How to adapt your website to a German audience
You probably know that if you want to attract a loyal German audience, Google translating your website won’t cut it. An odd sounding German website simply won’t generate trust in your brand or lead to sales.
Ok, so you already know what not to do.
But what steps do you actually need to take to make your website accessible to Germans and convince them to buy from you?
In this article, I’ll show you how to make your website and brand shine on the German market, so you can start to attract German customers and finally scale sales for your solopreneur business.
So, let’s dive in – and keep your pen at the ready.
Have your web content translated by a human
The first thing to do to make your website accessible to a German audience is simple: have your English content translated into their language – German.
As you already know, you shouldn’t use Google Translate or any other type of machine translation tool for this. Instead, opt for a human translator specialised in marketing translations and transcreations (they know how to make your brand come alive in another language).
There are millions of translators and translation agencies out there. So, chances are you’re feeling quite overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to start looking.
My recommendation is to work with a solopreneur like yourself instead of an agency.
It’s much nicer and easier to work with someone who’s on the same business wavelength as you. Plus, when working with a freelancer you cut out the middleman, meaning it will probably work out far cheaper
To save you valuable time, I’ve put together a little guide on how to find a translator for your specific needs.
Provide a language selection option
The first thing your German website visitors will do when landing on your English homepage, from an external link for example, is look for the language options.
The most common way to do this is to use a little globe symbol that links to the German version of your website. Alternatively, you can also use the word “Deutsch” (German).
Don’t use English words like “language selection” or “German” though. If your German customers don’t understand English very well, they won’t know what those terms mean.
So, even though it might look a little funny to you to have a German word on your English website, that’s precisely what your German audience needs.
Also, try to not use the German flag to indicate the language selection option.
Though you’re targeting Germany, other German speakers (from Austria, Switzerland etc.) might also be interested in your products. But they probably don’t identify with the German flag (and might even feel offended to not see their own flag).
Always position your language selection options in the top right corner of your website. That’s where we’re used to finding that feature when browsing a website in another language. Make it easily visible for a better customer experience.
Consider replacing web visuals
Remember, you’re targeting people with a different cultural background from yours.
You’ve probably selected the visuals for your website with your English-native customers in mind. And those visuals might not resonate with your German audience.
This might seem like a somewhat irrelevant detail, and if you’re not used to interacting with different cultures chances are you won’t see any cultural references in your website images at all. How would you know?
In fact, many companies that go global don’t seem to bother too much about this. They only focus on language.
But here’s the thing: if you do replace visuals to reflect the culture of your German audience, you will get so much closer to them. Your website will instantly look much more relatable to them because it shows their reality. Not the reality of a foreign country and culture.
If you’re unsure whether your web visuals need replacement, check with your website translator. They’ll be able to help.
Adapt the currency, measurement system and time zone
If you’re selling from an English-speaking country to Germany, you’ll probably need to adapt your metric system, currencies and time zones.
In Germany, we buy in Euros. So, make sure to show prices in that currency.
This way you avoid your German website visitor having to leave your website to google the Euro price for a product they’re interested in.
After putting all that effort into getting them onto your website, you certainly don’t want to send them away just to calculate prices.
The same applies to the measurement system. Provide information in the metric system, i. e. metres, degrees Celsius, kilograms. Germans have no idea whether 70 degrees F is freezing cold or hot.
Also, if applicable to your business, consider using European clothing sizes and shoe sizes (38, 40, 42 etc.)
And lastly, make sure you keep the time zone of your German customer in mind: Central European Time.
Why is that important? Whenever you send out your newsletters in German or have a certain special offer that ends at a specific time of the day, you might want to make sure this isn’t scheduled at 3 am for Germans (we do get up early, but not that early).
Adapt payment methods to German preferences
Another important factor to keep in mind is the payment method.
You might have set up your online shop and website with the payment methods typical for your region, i. e. the ones you’re used to using yourself when shopping online.
But your German audience probably prefers another payment method or might not have even heard of the payment method that you’re offering.
So, make sure you find out what the preferred payment method for your specific German audience is.
Preferences here can vary between age groups, so – as always – it‘s important to know your target audience.
Germans are usually very happy with PayPal, so if you offer this option, you’re already starting to create a great shopping experience for your German audience.
Also, make sure there are absolutely no hidden fees, e.g. for currency conversion or any other type of bank fee. If you’re not sure, you should at least state something like “additional bank transfer fees might apply depending on your bank and region”.
Otherwise, those fees will come as a surprise on their next bank statement. This might make them feel like they’ve been bamboozled and you weren’t completely honest with them. Not the best way to win loyal German customers.
Become GDPR-compliant and brag about it
If you’re a business selling to Europe, you’ll have to make sure you comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into place in 2018.
Also, Germans are probably the most risk averse people that you’ll ever meet in business. And they’re especially keen on protecting their personal data. They’re simply afraid that their data might get into the wrong hands, and most of them are very cautious when giving it away.
Now, most businesses see this as an insuperable obstacle, or at least a highly annoying one. But why not take a different approach to this: use GDPR to your advantage!
Instead of trying to sweep any personal data stuff under the carpet and never mention it, openly show that you’re GDPR-compliant, that you use GDPR-compliant tools, that your German customers’ data is safe, and so on.
Provide this information clearly on your website, so your German customers can’t miss it. It will be one of the most powerful sales arguments you’ll have as a foreign company.
Let your German customers know what language they can get in touch with you in
For your English-native audience you probably have some kind of contact option in place on your website. A chat feature, an e-mail address or even a phone number.
Now, how can German customers get in touch with you? After all, just like your English-speaking buyers, they might want to ask a question, leave a recommendation, or return something.
First of all: be open about it. Don’t pretend you have a massive German customer service team behind you who will gladly take phone calls at any time of the day. This will only create expectations that you’ll never be able to meet.
Instead, clearly state that you’re an English-speaking solopreneur. That way your customers will be much more likely to be understanding and accept limited contact options.
You could opt for explaining that contact options are currently only available in English and provide additional FAQs in German. Or you could set up an email address for German buyers, and have incoming emails translated regularly by your German translator/bilingual VA.
No matter which option you choose, the important thing is to be transparent. Because that’s the best way to generate trust.
Get technical support to launch your German website
I’ll be honest with you: implementing these changes and setting up a German version of your website will involve some tech savviness on your end.
Now, if you feel confident to tackle this on your own, go for it.
But if you think technical challenges might stop you taking these steps with your business: get technical support. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own.
There are so many great tech experts out there who can help.
So, instead of wasting your valuable time on unnerving trial-and-error experiments, I recommend hiring a pro who will get your online shop ready for Germany in no time.
And the good thing is: it’s probably just a one-time investment. As soon as everything is up and running, you’ll only need to know how to add new products and insert new text into your German website.
Getting your website ready for the German market is more than just providing it in German.
You also need to adapt your German website to the cultural background of your German customer.
You need to consider personal data, contact options, the technical side, units and measurements and even different images.
If you keep those things in mind, you’ll wow your German audience and increase sales on your website in no time.
By the way: if you want a proper German website action plan for your solopreneur business that you can follow step by step, my 1:1 German Website Package is just what you need.
In this efficient two-session coaching programme, we’ll take a look at your current offerings and adapt your website to German tastes so you can unlock an entirely new client base and scale your online business beyond your own country and language.