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Digital Payment Options Gain Fans in Germany

Annual growth was greatest among consumers ages 40 and older

April 22, 2016 | Retail & Ecommerce

Digital payment methods such as PayPal and giropay are increasingly popular, especially among males and consumers ages 40 and older. Yet nearly one in three adults shopping online or via mail-order still use open invoices for transactions, according to data from Creditreform Boniversum and the Bundesverband E-Commerce und Versandhandel (bevh).

Internet Users in Germany Who Use Traditional* vs. Modern** Payment Methods for Digital and Mail-Order Purchases, Jan 2013-Jan 2016 (% of respondents)

Shoppers were asked which method they used most often for digital and mail-order purchases. The results show a narrowing gap between various traditional methods—including prepayment, open invoice, cash on delivery, credit card, deferred payment, payment on installment and direct debit—and modern, digitally enabled methods, such as PayPal, Click and Buy, giropay and sofortüberweisung.de. Between January 2015 and January 2016, the share of respondents using traditional methods shrank from 61% to 57%, while the share using digital payment systems rose from 39% to 43%.

Some historical patterns haven’t altered much. Better-educated consumers and those in higher-income households were still more likely than others to buy with a credit card, for example. Female shoppers were much more likely than men to use an open invoice, while males were more likely to shop with a credit card—and both these patterns persisted in 2016, the survey found. Males also outnumbered women in the group using digital payment schemes; 47.2% of men polled used such payments, compared with 38.3% of women.

Primary Payment Method Used for Digital and Mail-Order Purchases According to Internet Users in Germany, Jan 2013-Jan 2016 (% of respondents)

With respect to age, though, researchers reported virtually identical rates of digital payment usage this year among adults 18 to 39, and those 40 and older, at 42.4% and 42.8%, respectively. What’s more, digital options were used almost uniformly across all income levels.

In previous years, usage of digital payments was more common among savers, but is now—perhaps surprisingly—just as widespread among non-savers. A similar turnaround has occurred among individuals who make some purchases on credit. In the past, credit buyers were less likely than non-credit buyers to use digital schemes such as giropay or PayPal; in 2016, they were more likely to do so.

What does this mean for retailers serving consumers in Germany? In a word: complexity. While some ecommerce merchants—high-end fashion sellers, for example—address relatively homogeneous audiences and can risk limiting their range of payment options accordingly, it’s difficult for mainstream retailers to provide and maintain the full spectrum of payment methods their customers may want to use.

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