Long considered the economic engine of continental Europe, Germany is now emerging as a global powerhouse in the mobile and app market. More importantly, it’s home to Europe’s biggest app spenders.
New data from Sensor Tower, a company providing market intelligence and analytics for the mobile app economy, shows that Germany has risen through the ranks to become the number two market in Europe for app spend. At $3.4 billion in 2021 (up 22.5% compared with the previous year), Germany came in a close second to the U.K., which reported $3.5 billion in user spend. Overall, European consumers spent $18.3 billion across the App Store and Google Play in 2021.
Significantly, Germany also was home to the biggest spenders on Android. Revenue generated on the Google Play app store led the European pack, generating $1.8 billion or nearly 22% of the total, according to Sensor Tower.
“Reaching new highs in the metrics that count, including consumer app spend and time spent in-app, cements Germany’s leading position in the ever-changing mobile app industry,” the author, mobile consultant and veteran marketer Mark Waechter tells me in an interview. “Fortunately, consumer appetite for mobile and apps is as broad as it is deep, opening opportunities for all players who can take the friction out of daily life.”
A wealth of opportunity
The mobile revenue upside in the market is also climbing. Advertiser budgets have grown by double digits (10.4%), defying the pandemic and positioning Germany as the fastest-growing western European country in the category. Mobile and apps accounted for the lion’s share of spend, capturing 69.2% of the digital ad market, or $7.49 billion.
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Understandably, mobile app marketing and retargeting platform Liftoff saw a place for its Mobile Hero program in Germany. In addition to offering practical advice on mobile creative strategy, A/B testing and driving results in a privacy-centric market, the program highlights the marketing experts or “Heroes” behind the country’s most successful apps. [Disclosure: Liftoff retains my services as an online talent, producer and content consultant.]
Tapping into Germany’s mobile goldmine demands regional expertise. To help foreign companies demystify this complex marketplace, I recently spoke with three of Germany’s leading mobile marketers, to highlight key learnings and spotlight exciting opportunties.
#1 Build consumer trust with expertise
Once slow to embrace digital health, Germany is changing fast, creating many opportunities for companies prepared to meet consumer demand for consultations and health advice since the pandemic began. Another driver is the Digital Healthcare Act, which allows doctors to prescribe digital health apps to patients, offer online video consultations and write e-prescriptions — and be reimbursed for doing so. It’s a combination of favorable market conditions that have sparked record levels of investment into healthcare companies and apps.
One company in the winner’s circle is Berlin-based Ada Health, which recently closed a $90 million Series B round of funding led by Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of the German multinational pharma giant Bayer AG. “In a pandemic, people want to manage their health on their terms actively and conduct personal assessments based on their individual requirements, risk factors and symptoms,” Stas Rozenbaum, Director of Growth at Ada Health, tells me in an interview. Ada was founded by doctors, scientists and industry pioneers to create new possibilities for personal health.
“Campaigns that communicate our core values around medical expertise, accuracy and a neutral approach resonate with our users,” Rozenbaum says. “Now the focus is on storytelling and branding to strengthen the positioning and drive performance.” Rather than rely solely on paid campaigns to spread the word and fill the user acquisition funnel, Rozenbaum has shifted focus and investment to App Store Optimization (ASO). By building a team and using app store landing pages to test logos, colors, tone of voice and search keywords, Rozenbaum has increased organic app installs from 40% to 70% in just over a year and rocketed the share of keywords by over 4x.
His advice: “Align with experts to create trust and build brand.” Our users in Germany, he adds, tend to gravitate to brands that combine expertise and empathy, so be sure to focus on deeper-funnel metrics to drive connection and conversion.
#2 Learn local audience preferences
Lockdown opened new opportunities for apps and services that take the friction out of shopping for daily essentials. One outcome was a 67% increase in online grocery orders in 2020 over the previous year, according to the German E-Commerce and Distance-Selling Trade Association (bevh). The other was the emergence of a new mega-trend to ultra-fast grocery delivery. The avalanche of demand for quick commerce options pushed stores to their limits, forcing some to hire additional staff and others to put tens of thousands of newly registered households on grocery delivery waiting lists.
This perfect storm of conditions paved the way for Gorillas, an on-demand grocery delivery startup, to take a risk and win big. The company recently raised “close to $1 billion” in new investments, pushing its valuation to $3 billion. Not bad for a company founded at the height of lockdown in May 2020 on the promise of delivering groceries within minutes of ordering.
According to a poll conducted by the German newspaper Tagesspiegel, 46.9% of German city dwellers are familiar with Gorillas. It’s strong brand recognition that Moritz Fritzen, Gorillas Global Brand Manager, credits to a laser focus on localization. “Local preferences have always been strong in Germany,” Fritzen tells me in an interview. “There are vast differences from north to south and east to west, and marketers who want to succeed here have to do their homework to understand all the factors, from dialects to delicacies, that customers care about.”
It also helps to stay on top of local trends by establishing deep relations with the local community, Fritzen says. “Having a local assortment and featuring local suppliers was top of mind for us since the beginning, and this has also helped accelerate the adoption of our service.”
His advice: “Connect with cool local influencers and work together to establish a sustainable brand strategy that is local-focused and customer-first.” He says that the approach has allowed Gorillas to launch brand marketing activities in nine new markets in the last 12 months. “It’s about setting ourselves apart from competitors and driving growth through the value we offer our entire community.”
#3 Consumers don’t buy brand purpose, but they expect it
After nearly two years of disruption, the global fashion industry is finding its feet again. In Germany, the number 5 market for fashion ecommerce globally (where revenues amount to $23 billion or roughly 25% of the entire German ecommerce market), headwinds are strong, and the outlook is bright. Research firm McKinsey reports non-luxury sales are expected to surge in 2022 following pent-up demand from the pandemic. The uplift in sales is driven by moderate European economic recovery and a massive shift to online shopping destinations and apps.
“Germans are more open than ever to shopping online and in-app, but they are also sensitive to issues such as sustainability,” Caroline Schlünsen, Channel Lead App Marketing at ecommerce retailer ABOUT YOU, tells me in an interview. “It’s the New Normal marketers need to be aware of, and it will continue to play a major role in purchasing decisions.”
And she’s right. Nearly one-third of German consumers are willing to spend more on sustainable products, according to The Global Sustainability Study 2021. Moreover, around 88% of German consumers put sustainability first. “Branding has to reflect this,” Schlünsen explains. “But it’s also important to broaden the definition beyond taking responsibility for the planet to driving meaningful change through other initiatives.”
At ABOUT YOU, one of the fastest growing e-Commerce companies in Europe, which aims to build the best digital fashion destination for generations Y and Z, this means advocating diversity, tolerance and self-confidence. It also means partnering with relevant events and authentic influencers to drive this agenda. In September, the ABOUT YOU Fashion Week in Berlin (AYFW) brought together artists and influencers to celebrate diversity.
Live shopping shows and omnichannel campaigns combined to boost the organic reach of the event, which generated 1.09 billion media contacts in the first week after its release in print, digital, TV, and social. “Complementary promotion on the app was essential and fueled short-term growth on top of longer-term branding benefits,” Schlünsen says.
Her advice: “Don’t view performance marketing and brand marketing as separate. Integrate both whenever possible for the best results and the greatest impact.”
The rules of engagement
Reaching and engaging German audiences requires more than marketing savvy. In marketing and messaging, app publishers have to be upfront about what they offer and transparent about the data they collect.
Surveys show German consumers are extremely informed shoppers, making it imperative for brands to clearly communicate their advantages over the competition. A report by Santander Trade, a financial services company providing information on international markets, explains that “before making a purchase…German consumers like to learn as much as possible about other similar products, features, provenance [and more].”
Germany also has strict privacy regulations, and German consumers are highly protective of their data. A Harvard Business Review survey found that 8 in 10 Germans are reluctant to share personal information with businesses.
Winning over this important European market may not be simple, but the valuable German mobile audience is worth the extra effort. Brands that take the trouble to understand the nation’s current zeitgeist, and to invest in regionally relevant expertise and initiatives will reap the rewards.