• Jonas S. Müller

The Growing E-Commerce Market in Germany And the Unused Potential of Foreign Online Shops

Updated: Nov 17




More and more Germans buy online


More and more people nowadays shop online. As we have shown in one of our previous articles about the e-commerce market in Germany, this trend is also clearly observable in Germany. In 2019, 80 percent of people in Germany stated that they used the possibility to shop online in the previous year (2018). The size of the revenue in Germany's online marketplace reached in the meantime a remarkable sum of more than 70€ bn in 2019. The current corona crises escalate this trend even further. People in Germany and elsewhere increasingly shop over the internet, and that even more in the future.


Percentage of people in Germany who purchased in the previous year online

Source: Eurostat [isoc_ec_ibuy]



Unused potential to sell online to Germany from abroad

In addition, internationalization is also arriving in the digital marketplaces. In our previous article, we have analyzed that an increasing part of Germans is buying from foreign online shops. In 2005 a solid 23 percent of all German online shoppers bought from foreign shops online. in 2019 this number has skyrocketed to 37 percent.


In this article, we want to show you that compared to European online shoppers, Germans are more reluctant when it comes to buying from online retailers located in another country, as you can see in the following chart.

Percentage of online shoppers in Germany and the EU

that bought from sellers abroad (other EU and Non-EU countries)

Online shoppers: people who purchased online in the previous 12 months (private use)

EU 15: data for 2019 not available

Source: Eurostat



Even at intra-EU trade, Germany's online shoppers are falling behind their European peers (see chart below). That means, when it comes to shopping from an online shop from another EU country, Germans seem to be somewhat reluctant to buy from foreign retailers. And that despite the common market and its harmonized laws with no trade barriers (imposed by governments). This finding is quite remarkable since Germany is the market into which many European (online) businesses focus their exports. Hence, more foreign online shops should focus on the still untapped opportunities of the German online market and less on smaller European countries and their online marketplaces. Therefore, neither administrative trade barriers nor lack of supply can explain the notable restraint of German's shopping behavior towards foreign online shops which means that there are serious business obstacles for foreign online shops selling to Germany.



Percentage of online shoppers that bought from sellers from another EU country

Online shoppers: people who purchased online in the previous 12 months (private use)

EU 15: data for 2019 not available

Source: Eurostat



Conclusion: huge potential for foreign online shops in Germany but business obstacles


So, there are fewer online shoppers in Germany that buy from foreign online shops than in the EU, whether it is about buying from European or non-European countries. At the same time, online shopping from foreign EU countries is rising in Germany. This finding leads us to two conclusions:


First, foreign online sellers have an enormous not yet utilized potential in the slowly but steadily increasing internationalization of Germany's digital marketplace.


Second, it appears there are some business obstacles for foreign online shops selling to German customers. But what are these obstacles? We have categorized these obstacles into two primary reasons. We will discuss these obstacles and explain how foreign online shops can solve them in our next articles. First, perceived logistical issues by German consumers will be discussed, and second and most importantly, Germans trust issues towards foreign online shops.


So, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to find out how to jump over the hurdles to unleash your potential in Germany!




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