It is difficult to inspire Germans. But Shopify did a great job there too!
We went to the Merchant Inspiration Talks 2019, a partner-organized event for the German-speaking Shopify community in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland).
Community events are a part of the Shopify ecosystem and there are always frequent meetups in the region. Yet the MIT was the first day-long event and it turned out to be a great success: 372 merchants, 43 agencies and developers, and over 70 partners joined in for its first edition.
So what’s up with all that ‘Inspiration’? We asked the organizer, Adrian Piegsa, from Tante-E to explain the concept to us:
“We have seen great success hosting Shopify Meetups in Berlin and Cologne: Merchants, Partners and Experts, Sponsors and the Shopify Team had shown great interest in these few-hour-long offline events. Similarly, other partners that have hosted events in the DACH region have seen a high interest as well. So I thought to myself: Why not organize a day-long event, packed with the best speakers and workshops, and invite all the German-speaking merchants.”
Product Market Fit in Germany
In an announcement last year, Shopify stated that Germany is one of their priority markets (others are France, Japan, and Singapore) and partners will receive a hefty bonus for development stores (20-30% lifelong revenue share) and affiliate link referrals (300% bounty payment).
By now, Shopify has grown to over 10,000 stores in the region (DE: 8,200; CH: 1,700; AT: 700).
Besides translation, a significant part of Shopify’s localization effort was dedicated to ascertain that merchants have an easy time to comply with German commerce laws.
To provide a small example: Germany’s basic price indication (Grundpreisangabe) is a regulation part of the quotation of prices order (Preisangabenverordnung, PAngV) stating that a so-called basic price needs to be provided with any product that is sold by weight, volume, length or surface area. Else, independent organizations file legal written warnings to respective merchants, trying to sue or preferably reach a monetary settlement.
Fortunately, there is a German legal eCommerce organization, Händlerbund, that currently provides assistance to 80,000 online merchants and has also certified Shopify as a platform.
The German market has always been one of fierce competition. Just think about car brands – Germany is home to ten large automobile manufacturers with global recognition!
Similarly, the stable yet constantly innovating country sees a head-to-head competition of various eCommerce solutions such as ePages, Gambio, JTL, Magento, OpenCart, osCommerce, OXID, PrestaShop, Shopware, WooCommerce, Zen Cart; some of them native to Germany.
For comparison, applying the same competition metrics, the US only has 6 competing solutions – including Squarespace and Weebly (data from BuiltWith).
A stark indicator of the rising interest in Shopify (and the success of its community-driven approach) are the various locations of the meetups in the past: Augsburg, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Hamburg, Hanover, Cologne, Leipzig, Linz, Munich, Vienna, and Zurich.
The program and how partners can get involved
The event was solely organized by members of the local Shopify community.
Adrian from the Berlin-based Shopify Expert Agency, Tante-E.com, and Damian from the Berlin-based App Developer boutique, Applab24 initiated and organized the Merchant Inspiration Talks.
The event received vivid support from community members such as Inara Muradowa (Inara Schreibt), Eshop Guide, Shopify Plus Partner Latori, sustainable brand agency Greenblut, Swiss agency Relate Digital and many more. Along the way, Shopify supported the event offering insights through their keynote speakers and behind the scenes support in terms of PR and communications.
The Shopify scene in Germany is still very early though.
Many Shopify merchants in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland that we met can look back on a decade-long experience in non-Shopify eCommerce, or are young entrepreneurs that are seeking the opportunity domestically or internationally with examples coming from the US (dropshipping, print-on-demand, white-label products).
The event was kicked off by Hagen Meischner and Ferry Hötzel from Shopify, who updated the audience in the super packed train station-turned-event space, Von Greifswald, about Shopify’s recent announcements from Unite, work-in-progress for the DACH region and an extensive Q&A session.
The content program consisted of main stage speeches, merchant-run insight talks on growth and retention, two parallel workshop series and various store awards (see below).
The event saw the support of no less than 38 presenting experts!
Shopify Partners took part in the event as speakers, workshop hosts, booth sponsors, or supported the marketing efforts as influencers.
Interested in getting involved in the German Shopify ecosystem? Adrian is the guy to talk to!
Looking for German Shopify Experts? Here are the German-grown agencies you need to know:
- Tante-E (Berlin, Cologne) is THE German Shopify and Community builder
- Latori (Wuppertal), the very first German Shopify Plus partner
- Beeclever (Koblenz), Shopify Plus Agency and app developer
- Eshop Guide (Bochum), Germany’s highest rated Shopify Expert with 300+ projects
- netshake (Stuttgart), 19 years of eCommerce experiences seeking technically challenging projects
We asked Marco Pusceddu from Beeclever about his outlook on Shopify in Germany:
“Shopify so far has about 10,000 merchants in Germany. If you are looking into the competitive landscape, there might be a total of 200,000 German online stores right now on Shopware, ePages, Magento, etc. With the rise of eCommerce in Germany and further merchants moving from existing solutions to Shopify, there is no reason why we wouldn’t see a 10x growth of Shopify in the next 12 months.”
Additionally, there are agencies that specialize in specific areas of commerce, e.g. Greenblut specifically works with sustainable brands to revamp their eCommerce businesses and A-commerce is a specialist for the Austrian market.
On a side note, THE BARN Coffee Roasters makes an insanely great coffee. Check out their coffee shop if you are around Berlin or order online from their Shopify store.
Merchant Inspiration Awards 2019
One very special part of the event were the awards.
50 stores were nominated in 5 categories and received the support of 3523 voters. The awards were sponsored by VAI, a financial partner that pays supplier invoices on behalf of merchants within 48 hours and keeps their cash flow running during growth stages.
Damian Martone from Applab24 explained to us the idea behind adding an award competition to the event:
“We felt the perfect ending for an event that was built to inspire merchants, was to allow the community to pick winners to our first Merchant Inspiration Awards. Later on, we were lucky to put together a jury that picked the final winners among the nominees making the Award itself even more meaningful to receive.”
The awards and winners were:
- One-of-a-kind 2019 (Einzigartiger Shop): Lebensmittel retten mit SIRPLUS
- Shop of the year 2019 (Bester Shop): Generation YES: Schön, dass du da bist
- People’s Choice 2019 (Publikums Liebling): CONSIDER COLOGNE
- Most interesting product 2019 (Bestes Produkt): baobees: Geröstete Kichererbsen Snacks kaufen
- Best looking shop 2019 (Schönster Shop): MERSOR: Personalized Leather Goods
Nominated stores were upvoted by the Shopify community and each category’s top 5 were considered by a jury of top eCommerce specialists:
- Ferry Hötzel, Shopify’s Country Product Manager (DE)
- Tomas Slimas, Co-Founder of Oberlo, and Shopify’s Online Marketing Director
- Jochen Fuchs, T3N Magazine Journalist
- Rob van den Heuvel, Sendcloud’s CEO
- Roman Wünsche, Magnalister’s Partner Manager
- Adrian Krüger, VAI Trade Expert
Have you ever talked about your Shopify business in the German language, or not in English for that matter?
As with another tech lingo, it is often tricky to speak naturally in your mother tongue without having English words constantly blending into your speech.
Kauderwelsch is the German term for mixing up multiple languages and professional terms. We asked Norbert from Sufio on how he deals with working in multiple languages because their invoicing app is translated into 20 languages.
“For example, we had to decide if we should Siezen (formal speech) or Duzen (informal speech) merchants when translating our website, dashboard, and content to German, and how to translate certain words to be in line with Shopify translations. We saw all these challenges and decided to only go ahead with the support of a language expert (that is Inara Muradowa).”
While most of the time English words are still used in German language (like dropshipping, email, or web push), some important terms are actually translated to German. Here are our best of German terms and what they mean:
- Händler, merchants
- Konversionsrate, this one is easy to guess but difficult to pronounce
- DSGVO (Datenschutz Grundverordnung), the German translation of GDPR – it just has a different vibe to it
Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
Being among only Germans, it was great to meet some international partners as well. We met up with Sufio (Bratislava), Findify (Stockholm) and Digismoothie (Prague).
How was the vibe? “Wie ist die Stimmung?”
Germans are typically pictured as conservative, punctual, and eigenbrötlerisch. But the crowd was exactly the opposite. This can maybe be attributed to the fact that the event location Berlin is the super hip, technology hub of Europe and always feels less like a city of Germany. It’s more like a city of the world.
Here are some observations we had:
- The workshops and speeches were full of precise details, but the 1on1 talks during the event were no less
- Some workshops went over time (up to 10 minutes!) and speeches started late
- In small circles, experienced merchants exchanged knowledge with those that had just started out
- Again and again, legal topics were discussed around customer information, POD, and taxation
- The staff of the event location made sure that no one was chatting too loudly after 10 pm. No one wanted the neighbors to complain!
The day-long event ended with the #mitnight (that’s German humor: merchant inspiration talks night) which was powered by drumming group Novaslap and solo artist Makeda before the dance floor was opened up by the Berlin DJ.
Will there be a 2nd edition? Adrian told us that the Merchant Inspirations Talks 2020 is already on the agenda and will become a set institution for the DACH region.
If you want to stay in the loop, let’s get connected on LinkedIn.