In Germany, e-commerce is now the “new normal”

E-commerce in Germany is boosting demand for alternative payment methods

Countries Germany

Intro Germany

In Germany, e-commerce is a booming and offers rich prizes to any company that can give German consumers what they want: a good deal.

Germans, famously, have money to spend. The country’s average per capita income is US$46,253, over 20% higher than average income in the eurozone [1]. The country’s economy is set to grow at a rate of 2.1% in 2022, rising to 2.7% in 2023 [2].

The IMF may revise these rates downwards, under the influence of inflation and other headwinds, but so far forecasting bodies, including the European Commission, aren’t predicting any economic outlook worse than slightly slower growth [3]. Even in the face of economic uncertainty, the German labour market remains tight, with unemployment at just 2.9% [4]. Bad news for employers but good news for businesses hoping for consumer confidence to quickly rebound.

Germany’s e-commerce market

German e-commerce is worth US$123 billion and is growing at a rate of 10% a year [5]. Germans buy 11% of all retail purchase online and complete 38% of all purchases on a mobile device [5]. 

The average online shopper spends US$1,358 with cross-border and German e-commerce merchants every year [5]. 37% of German online shoppers buy from merchants outside Germany [5], spending an annual total of US$17 billion [5]. The most popular German e-commerce categories are travel (26%), electrical goods (19%) and health and beauty (18%) [5].

According to recent estimates, the German e-commerce market grew by 15% in 2020 [6]. Older demographics are now shopping online. More than one in three German e-commerce users in 2020 was over 60 years of age [6].

Germans now spend more than 12% of their disposable income online and 75% say they’ll continue to shop online as much, or more than, they do now, even after the pandemic is over [6]. There’s no sign of these changes kicking into reverse now that restrictions are largely over, with Germany’s federal economic development agency describing online shopping as “the new normal” [7].

Payment methods in Germany

The most popular German payment methods are, if you’re used to markets dominated by cards, alternative payment methods. The most popular local payment method in Germany is bank transfer, which Germans use in a massive 55% of all online payments [5]. They use e-wallets in 25% of online payments, a range of local and minor payment methods in a further 6% and cash in just 4% [5].

Germans use credit cards, the standard payment method in markets such as the US, in just 10% of online transactions [5]. In the card market, Visa has a 56% share, MasterCard 40%, and American Express 4% [5].

Enabling and limiting factors

Germany is ranked number one in the World Bank Logistics Performance Index, which measures the speed and quality of carrier delivery (taking in factors such as the quality of the customs services, the infrastructure and the quality of the postal and carrier services) [8].

In a recent survey, Germans were the second-most satisfied (after the Austrians) with the post-purchase experience — and specifically with delivery — of any consumers in Europe [9]. This is despite the average delivery time in Germany being 2.6 days, compared to 3.7 days in Austria [9].

Since 202, more German retailers have moved to a multi-carrier, multi-modal logistics strategy [9]. Despite this, 43% still rely on a single carrier to deliver their e-commerce shipments to consumers [10].

99% of German adults have a bank account and 53% have a credit card. Internet penetration is 94% and smartphone penetration 83% [5]. In 2017, the country adopted a national broadband plan, the aim of which is to lay a nationwide gigabit fibre network, serving every community, by 2025 [11].


  5. Original PPRO research

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Quick facts

Germans expect their shopping to arrive fast, with 10% expecting same day delivery. And Germans are fond of Buy now, pay later schemes which means that they are not too worried about returning goods – 32% of clothes are sent back.

A growing number of Germans are using live shopping to make their purchases. According to a survey carried out in 2021, 51% of Germans would buy during a live shopping event compared to the European average of 38%.

Germany’s economy dropped by 4.9% in 2020 but is forecast to grow by 3.6% in 2021 and 3.4% in 2022 according to the IMF. Inflation also rose in 2020 by 0.4% and is expected to rise by 2.2% in 2021 and by 1.1% in 2022.

General Information

  • Population 83.8m
  • Population 15 + 71.7m
  • Online Population 78.8m
  • Area 357,386 km2
  • Currency EUR
  • GDP 3,803.0bn USD
  • GDP per Capita 45,733 USD

  • Card-based payments
  • Cash-based payments
  • Bank transfer
  • Wallets
  • Other
[{"label":"Card-based payments","value":"10"},{"label":"Cash-based payments","value":"4"},{"label":"Bank transfer","value":"55"},{"label":"Wallets","value":"25"},{"label":"Other","value":"6"}]

Banked population
  • Germany 99%
  • Western & Central Europe 94%
  • World 67%
Credit card penetration
  • Germany 53%
  • Western & Central Europe 46%
  • World 19%
Internet penetration
  • Germany 94%
  • Western & Central Europe 91%
  • World 62%
Smartphone penetration
  • Germany 83%
  • Western & Central Europe 75%
  • World 70%

The E-Commerce Market

Top e-commerce segments 2019 | 2020

  1. Airlines & Hotels: 35% | 26%
  2. Electrical Goods: 17% | 19%
  3. Health & Beauty: 16% | 18%
  4. Toys, DIY, & Hobbies: 13% | 15%
  5. Homeware & Furniture: 9% | 10%

Cross-border e-commerce

  1. Cross-border proportion of total e-commerce – 14%
  2. Value of cross-border e-commerce ($US billion) – 16.0
  3. % of online shoppers who have shopped cross-border – 37%

Top 3 cross-border shopping origin markets

  1. China: 43%
  2. UK: 13%
  3. USA: 13%
E-commerce % of total retail
  • Germany 11%
  • Western & Central Europe 17.6%
  • World 20%
E-commerce completed on a mobile device
  • Germany 38%
  • Western & Central Europe 43%
  • World 53%

E-Commerce Trends

  • E-commerce market size ($US billion) 113.1bn USD
  • E-Commerce spending per capita ($US) 1,358 USD
  • E-commerce spending as % of GDP 2.8%

The Credit Card Split

  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • American Express
[{"label":"Visa","value":"56"},{"label":"Mastercard","value":"40"},{"label":"American Express","value":"4"}]

The information on our Insights pages has been compiled by us in cooperation with Datamatics and Wright & Brown. The data shown is partially owned by us and partially owned by GlobalData. © 2021 by PPRO Financial Ltd. No data and information can be used for any further publication without the explicit approval of PPRO.


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