Collect funds from marketplace sales
- Keep costs down with competitive rates
The free-to-open Zyla Account enables businesses to make collections and payouts internationally – giving you the freedom to do business anywhere, all with the security of our online platform. Open an account today and you could be approved, set up and trading internationally in 24 hours. Get started or find out more by calling (855) 797-3366 today.