4 reasons why using English to sell your products to Germans isn’t the best choice

Have you noticed that, sometimes, English-speaking brands offer worldwide shipping while keeping all their copy and content in just English?

I’ve certainly noticed that here in Germany, brands from English-speaking countries don’t seem too bothered about reaching their customers in German.

The general opinion seems to be that English is an international language, so if you speak in English you’re speaking to everybody.

Maybe, as a solopreneur, you’ve thought about selling to Germany and wondered whether it’s really necessary to get your online shop and products translated into German.

Your German customers should be able to understand what you’re selling to them if you do it in English, right? Maybe you’re even thinking: “Wow, I can reach a whole new market without doing anything. How convenient.”

While it’s true that the German market is full of potential for growth, even (and especially) for solopreneurs, selling to your German audience in English is not the best choice.

In this article I’ll show you four reasons why.

Reason #1: Germans are used to shopping and consuming everything in German

Whether it’s websites, books, movies, TV series, our cereals on the breakfast table or the toothpaste we use before going to bed: everything is in German. And, if we purchase something from abroad, we want to do that in German too.

That means if you’re offering your products to your German customers in English, this will be different from what they’d normally expect. The first question that will most probably pop into their heads when browsing through your products will be: don’t they have this in German?

When your German customer visits your English website, they won’t marvel at your great product selection or notice your branding. They’ll look for the language options.

Their eyes will automatically wander towards the top right corner of your website to switch to German. Because that’s what they usually do.

But they won’t find that option, since you haven’t considered this need.

Think about that for a second. Your prospective customers visit your shop and can’t find what they’re looking for. That’s probably the best way to make them leave immediately.

Reason #2: German customers want safety

If there’s one thing you need to know about Germans, it’s that they avoid risk. We’re not particularly adventurous. Instead, we highly value security and safety.

(That’s why I sometimes really do feel “solo” being a solopreneur. Being self-employed is just not a safe option for most people here. But that’s another story.)

What I’m trying to say is: asking your German customers to shop in English doesn’t give them the feeling of safety they’re looking for.

Instead, there’s a feeling of worry about not understanding everything or missing some important information.

Those aren’t the kind of feelings that would make you pull out your credit card to purchase something, are they?

So, it doesn’t matter how pretty your design and products are.

If your German customers want to order something online and they don’t feel safe enough to go through your order process in English, chances are high they’ll drop out of the payment process and won’t come back.

And they’ll most probably turn to a German provider to be on the safe side.

But if you communicate with them in German, let them select products in German, let them order in German, let them return products in German, and allow them to ask questions in German, it’ll be much easier for you to give them the feeling of security that they’re looking for.

Reason #3: You fall behind your German competition

Being a solopreneur business selling in Germany means that you’ll have competition not only in your domestic market, but in Germany too.

If you’re communicating exclusively in English then your German competition will always be one step ahead of you, simply because they speak to their customers in German. They’ll always be a little bit closer to your ideal German customer because of the language.

If, however, you decide to use German as your language of communication with your German audience, you’ll automatically be so much closer to your German competition and customer. Let that sink in for a moment.

It also means that you’ll automatically leave all the competition that’s less considerate than you behind.

The beauty of this is that you can get this great competitive edge in such a simple way.

You don’t need to invest months of work and pots of money into analysing the market and evaluating data. You don’t need to apply any overcomplicated sales psychology.

Instead, this is an easy tip that you can put into action right away (for example, by getting your website translated within a couple of days) to reach your German customer.

That makes it all the more frustrating when businesses simply neglect the language factor. When they don’t make the most of the chance to successfully enter a new market without spending a fortune, and give themselves a hard time instead.  

Reason #4: You ask your German customer to go the extra mile for you

When selling to your German customer in English, you’re asking them to do something for you. You’re asking them to deal with your business in a foreign language. You’re asking them to put in some extra effort for you.

No matter how good their English might be, it will always be so much easier for them to browse your products in their mother tongue.

Expecting them to shop in English is a little bit like saying “Please be so kind as to activate your grey cells so you can understand what I want to sell to you”.

And it should clearly be the other way round, since you are the one selling to them. It should be you going the extra mile for your customers.

Communicating in German is a great way to demonstrate how well you know your German customers and how much you care about them.

It will automatically be seen as great service and make your customer feel really appreciated. Your customers will be impressed with you and your brand rather than disappointed.

And this will ultimately make it so much easier to sell to them successfully.

Summary

Starting to sell your products in Germany using English might be very tempting, since it doesn’t require any effort from your side.

But you’ll make things hard for yourself if you don’t bother to speak their language. Your German customer has certain needs and should be allowed to expect a certain level of service. And your German competition will always be there to snap up any customers you lose.

By providing your copy and content in German you’ll be able to really wow your customers, match up to your German competition and ultimately make the most of all the potential the German market has to offer.

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