Ten Tips to Increase Trust in Your Online Shop in Germany
Slowly but steadily, more professionals realize that trust in e-commerce is one of the most important components for success. Being trusted is one of the keys to e-commerce, as, compared to traditional shops, the personal contact is missing.
Already for local online shops, trust is essential. At cross-border e-commerce, however, trust is of way higher importance. As analyzed before, foreign online shops are well below their potential in Germany and one of the reasons - if not the main - is that German online shoppers really have trust issues towards foreign online stores.
German customers have some serious trust issues when it comes to buying from foreign online shops. How skeptical German customers are, depends on the country of origin of the retailer. It may pose a real deal-breaker to sell to Germany for online shops from countries with a bad image in Germany. Central and Eastern European businesses are facing a serious negative bias in this regard, which is exactly why they must avoid being seen as untrustworthy. But also for online sellers from non-European countries and even for countries with a good image, trust is an important issue.
This is why we have formulated nine tips on how you can increase trust in your online shop to increase sales in Germany
How to build trust in your e-commerce business in Germany
1. Avoid poor German!
Germans will get very suspicious when someone wants to sell them something with poor German. Law enforcement officers are warning that the first sign for a fake shop often is spelling errors. Besides, what should customers think about your product if already the language is not well made? So, make sure your German is flawless.
2. Comply with legal requirements
By complying with the law, you show your information and trustworthiness.
We strongly recommend to make your life easier by just using the solutions for online shops in Germany which includes lawyer written legal texts already from 9 EUR per months from a reputable German association - with a discount.
Consumer protection organizations and even the government advise consumers to check for proper legal texts. So, make sure customers can easily find your legal texts and that the information is correct. Moreover, your terms and conditions should be reasonable and consumer-friendly - to gain trust.
Include information and links to your terms and conditions, the right of withdrawal, and possibly your guarantee into the order process.
Germans are worried about their privacy. Every second German consumer worries about their data when they want to shop from a foreign online shop according to a study published by Idealo. So, make sure that your German target group does not worry about that. Include a consumer-friendly policy statement and inform your customers about that.
Disclaimer: this note can not be understood as a legal advice; we are no law firm.
3. Honesty and transparency
Be always honest about your company, product, and all the information you give. Wrong information and too high expectations can come back with negative reviews. And you do need good reviews to gain trust - see 5.
Especially information about the payment method, availability, and delivery date should be precise and correct. Also, make sure your product description is complete and clear for the customers.
4. Trust marks
We strongly recommend using a trust mark, especially when you feel a lack of trust.
With a trust mark, you show that an independent and reliable third party has confirmed that you fulfill a certain standard. This can be very effective. A study by Schulz et al. found out that the likelihood to purchase increased by a stunning 71% (to a shop the customer isn't familiar with).
Unfortunately, they are not for free. However, there are alternatives to the costly but very reputable Trusted Shops. A solid, basic trust mark already starts from 10€ per month which includes reviews as well - ask us about it.
Let customers recommend your product. That is is a very useful tool for building trust as several studies have shown (e.g. studies made by Bahr, Murphy, Nielson). This way, your customers not only show that the product arrived as described but also that they are satisfied with the product itself. To utilize the benefits of reviews, you should use an independent and reliable rating portal rather than publishing customer feedback yourself. When you register at a rating portal, make sure that you will not get only bad ratings by following tips 3 and 6. To get good reviews, actively ask your customers if they are happy with their product and if they would be so lovely to give you a review.
6. Consumer-friendly policy
In general, you should always think from the view of your (German) target group. When you think about how you can make the buyer experience most convenient, it will not only boost your conversion rate but also for the satisfaction of your customers.
Make sure you offer convenient payment methods (prepay methods, of course, trigger concerns at German customers).
Also, make sure you not only comply with the withdrawal right (see 1.) but also keep up with the competition regarding the return policy. By offering a generous return right, you make it easier for the customer to click on "buy". And by the way, it is way harder for a customer to return an item he holds in his hand than abstain from buying it in the first place. However, make the returning process easy and, if possible, for free for your customer. Our e-commerce fulfillment partner offers a cost-efficient and scalable solution.
Always make sure to inform your German customers correctly and to keep up with your promises - as written in 3! Germans have high expectations and if you do not meet them, they will be unsatisfied, which could lead to bad reviews.
7. Create a personal connection
Having friendly and open customer service can help to build trust. First, you are reachable for your (skeptical) German customers. Second, speaking or chatting with someone in person can help to lower the inherent distance in e-commerce.
Moreover, when you are at fairs or events: show this on your website. Make pictures and videos about how you show your products and about how other customers speak to you. Possibly, even make photos or interviews with them.
For small online shops, presenting yourself as an entrepreneur behind the online store can include a personal factor. Your customers then know who is behind the online shop, and you stand with your name and picture for the reliability of the store.
8. Guarantees (legally binding)
To use a guarantee for the duration of your product, specific features, or satisfaction signals your customers that you are convinced about your product. Moreover, it reverses the customer's risk to you, which is convenient for your customer and increases not only trust but also the conversion rate. However, for your guarantee to function, customers should believe and trust you that you actually keep your guarantees – for that follow 1-6(+7).
9. Reputation, image, brand
The concept behind this is that the customer thinks it would harm you more to scam or fool him (loss of reputation) than it could possibly benefit your business (money for no product or a product that is worse than described). Imagine you travel in a car through a distant country with food that could make you sick. Would you stop at McDonald's or some unknown small local restaurant? Rating portals can have the same effect, by the way. However, this is something more strategically and a bid more difficult to achieve.
10. German address & entity
Since the trust issue is bigger when selling from abroad to Germany, you could consider registering a German entity (subsidiary) or at least a branch or representation in Germany.
Of course, this is more complicated, and costs for the registration, accounting, and possible change in where the taxes will be levied should be carefully considered. For accounting and tax reasons, it is generally recommended by experts in this field to avoid having a branch in Germany, and rather having an own entity (subsidiary). However, we are no tax advisors and would advise you to consult an expert in this field for further and final information.
Another option, besides selling in your online shop, could be to sell through a marketplace such as Amazon. This way, the marketplace is an independent reliable third party that makes sure that everything is working out for the customer.
Bahr, Ines (2017): Studie zur Wichtigkeit von Online-Bewertungen in Deutschland, capterra.com.de/blog/687/online-bewertungen-in-deutschland [01.10.2020]
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]
Murphy, Rosie (2019): Local Consumer Review Survey, brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/ [01.10.2020]
Nielson (2015): Digital formats are among the most trusted sources despite slow growth, nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2015/digital-formats-are-among-the-most-trusted-advertising-sources-despite-slow-growth [01.10.2020]
Schulz, Marco / Froschmeier, Julia / Rothhaar, Martin (2017): Shopsiegel Monitor 2017/2018: Gütesiegel in deutschen Onlineshops: Bekanntheit, Vertrauen, Benchmarking