Internationalisation in e-commerce – reasons to turn your back on Germany

Gründe für Internationalisierung im E-Commerce
Photo: _tar0_ via flickr

Internationalisation is one of the biggest key words in e-commerce and will determine development in the following years. On the one hand, from our perspective competition e.g. from Alibab and Rakuten, comes onto the German market and heightens the competition even more. On the other hand, start-ups are begining to internationalise earlier than ever.

Where to expand to? Even established players have not only been asking themselves this question since the Samwer brothers exported their business model to all corners of the world. A survey in 2012, conducted under decision makers showed that Russia was leading the list of expansion targets with 31%, followed by Brazil (24%), China (23%), India (22%) and Japan (22%). In Europe Germany and Britain attract 21% and 16% respectively.

Apart from classic reasons for internationalisation -by the way, these are (attention, business studies flashback!) sinking demand at home, the internationalisation of a competitor or partner, laws and restrictions at home, low production costs, funding, economic growth, a struggle for market shares – there are still some specialist reasons for digital trade to look around away from the home market.

In Germany the wheels are turning more slowly.

It is becoming increasingly noticeable that the ticking of the clocks is slowing down in Germany. One reason for this is demographic change. We have the second oldest population in the world. Whether or not the much criticised ‘hostility to innovation’ is related to this, it is never the less a fact. Digital change is penetrating more slowly here, which manifests for instance, in the comparatively dissemination of eBooks or laws, such as intellectual property laws.

Logically, the mobile revolution is also delayed here. We are the country with the lowest smartphone distribution in Europe and trust electronic payment methods the least. No wonder even Telekom are testing their mobile pioneer projects in Poland in the meantime. This is called innovation ‘made in Europe.’

Innovation is received very differently in countries with lots of younger (and less data security conscious) people. Trends that sound good here, but never get going, are reality somewhere else.

For example, social commerce. A little while ago, Jennifer Lopez (yes you read correctly) introduced her Omni channel project Viva Móvil, which is explicitly orientated towards the Latin American population. The concept is mobile and social through and through. So the precondition is that the whole family is there to shop, whether online or offline. Therefore, the mobile shop is peppered with social functions and Viva Móvil’s stationary stores are specially adjusted for this.


Internationalisation is one of the next big topics in e-commerce that will affect everyone. It is worth taking a look at the bigger picture, not just because of the classic reasons for internationalisation, but also of the typical German scepticism of innovation. Mobile and social commerce, which push through faster and more easily in other countries than here at home, are mentioned as examples of this.

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