Translating for Germany: A Guide

localizing for Germany

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Is localizing for Germany a smart move? Let’s take a look at the data.

German is the 10th most common language on the internet. Germany is Europe’s most populous nation, largest economy, and home to Europe’s biggest consumer market. It’s right in the center of the European Union and enjoys stable economic growth. Studies show that German consumers are eager for localized content like websites and mobile apps.

Now is a great time to launch a multilingual website or app for a German audience! The market is extremely appealing for businesses wishing to expand internationally and begin their marketing efforts in Germany.

We’ll share our top localization and marketing tips for expanding your online business into Germany.

Localization Tips for Germany

Here are some things to consider if you are thinking of expanding into the German market.

Offer Content in German

Surveys show that most Germans prefer to read German-language content. They actively dislike unlocalized English content.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the level of English in your German-speaking audience is good enough that you don’t have to bother translating your content into German. When localizing for Germany, it’s essential to offer content in the German language.

Get to Know German Consumers

These days, people around the world shop online more than ever. But shoppers in different countries do it very differently. Learning how your target audience shops is an important part of localizing for a new market. Here’s what you should know about German shoppers:

    • Germans have a lot of purchasing power. There are over 82 million high-income consumers in Germany.
    • Before buying a product online, 82% of Germans will read the terms and conditions of the sale first.
    • Online shoppers in Germany are likely to be 30-40-year-old urban dwellers. They’re young enough to be considered tech-savvy and progressive, yet old enough to still adhere to typical German consumer habits.
    • Germans are both savvy and private in their online dealings. This means they’ll need more reassurance about the privacy and security of any information they share with companies.
    • You can gain traction with your German prospects by catering to their core values around quality, familiarity, security, and trust.
    • Germans are discerning. A mature market like Germany offers plenty of competition, so your customer experience is important.
    • Germans are much more likely to buy from German-language language sites and respond better to local currency and payment options.
    • No other European country returns more packages than Germany, so be prepared to handle a lot of potential returns.

Understand Germany’s ECommerce Market

Most German shoppers prefer to pay for online purchases by invoice. It was their favorite way to pay when they were still shopping via old-school print catalogs. Because of this, there is a strong emphasis on buying now and paying later.

Even though the paradigm is slowly shifting, you should offer various payment options to your audience. Consider offering flexible payment options like Paypal or Klarna.

Focus on the Facts

Provide your prospects with information on your product’s features and what it does. Use German case studies and testimonials. The more your German prospect can relate to you, the more likely they will trust your product and your company.

If you must use inspirational phrases, do so sparingly. There’s nothing more frustrating for the average German than scrolling a website looking for information only to find inspirational founder quotes, aspirational phrases, and product descriptions that only provoke more questions.

Consider the German Market

The German market is mature. This means there are both rewards and risks for those trying to break into it.

    • Germany has a stable and efficient infrastructure, so logistics are exceptional. And they need to be. 87% of Germans prefer home delivery to other shipping methods.
    • German customers look for superior product quality and value for money. Once consumers have experienced a brand and developed trust in its quality and service, they tend to be loyal customers.
    • Customer loyalty is essential for retention, but changing existing preferences can be a challenge. German expectations are high, so if you approach the market without being fully committed to customer experience, you’ll be in for a very bumpy ride.

Avoid the Berlin Bubble

Don’t regard Germany’s capital city as representative of the country as a whole. Here’s why:

    • Berlin is a start-up tech hub where entrepreneurs are likely to speak fairly good English. But the city doesn’t reflect reality for most Germans. Most Germans don’t use English after they leave school. The average German’s English fluency isn’t comparable to other Western European countries. Make sure your websites, mobile apps, and products are fully translated and localized.
    • Purchasing power in Berlin ranks among the lowest of any region in Germany. If you have a high-end product, you need to ensure that you target an audience that can afford it.
    • Conducting market research only in Berlin might lead you to the wrong conclusions. Does your target audience live in Berlin? Perhaps they reside in smaller, economically robust cities like Düsseldorf or München.
    • Bear in mind that the further you move away from cosmopolitan areas, the more conservative people are. Your messaging should reflect that.
    • In your ads and marketing materials, you should use the more formal Sie instead of the less formal du to significantly increase conversions.

Consider What Germans Buy

In Germany, classic consumer items prevail, such as electronics, clothing and accessories, shoes, and books. High quality, reasonable pricing, and a strong consumer experience are important to German audiences.

With that in mind, here’s an infographic that shows what Germans like to buy online:

Translating for Germany: A Guide 1

Translate Effectively

It pays to invest in professional translators. A good German translation boosts your brand’s reputation and helps avoid embarrassing translation mistakes. Translation mistakes happen more often than you’d think.

Here are some infamous translation mistakes from big global brands who failed to localize for Germany:

    • Clairol launched a hair straightener product called Mist Stick. Unfortunately, mist is a German slang word for dung. German consumers weren’t eager to buy a manure stick for their hair.
    • Puffs promoted their tissue brand in Germany and kept their US branding. Puff is German slang for a brothel.

Using an in-country reviewer will pay dividends and ensure that your translations represent your branding.

Understand German language variants

German is also the official language of Germany’s neighboring countries – Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. And it’s spoken in a few other countries like Luxembourg, Brazil, Argentina, and Belgium.

The three regional variants of German are:

    • Standard German
    • Swiss Standard German
    • Austrian Standard German

For generic content, it is fine to use the standard German language. It’s well understood by the German-speaking population around the world. Businesses that really want to connect with the local people in a German-speaking country need to make an extra effort to incorporate the subtle differences and sensibilities of different cultures.

5 Tips for Content Marketing in Germany

Germany is a wise choice for any company aiming to develop its marketing strategy in Europe, but there are several challenges. For example, Germans have a high regard for credibility, don’t use social media as much as other developed countries, and rely a lot on mobile technology.

The following are five tips for successful content marketing in Germany.

1. Go Deutsch

We all know the adage: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So, when in Germany, you should think, act, and speak German:

    • Begin with translating your website into German. This will provide you with a platform to host content in German for both online and social media traffic.
    • Be sure to give your German audience an ELV (Elektronisches Lastschriftverfahren) option for making payments on your site. Many Germans prefer ELV over other payment methods.
    • Hire fluent German speakers to handle your customer inquiries. This can be done via e-mails, web chat, or social media. Make sure all your customer service agents have an in-depth knowledge of your product.
    • High-quality, data-driven content is essential. Remember that the more knowledgeable and authentic you seem to be, the more you’ll appeal to your German audience.

2. Focus on the Popular Social Media Platforms

Social media is not as popular in Germany as in some other countries. This might be because almost 37% of the population is over age 55. Older Germans tend to be wary of social media due to concerns about data privacy. But for young professionals, social media usage is growing fast. Social platforms have led to increasing awareness of foreign products and services. Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Xing are popular social platforms for German consumers.

3. Be Mobile-Friendly

According to a Statista survey of German consumers, mobile devices are very popular.

    • About 75% of the German population uses a smartphone.
    • The number of smartphone users in Germany has only grown in recent years, amounting to 62.6 million smartphone owners in 2021.
    • Android phones were considerably more popular with German consumers than iOS phones.
    • German people rely heavily on mobile technology. The number of smartphone users continues to grow dramatically.

4. Demonstrate a Commitment to Consumer Privacy

Germans care a lot about how their personal information might be misused. Be absolutely sure you comply with German data privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR.) Don’t forget to publish compliance information on your website.

5. Market like a German

To get your foot in Germany’s marketing door, it’s helpful to understand that Germans won’t always relate to American-style marketing content and language. They also are likely to be turned off by content that is exaggerated or uninspiring. If you indulge in too much boasting about your product or insult your competitors, you are likely to turn off a large portion of your German audience.

How Localize can Help You Launch in Germany

Effective translation and localization will ensure that your content resonates with a German audience. Being successful in the German market will take time, money, and perseverance. However, the size of the country’s consumer market and the high spending power of the German population will make it worthwhile.

When you localize your website or app for a different language like German, it’s important to work with professional translators who have a solid understanding of the German language, culture, and context. Your expert translation service or LSP can work seamlessly with the Localize platform to deliver the highest-quality German translations.

Contact Localize to see how we can help you break into the German market as smoothly and successfully as possible.

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