Digital Commerce Is the Norm as Germany's Internet Culture Matures
A touch of conservatism may have shaped the online behavior of Germany’s internet users in the early days of the web. It’s taken some time for the country to embrace digital shopping, for example. But those days are over, according to the latest report from the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Online Forschung (AGOF), “internet facts 2015-01.” The report is based on approximately 15,000 on-site interviews conducted between November 2014 and January 2015. That data was merged with results from a twice-yearly telephone survey of 42,000 German-speaking residents ages 10 and older.
Digital media channels are now a feature of everyday life for most people in Germany. Internet penetration among those ages 10 to 39 was about 95%, AGOF noted, and about 90% among those 40 to 49.
Although females form an estimated 50.9% of Germany’s total population ages 10 and older, the majority of internet users were male. The gender gap was greatest among senior users, ages 60 and older; in this group, 56.1% of users were men, and 43.9% were women. That was also the age bracket with the greatest proportion of non-users. A clear majority (58.5%) of seniors had not accessed the web in the previous three months, AGOF reported.
In some ways, the most popular online activities in Germany have changed little over the years. Search still ranked top of the list in early 2015; 86.7% of web users ages 14 and older said they visited search engines either frequently or occasionally. Email was a close second, with 86.4% saying they were frequent or occasional users. Around two-thirds of all respondents also looked for information such as news and weather updates.
On the other hand, online commerce has become far more widespread than one might have predicted a few years back. According to AGOF, digital shopping and buying was the third most popular internet activity overall, attracting nearly 73% of web users ages 14 and older. In addition, an estimated 57.8% of those polled did online banking—greater than the percentage (39.5%) who said they visited communities and forums on the web.
With their shopping hats on, Germany’s internet users were most likely to be interested in books, the survey found. A majority (52.2%) of users also said they were interested in shoes as a potential purchase. But a variety of health and beauty products also appeared in the top 10, including body and haircare and dental items. Many digital shoppers also expressed an interest in alcohol-free drinks, dairy products, vacation travel, event tickets and women’s clothing.
Curiously, the list of actual purchases in the three months prior to polling featured drinks, snacks, frozen and ready meals, health and beauty items and household cleaning products, with shoes just creeping into the top 10. This suggests that when it comes to day-to-day shopping, practical needs tend to trump more attractive possibilities such as booking holidays, theater or cinema visits.
These results also demonstrate how readily most internet users in Germany now go online for all kinds of purchases. Increasing familiarity with online shopping continues to boost digital buyer numbers, too. eMarketer estimates that 81.8% of Germany’s internet users—equivalent to 47.1 million people—will buy goods or services online this year. Across Western Europe, only the UK will see a higher proportion of web users buying digitally in 2015.