8 Insights into German Website Localization

July 16, 2010

Any online market campaign in Europe must include Germany, a country with the largest national economy in Europe and the fourth largest GDP in the world. Germany is also the second biggest global exporter of goods and the third biggest global importer of goods. Compared to other European countries, a high percentage of Germany's well-educated population is actively purchasing online.

German Online Market Statistics

  • Population of 82 million highly educated people.
  • The German online population has shown steady growth with e-commerce, exceeding $20 billion in sales.
  • Germany is the second largest Internet and broadband market in Europe. Broadband penetration is projected to include nearly 50% of all households by the end of 2010.

1 - The German Online Consumer

Familiarity:

  • 43% of non-frequent shoppers and 57% of frequent shoppers go straight to price-comparison portals.

Security:

  • 77% of German online shoppers have security concerns about retailers with whom they have never transacted business.
  • 75% of German online shoppers do not like unknown payment methods.
  • 75% of German online shoppers will not proceed with their purchase if security information is not posted.

2 - German Consumer Values

  • Loyalty: German consumers are usually inclined to buy from "German" online retailers. A German domain (e.g. "website.de") can be highly influential for a website presence in the German online marketplace.
  • Gender Differences: A Postbank report revealed that February is the busiest online shopping month for German male online users while September is the busiest month for German female online users.
  • Payment Options: German online users prefer to pay for online transactions with electronic direct debit rather than credit cards; 60% of all German online purchases are paid in this manner.

3 - German Consumer Purchase Decisions

  • Time: Germans tend to be very time sensitive and operate in time-energy conserving mode.
  • Most active shopping hours: German online shoppers make nearly one-quarter of all purchases during their business lunch breaks, from noon to 2 PM.
  • Gender-and-Age Differences: German men and younger Germans of both sexes are much more likely to use online auction sites than other German consumers.

4 - Types of Online German Consumers

  • Impulsive Consumers: These German online consumers tend to be indifferent to brand, shopping experience and product differences.
  • Hedonistic German Consumers: This type of German consumer tends to be driven by emotion and confusion based on "too many choices".
  • Shopping Enthusiasts: These German consumers are interested in shopping for new products and new experiences.

5 - The German Language

German is a West Germanic language and a member of the Indo-European language family, spoken by more than 120 million people worldwide in 38 countries. (Wikipedia.org). The primary countries in which the German language is spoken are Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, South Tyrol province of Italy and parts of Belgium.

In addition to the 26 standard Latin alphabet characters, the German language also uses diacritics or marks placed above characters like o and a, which are used to stress a syllable or alter its pronunciation. All diacritics are included in the ISO 8859-1 and Windows 1252 character sets. German has three vowels with Umlaut, ä, ö, and ü. In addition, German uses the Eszett or scharfes S (sharp "s") ß. (Wikipedia.org)

6 - German Cultural Correctness and Web Customization

  • Individualism: A critical element in German website localization is a focus on German values of self-reliance, achievement, independence and individual freedom. Autonomy, competition, and non-conformity are also cherished in the German culture.
  • Respect: German websites can be customized for this value by highlighting awards, the company's mission statement and corporate values.
  • Masculinity: German website localization is more effective when masculine values are emphasized. Use text and design elements that emphasize achievement, strength, material wealth and success, or highlight your product's durability and its prominent or differentiating features.
  • Risk Avoidance: Clear navigation tools and a secured site for online transactions help eliminate online user uncertainty. Effective German website localization results in websites which display German text with claims like, "Buy without Risk", "Many payment options", "Free returns" and "Data protection".
  • Low Context: You can further optimize your German website localization projects by crafting websites with symmetry, website colors and design that is clean, concise and logical. This style is highly favored by German online consumers.

7 - Color and Images Appropriate for German Website Localization

The German culture is centuries old and quite diverse due to the varied and turbulent history of the German-speaking communities. It is important to be aware of cultural sensitivities to avoid blunders and inadvertent use of offensive symbols. In Germany certain colors carry specific meaning and symbolize aspects of German culture:

  • Blue: Considered the color of loyalty and formality. For example, German government letters are traditionally mailed in blue envelopes.
  • Black: The color of grief, death, hopelessness, as well as formality.
  • Green: The color of hope and conservation. A good example of the use of green, is the name of the German political party, "Die Grünen" (The Greens). It was formed in the late 1970's by environmentalists and peace activists.

8 - German SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

The key to promoting a website internationally is to create localized content and keywords, register local domains and then promote through local search engines, affiliate marketing, online and offline branding and promotions. DENIC is the central registry for all domains under the top level domain.de. In June 2006, they processed the ten millionth application for .de domain, making it the second top level domain, after .com to have ten million users which is a major hurdle. (www.denic.de)

The DENIC is also offering Internationalized Domain Names (IDN), which are domains that can potentially contain non-ASCII characters. This IDN standard not only permits the German umlaut or diacritic, but also a total of 92 additional characters that range from the French é to the Danish Ø, which are now included in .de-domains. Unfortunately, the German ß are not included in this IDN standard.

Internet and Search Engine Marketing in Germany

According to Markus Hoenever from Bloofusion Group, the top Pay Per Click (PPC) Search Engines in German are:

  • Google AdWords
  • Overture Germany
  • Espotting
  • QualiGo
  • Morango Deutschland

Top Search Engines in Germany

According to Markus Hoenever from Bloofusion Group, the top search engines in the German language are:

  • Acoon
  • AltaVista
  • Fireball
  • Freenet.de
  • Google
  • Lycos
  • MSN
  • Witch
  • Yahoo! Deutschland

For more information on Global SEM Services, see GPI's SEM Services webpage on Global Search Engine Marketing.

Use German SEO and German SEM for Optimal Results

When preparing for German website localization, it is important to research cultural and linguistic issues specific to the German web and online market. German keyword list localization is a very different process from standard German Technical Translations. Ensure that your SEM and/or localization agency has the necessary experience to perform this service, so they can provide you with appropriate German keyword localization. This will ensure that your German website localization optimizes your content for German search engines and German SERPs to produce maximum results and high ranking in this strategic market.

This blog touches on the more important aspects of German website localization. You can download a white paper, Website Globalization and E-Business Germany, which was created by Globalization Partners International, to give you a complete list of steps and best practices for optimal results with German online users. To obtain answers specific to your questions and project goals, contact GPI at info@globalizationpartners.com or at 866-272-5874. You may also fill out our online form to get a complimentary Localization Quote.

Category:
Country Specific
Tags:
Country, Germany, Localization, Translation, Culture, Language, website

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Fluent in German, Greek, French and Italian (as well as English), Fotini has over 15 years of localization industry experience serving in a multitude of operational and sales roles. She has extensive experience in document, software, website and multimedia localization and manages day-to-day global production for GPI's project management and translation teams. She has lived and worked in Germany, Greece, France and the USA.