Logistical Problems Germans Perceive when Buying From Foreign Online Shops and How to Solve Them
Updated: Jan 25
Reasons Why Germans Are Hesitant to Buy From Foreign Online Shops (2/2)
In general, one can say the German economy is quite international, and Germans are used to as well as open to trade with foreigners. Germans also get used to buying from foreign online shops and increasingly use the option to shop from online retailers abroad. As we have shown in our article about e-commerce statistics in Germany, seven out of ten people in Germany stated that they shopped online in the previous three months. The percentage of people in Germany who buy from foreign online sellers more than doubled from 14 percent in 2013 to 29 percent in 2019 as you can read in our article about who in Germany buys from foreign online shops and why.
However, unfortunately, German customers still overcome some negative expectations and worries when it comes to buying from foreign online shops. Still today, German consumer protection organizations warn about buying from foreign shops. They advise German consumers to be cautious, and if they have any doubt, to rather not buy from this shop. Moreover, as we have examined before, foreign online shops have not yet utilized their full potential in Germany.
Cross border e-commerce logistics
To get a clear overview about the reasons Germans hesitate to shop from foreign online shops, we categorized the main aspects found by a study published by Idealo (see link below) on how German customers feel into two mayor obstacles for foreign online shops selling to Germans. The second category of obstacles we want you to know about is logistical problems Germans perceive when buying from foreign online shops.
Read about the first category and learn about the trust issue German customers have when they consider shopping from foreign online shops and here is how to gain trust
Unfortunately, German consumers have some concerns about logistical issues when they buy directly from companies abroad. They think about whether problems or extra costs can occur alongside the shipping and return process.
In particular, it is due to the following three perceived issues and here is how to solve them.
Germans worry about if problems would occur with the shipment that could cause delays on their parcel or are of another inconvenience for them.
Forty-nine percent of Germans worry about shipping problems according to a study published by Idealo.
To what extent Germans worry depends on where the online shop ships from. The nearer, the better and the best if the online shop ships from within Germany. Consequently, it could make sense to think at one point about shipping from a warehouse in Germany, either by yourself or through a service provider.
If you are interested in shipment from Germany, we partner with a cost-efficient and scalable e-commerce fulfillment provider without fixed costs, to ease your start and accelerate your growth in Germany.
However, this is how you can solve the issue when you ship from abroad. You should make sure the shipment will be smooth and on time, and with minimum risks on the way of the parcel. But doing that is not enough. It is essential to be aware that it is not about what shipping process you have, but rather what the worries of your potential customers are. So, it is important that you explicitly mention and convince your customers that you make sure there will not be any problems. Also make clear: in case of any problem (despite your aspiration to avoid problems), you are going to handle it most conveniently. Perhaps you could offer generous compensation for such cases. This way, your customers see that their interest is also in your best interest, which is always a good idea in business!
Another big topic that is quite important in Germany's online shopping culture is to be able to return orders. German online shoppers are used to (having the option to) send items back whenever they don't like them or just changed their mind about them. The return and refund policy should not be underestimated as it plays a decisive role in the decision process to click on buy, especially at foreign online shops.
Seventy-one percent of German consumers are worried about inconveniences on the procedure and anticipated high costs to return orders to online shops abroad, according to a survey published by Idealo.
You definitely should consider designing your return and refund policy very consumer-friendly, as are the findings of a study by sendcloud (2022) - free return policy, a convenient return process, a long return period, and fast refunding of the payment (Onlinehändler News, 2022).
It is quite usual practice in Germany to offer long consumer-friendly return policies. By the way, by doing so, you also signal that you are convinced about your products, and you take advantage of some other psychological marketing effects. However, again, it is not your policy itself that determines the outcome, but instead what the customer expects and worries. So, you should make sure that potential customers know about your (consumer-friendly) return policy and that they are convinced that they don't need to worry.
Side note for non EU online shops
For online shops that sell their products from overseas, it is crucial to know that in the EU, consumers have the right to withdraw for 14 days from (almost all) orders placed over the internet (except customized products and some other exceptions). For more information, read the information that the EU provides. Consequently, Germans got used to having the right to return products (within 14 days).
If you are located outside of the EU, Germans also worry about whether they can return the order at all. Therefore, next to the legal requirement, online shops from outside the EU should offer the same policy to prevent a competitive disadvantage. If you are afraid that the right to return orders could become too costly for you, it could be possible that the customer pays the return shipping. But that must be communicated as transparent and reasonable as possible.
3. Custom procedure
Regarding shipment from countries outside of Europe and (sadly) from Great Britain: German consumers are also concerned about the custom procedure. The customs procedure could be annoying as well as possible tariffs and problems coming alongside it.
Sixty-three percent of Germans worry about customs procedures according to the research published by Idealo.
Online shops from outside the EU should think about how to make the procedure most convenient for the customer. Again, also here, customers should get conveniently informed about that. A solution could be to distribute through a German warehouse. If you are interested, we will connect you with our cost-efficient and scalable e-commerce fulfillment center.
Idealo Internet GmbH (2018): Keine Angst vor Bestellungen in ausländischen Onlineshops, idealo.de/magazin/2018/07/30/keine-angst-vor-bestellungen-in-auslaendischen-onlineshops/ [24.03.2020]
Onlinehändler News (2022): Deutsche schicken die meisten Retouren in Europa zurück, www.onlinehaendler-news.de/online-handel/haendler/135898-deutsche-shopper-meisten-retouren-in-europa [25.01.2022]
sendcloud (2022): E-Commerce Lieferkompass 2021/2022