German Consumers: Understanding Their Buying Habits and Customer Service Preferences

April 6, 2022

Thinking about expanding your company into Germany? As an economic powerhouse that rewards innovation, Deutschland (as the Germans call it) presents an attractive globalization opportunity for a variety of different industries. However, you can’t take the same marketing, sales, and customer service strategies you’re using in other regions and expect to see the same success in Germany. 

Germans are savvy buyers with distinct purchasing patterns and a no-nonsense communication style. Here are the key considerations and best practices you should keep in mind to capture the attention and trust of German consumers. 

Understanding Germans’ buying habits and preferences 

German buyers are known for being shrewd and conscientious, as well as uncompromising when it comes to the quality of the products they purchase. Consider the following consumer attributes when developing your approach toward marketing, sales, and customer service. 

Sharp research skills plus high quality standards 

  • Like to conduct thorough research before buying and will carefully evaluate pricing, competitors, features, and reviews 

  • Social networks are a top channel for both research and the discovery of products

  • Among the most demanding in the world for assessing quality and value 

  • Quick to switch brands if quality is not extremely high 

Preference for online shopping and flexibility 

  • Europe’s largest online market, online shopping (including mobile) is the norm 

  • Some prefer to research online, purchase offline (ROPO) 

  • Value options like fast/free shipping, variety of payment options 

  • Hyperaware of the fine print — will return products if they aren’t 100% satisfied

Connected but privacy-conscious

  • 75% of internet users have a social media account 

  • Facebook is most popular and Instagram is favored by those under 30 

  • Security, privacy, and data protection are top concerns  

  • Brands must clearly label their ads as promoted content

Connecting with customers in the German language 

Once your business has officially established itself in Germany and has started to communicate directly with German consumers, you’ll want to make sure you are providing an authentic, high-quality customer experience in their native language. 

Our 2021 Global Multilingual CX Report found that 61% of the German consumers believe it is very or extremely important that brands offer an end-to-end customer experience in their native language, from product promotion to website content and customer service.

What’s more, 60% of our German survey respondents said they would switch to a new brand that markets products or services in their native language, and over half (55%) believe it is a bias when brands don’t offer multilingual customer experiences. When it comes to their favorite ways to communicate with brands, the top five channels are: 

  • Email (57%) 

  • In-store (41%) 

  • Phone (40%) 

  • Social media (31%) 

  • Live chat (27%) 

Providing a high-quality customer experience in the German language has significant potential to engender brand loyalty. Our survey discovered that 70% of German consumers would be loyal to a brand that provides support in their native language. 

For companies that don’t nail the quality aspect, the consequences may be dire. 91% believe that poor customer service, even in their native language, will impact their trust and loyalty toward a brand. Top responses for what defines good customer support were fast resolution times (55%), high-quality communications (47%), and quick response times (42%). 

In addition to these survey findings, here are a few best practices and cultural considerations for communicating with German customers that we have uncovered over thousands of customer support interactions. 

Prioritize critical thinking 

Germans pride themselves on their critical thinking abilities, so you may notice they can be quite confident in their claims with an upfront communication style. But this doesn’t mean they are close-minded! They will still speak out to suggest new ideas if they believe there is opportunity for growth and improvement, and in the spirit of equality, encourage you to do the same.

Don’t expect small talk  

These consumers are very direct and don’t believe that personal relations are necessary to achieve a common goal. Germany is a restrained, “low context” culture which means they prefer to suppress their emotions and primarily value efficiency in communications. Germans also have a high regard for order and processes, so they will respond negatively if they notice corner cutting or rule bending. Check out our German Language Guide for more details about their unique communication style. 

Support their research 

Due to their strong research abilities, German consumers can be difficult to persuade and they are skilled at making a convincing argument. However, if you can introduce new ideas or points of view with factual evidence to back it up, German people will give your suggestions and recommendations serious consideration. Keep in mind that both verbal and written statements are taken as binding — if you make a promise, make sure to deliver.

Go forth and go global  

Hopefully this blog gave you a better understanding of the consumer preferences and buying trends that characterize the current state of the German market. This region has incredibly high standards for global brands to live up to, but the payoff is immense for brands that get it right. 

Interested in taking a deeper dive into any of the topics covered in this blog? Download The Ultimate Guide to Doing Business in Germany to learn more about German consumers PLUS a complete analysis of the German economy.

About the Author

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Phill Brougham

Director of Product Marketing at Unbabel, Phill Brougham spent the last five years working for SaaS businesses focused on applying artificial intelligence to solving real-world business and productivity problems. Throughout his roles, Phill’s focus has been on translating technological capability into clear, understandable value.