Germany: How to Succeed with Email

Germany Email Marketing
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Germany, with a population of over 80 million, has the highest percentage 61% engaging in digital transactions of any country with a population greater than 70 million. The U.S. is second at 60%. Digital messaging in Germany is reaching the majority of the population, an important metric for the future of digital advertising in the country.

In Germany, especially compared to the United States and Canada, the ability to reach the inbox of German consumers and business executives can be an issue as approximately one in five e-mails is blocked or flagged as spam. It can be important for companies making their debut in Germany to understand how e-mail marketing works to avoid making critical mistakes that can take months to correct, by forming an interactive marketing partnership with data suppliers that are knowledgeable about email compliance.

With over 60 million people connected through email in Germany there are a few things you should consider before engaging Germans with email marketing campaigns. The German Bundesdatenschutzgesetz (BDSG) is a Federal data protection act that governs the exposure of email addresses, which are manually processed or stored in IT systems. The BDSG contains seven principles of the data protection law that should serve as a guideline if you are looking forward to exploring email marketing opportunities in the German market:

  1. Prohibition of conditional permission:

The collection, processing and use of personal data is strictly prohibited, unless it is permitted by the law or the person concerned gives consent.

  1. Principle of immediacy:

The personal data has to be collected directly from the person concerned. An exception of this principle is a legal permission or a disproportionate effort.

  1. Priority to special laws:

The BDSG supersedes any other federal law that relates to personal information and its publication.

  1. Principle of proportionality:

The creation of standards restricts the fundamental rights of the affected person. Therefore, these laws and procedures must be appropriate and necessary. A balancing of interests must occur.

  1. Principle of data avoidance and data economy:

Through the use of data anonymization or pseudo-anonymization, every data processing system should achieve the goal to use no (or as little as possible) personally identifiable data.

  1. Principle of transparency:

If personal data is collected, the responsible entity must inform the affected person of its identity and the purposes of the collection, processing or use.

  1. Principle of earmarking:

If data is permitted to be collected for a particular purpose, use of the data is restricted to this purpose. A new consent or law is required, if the data will be used for another purpose.

Penalties are steep for those who don’t comply:

Germany’s Data Protection Law was amended in 2009, increasing the maximum fines for failure to comply with email protection formalities from the current €25,000 per violation to €50,000 for small violations, and from €250,000 per violation to €300,000 for more serious violations of the law. In addition, even higher fines may be imposed for commercial gains realized as a result of the violation — a company that makes a profit that exceeds the fines it would typically pay from a violation of this law will now have to pay higher penalties in direct relation to the gains.

Email Marketing Statistics and Why It Works.

Below, you can find statistics for open rates in the UK, the US and Germany.

Open Rate (Gross) Average Median Top Quartile Bottom Quartile
Germany 44.30% 35.70% 56.40% 23.50%
United States 21.30% 18.30% 27.60% 11.90%
United Kingdom 22.50% 19.80% 28.60% 13.40%

Germany remains the country with the highest open rates, even when compare to the United States. Email marketing is indispensable when it comes to reaching new markets and its relatively low cost compared to other forms of marketing – this is why most marketers now rely on emails. However, in order to take advantage of this new paradigm, these emails need to arrive at the right inbox. Emails that don’t comply with the law and show inadequate content will not make it to the recipients so make sure you are complying with the regulations to avoid fines and wasted efforts.


Reaching out to the broader market segments of Germany might seem complicated, but it is definitely rewarding. With more than 60 million prospects, the possibilities for growth and expansion are exponential. Do extensive research and verify that your advertising content abides by the German law and regulations. Also, don’t forget that your legal responsibilities cannot be outsourced –look for compliance experts within the email marketing industry to make sure you can continue to do business in compliance with the law.

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