2023 was a bad year for German e-commerce

May 6, 2024 by
Frank Calviño

German e-commerce suffered a considerable decline during the past year, and the low levels of consumer spending significantly reduced the total revenues in Germany in 2023. 

Gross goods turnover fell by 11.8% in the full year 2023 to €79.7 billion, compared with €90.4 billion in the previous year. The share of goods e-commerce in total retail (excluding food but including pharmacy revenues) declined to 10.2% last year (in 2022: 11.8%).

Recovery momentum in digital services such as vacation bookings or concert ticket sales weakened, with an increase of 12.7% to €12.7 billion (compared with the previous year: + 39.9% to €11.25 billion). As a result, for the first time since 2020, the e-commerce sector (goods and services) turnover of less than €100 billion was achieved. In addition to revenues generated by telephone, fax, or other means of order, total revenues from online trade-in 2023 reached 93.6 billion euros.

Most retailers suffered the decline of German e-commerce 

For most retailers, 2023 will be remembered as a year of significant changes. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) retailers could maintain their growth on a more stable long-term basis. Although revenues fell by 11.1% last year, they are currently 62% above their pre-pandemic value in 2019. Marketplaces (-8.5%) and online retailers (-14.7%) were also significantly below the prior year's result in 2023 but are still 19.0% and 7.0% above, respectively, their pre-COVID value. 

The steepest revenue decline occurred in multichannel trading (-18.1%). It was noted that customers returned to using physical points of sale more frequently.

Customers' online shopping activity declined further last year. The percentage of regularly active online customers who purchased in the previous seven days fell to 34.3%. This is significantly less than in 2019, when the average annual percentage reached approximately 40%, below the average of the past four years.

A possible improvement for 2024? 

However, there are cautious signs of improvement in purchase frequency per customer, as reflected in the percentage of customers making more than one purchase in the last seven days. After a drop of approximately ten percentage points since the first quarter of 2022, this value has stabilized and increased slightly over the past three quarters, reaching 35.9%.

The willingness to buy used but in good condition ("preloved goods") is notably high among young people and families, especially as online trading offers the best access to a wide range of buyback providers. 

Among 19-29-year-olds, 18.4% of respondents reported buying used goods "often" and 31.9% "occasionally" on the Internet. Similar acceptance is observed among 30-39-year-olds, with 11.7% and 40.1% of respondents, respectively.

Caution towards cheaper foreign suppliers is also decreasing: When asked if they would be willing to shop at foreign stores if prices were lower, 22.1% "strongly agreed," much higher than in the 2022 comparative measurement (16.8%). Overall, 61.0% of customers would currently "somewhat" or "totally" prefer a foreign supplier if the purchase were cheaper.

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