The insider’s guide to mobile Web marketing in Germany

Get the latest stats and facts on Europe's largest mobile market from MLOVE founder Harald Neidhardt - including top mobile sites, leading brands, innovative agencies, publishers and ad networks in Germany.

Germany: Europe's largest mobile market and biggest economyGermany is Europe's largest mobile market and biggest economy. Here, a cell phone is called a “handy”, and Germans are very keen on them. Die Bundesnetzagentur (the German telecoms regulator) says that mobile phone subscriptions stand at 113.6 million, which is equivalent to 141 percent of the population. 60 percent of Germans have an Internet-enabled phone and 44 percent have a smartphone, according to BVDW. Many German global brands such as Lufthansa, Volkswagen and Telekom are at the forefront of mobile innovation.

• Your guide to Germany is Harald Neidhardt, founder of MLOVE, which runs a popular mobile conference in Berlin, Germany (June 25 – 27, 2014), and Monterey (CA) USA. mobiThinking also contributed to this guide.
• This guide was published in September 2013.


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Q1: How mobile is Germany’s population?

Harald Neidhardt, founder of MLOVE, author of the Insider’s guide to mobile Web marketing in Germany• There are 113.6 million mobile subscriptions in Germany in Q2 2013, according to the German telecoms regulator, Die Bundesnetzagentur, making Germany the ninth largest telecoms market in the world (mobiThinking) and the largest in the European Union.
• Germany has a population of 80.5 million (Destatis, May 2013) and that makes mobile penetration 141 percent.
• The actual number of mobile users (as many people have more than one mobile device) is estimated to be 61.0 million (AGOF/IAB/OVK, January 2013).
• 60 percent of Germans have an Internet-enabled phone, which is slightly less than the EU average of 68 percent (BVDW Mobile Mediascope 2012 download available in German only), but only 30 percent of Germans regularly access mobile Web or apps on their phone on a regular basis (AGOF, January 2013).
• Estimates for the number of smartphones vary from 40 percent Google/Ipsos (February 2013), to 44 percent BVDW to 51 percent ComScore, March 2013). ComScore surveys find smartphone penetration is higher in Spain (66 percent), UK (64 percent), France (53 percent) and Italy (53 percent), than Germany; while BVDW/IAB suggests German smartphone penetration is similar to the EU average.
• 75 percent of German smartphone subscribers are on post-paid contract, i.e. pay a monthly bill. 23 percent are prepaid i.e. pay-as-you-go contracts, according to a survey by Google/Ipsos (February 2013).
• 84 percent of German smartphone subscribers are on flat-rate data (Internet) contracts (46.2 are on flat-rate with a speed cap; 10.1 percent are on flat-rate with volume cap and 19.1 percent are on full flat-rate Google/Ipsos (February 2013).
• Google’s Android is the most popular smartphone operating system, with 53.4 percent market share, followed by Apple iOS 21.8 percent, Nokia Symbian 14.9 percent and Microsoft 5.8 percent, estimates ComScore (March 2013).

Q2: How do Germans use their mobile devices?

In common with the rest of the world, Germans most commonly use their mobile phones for making calls and sending text messages. However many Germans, particularly those with Web-enabled devices and smartphones, also use their handsets for multimedia and other advanced activities. A 2012 survey, conducted by BVDW and OVK, asked German owners of Internet-enabled mobile phones how they used their handsets each week (other than making phone calls or sending text messages), and compared the findings with results from similar surveys in other EU countries, conducted by IAB Europe. It is interesting to see that in most mobile usage fields Germany is slightly behind the EU average.

How Germans use Internet-enabled mobile devices: BVDW
(excludes calls and text messages)
  Germany EU average
Take pictures or record videos 83% 83%
Send a picture or video messages 66% 67%
Send and receive emails 63% 65%
Use Bluetooth to send or receive information 60% 66%
Listen or download music 56% 62%
Use or download app 50% 58%
Surf Internet with mobile browser 50% 61%
Use personal social network 47% 51%
Play or download a game 45% 51%
Use mobile search engine 42% 55%
Read newspaper or magazine with mobile browser or app 40% 47%
Shop online with mobile browser 39% 40%
Watch film/TV/video on mobile 39% 43%
Use mobile instant messaging 38% 51%
Make video call 35% 35%
Shop online with mobile app 34% 36%
See mobile advertising on Website/app 34% 41%
Use professional social network 33% 35%
Download film/TV/video 29% 35%
Source: © BVDW Mobile Mediascope 2012
Survey group: 661 Germany; 20,945 EU.
via: © mobiThinking

Q3. How big or advanced is mobile Web in Germany v rest of world?

• 30 percent of the German population (21.3 million people) accesses the mobile Web or apps on their phone on a regular basis (AGOF, January 2013).
• Potentially mobile Web use could be even higher, as 60 percent (about 42 million) of Germans have a Web-enabled mobile device (BVDW November 2012). The number of Germans with Web-enabled handsets is slightly below the EU average, which is 68 percent; but Germany is seeing strong growth, with a 150 percent increase in the number of Web-enabled phones between 2010 and 2012.
• It is estimated that 12 percent (8.2 million) of Germans regularly surf the Web with tablet computers, which is above the EU average of 8 percent (BVDW November 2012).
• When comparing pageviews on PC, mobile and tablet, it seems that German’s perform far more of their surfing on PCs than other EU nations, according to ComScore (March 2013) – see the table below for more details.

Share of browser-based pageviews: ComScore
  PC pageviews Mobile pageviews Tablet pageviews
United Kingdom 68.1% 24.0% 6.8%
Ireland 71.4% 21.8% 5.6%
Russian Federation 74.8% 21.7% 3.4%
Norway 86.4% 7.3% 6.2%
Netherlands 86.5% 5.2% 8.1%
Switzerland 86.6% 7.9% 5.2%
Finland 87.6% 7.9% 4.3%
Austria 88.5% 7.9% 3.5%
Sweden 89.0% 7.2% 3.7%
Denmark 89.3% 5.8% 4.7%
Italy 89.6% 6.7% 3.5%
Germany 90.2% 5.6% 3.3%
Source: © ComScore (March 2013) via: © mobiThinking

Q4. Where are the key mobile marketing activities – mobile Web; mobile advertising; text campaigns; applications etc?

• Mobile Ads are one of the fastest-growing mobile sectors in Germany. BVDW predicts that companies will invest 105 million Euros in mobile advertising in 2013, that’s 70 percent more than 2012, when the market was worth 61.8 million Euros. For the first half of 2013 German advertisers spent 44.5 million Euros on mobile ads. The biggest spenders were services companies (see Q6 below).
• However, compared with expenditure on PC advertising, mobile advertising is still quite small at only 3 percent of digital revenues. This is less than the European average.

Mobile display share of total online display: IAB
Country 2011 2012   Country 2011 2012
United Kingdom 5% 11%   Slovenia 2% 4%
Spain 4% 6%   Russia 2% 4%
France 4% 5%   Germany 2% 3%
EU average 3% 5%   Hungary 2% 3%
Sweden 2% 4%   Netherlands 3% 3%
Source: © IAB via: © mobiThinking

Q5. What is driving growth?

• Mobile Internet usage is boosted by smartphone sales. According to a survey by Google/Ipsos (February 2013), 86 percent of Germany smartphone users access the Web on a daily basis.
• Faster data networks based on LTE/4G will also drive mobile growth. Germany was one of the earliest countries to launch LTE, with Vodafone D2 back in Q4 2010 (T-Mobile followed in Q2 2011 and 02/Telefonica in Q3 2012). But two years on, the number of 4G subscribers remains low at 0.6 percent penetration – this is ahead of the EU average, but is dwarfed by USA or Sweden – see the table below with data from GSMA Wireless Intelligence (May 2013).
• Further mobile growth can stem from better content and cheaper data plans (84 percent of German smartphone subscribers are on flat-rate data contracts, though most have a cap speed or volume cap, according to Google/Ipsos (February 2013). It is estimated that mobile ads will become widely accepted and improve the value chain even more.
• Brands are keen to connect to users and therefore invest more in mobile Websites, campaigns and advertising. Competition among mobile networks has remained fierce and big brands have launched subsidiaries like Congster (Deutsche Telekom) or Yourphone (E-Plus) with data plans (flat rates) aimed at a younger target group.

Leading European countries in 4G penetration and launch date: GSMA
Country LTE penetration Launch date   Country LTE penetration Launch date
USA 10.4% Q4 2010   EU average 0.3% Q4 2009
Sweden 4.7% Q4 2009   Lithuania 0.2% Q2 2011
Finland 1.6% Q4 2010   Latvia 0.2% Q2 2011
Denmark 1.1% Q4 2010   Poland 0.1% Q3 2010
Germany 0.6% Q4 2010   Hungary 0.1% Q1 2012
Estonia 0.6% Q4 2010   UK 0.1% Q4 2012
Portugal 0.6% Q1 2012        
Source: © GSMA Wireless Intelligence (May 2013) via: © mobiThinking

Q6. Which industries/sectors have shown the most interest in mobile Web/marketing in Germany?

Almost all industries now understand that mobile has to be put first. The digital disruption has led to declining revenues in old markets. Startups have almost no chance to attract customers and investors without having a mobile site or app.
• Some media companies are handling the digital transition better than others: Spiegel Group’s Der Spiegel and Axel Springer’s Bild and Die Welt are among the top revenue performers, while G+J is fairing less well.
• Broadcasters now recognize the potential of mobile. Most, such as RTL, have mobile sites and apps. It is not uncommon to see content from social networks included in the news or feature programs. Some companies have trialed “Web Serials”, but these have failed to gain popular recognition outside younger target groups.
• Car manufactures, such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Opel), consumer brands and the FMCG-industry have mobile sites and apps, often tailored to special events or product releases. Branded content is hot at the moment, but many brands are failing to do enough with m-commerce.
• The biggest spenders on mobile advertising in the first half of 2013 are services companies (9.2 million Euros), overtaking the automotive sector (7.0 million Euros). The third and forth highest spending industries were telecommunications (6.1 million Euros) and media (4.7 million Euros), according to the BVDW MAC Mobile Report.

Q7. What are the most popular mobile sites in Germany?

• International publishers such as Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, eBay and Whatsapp lead German publishers in mobile penetration.
• Among the German publishers, Gutefrage, Bild and Spiegel are all becoming popular with the mobile audience.

Top 10 international mobile sites and apps   Top 10 German mobile sites/apps: BVDW/AGOF
Mobile site Reach (millions) Mobile app Reach (millions)   Publisher Coverage (%) Reach (millions)
Google 14.4m Google 12.8m   Gutefrage 20.9% 4.4m
Facebook 10.4m Facebook 11.0m   Bild 20.5% 4.4m
Wikipedia 6.1m WhatsApp Messenger 7.6m   Spiegel 16.4% 3.5m
eBay 5.3m eBay 5.4m   Web.de 13.6% 2.9m
Amazon.com 4.7m Amazon.com 4.4m   TV Spielfilm 12.5% 2.7m
YouTube 4.5m Yahoo! 4.4m   GMX 12.4% 2.6m
Bild 3.6m GMX 3.6m   Focus 11.4% 2.4m
Microsoft sites 3.5m Wetter.com 3.5m   Wetter.com 11.0% 2.3m
ARD 3.1m Web.de 3.5m   Chefkoch 9.8% 2.1m
Yahoo! 3.1m Microsoft 3.1m   Die Welt 9.2% 2.0m
Source: © ComScore (March 2013)   Source: © BVDW/AGOF (April 2013)

Q8. Which sites/apps stand out as good examples of best practice? What makes them stand out?

All sites that have invested in creating mobile-specific sites and/or mobile apps are a testament to good practice. But all companies need to do more in terms of mobile-specific development.
There has been a lot of innovation among mobile apps. Most notably, Facebook’s app now comes with an improved user experience (UX) and a more stable performance. The Google Search app with voice search and Amazon Mobile with its disruptive barcode scanner have both seen good adoption.
With the current downturn in German print media, publishers need to attract new target groups, making it all the more important for these companies to put mobile first. The national newspapers Bild and Spiegel are setting an example that other media groups need to follow.

Q9. What is the most exciting thing about mobile?

The Future of Mobile is full of opportunities and disruption. Mobile is changing all aspects of our lives, all industries and the society around us. Mobile is certainly a catalyst for great change ahead: for society, individuals, tribes and local communities – but also for brands, agencies and incumbent industry leaders. As we enter the mobile lifestyle era, collectively we have the chance to capitalize on the huge opportunities, but at the same time to help to empower new generations and parts of society that have been less fortunate.

Q10. Which German brands/publishers are the most innovative with mobile?

• German Brands: BMW; Deutsche Post; Lufthansa; Mercedes; Audi; Adidas, Puma.
• German Publishers: Axel Springer; Hubert Burda; Gruner + Jahr); Spiegel.


Video case study: The Selfscan Report by Serviceplan Munich for Auchan. Winner of a Grand Prix Design Lion; Silver Design Lion at Cannes Lions 2013.



Q11. What are the main mobile agencies or creative agencies?

• Agencies that have picked Cannes Lions awards for mobile work: Serviceplan/Plan.Net; Ogilvy; Cheil; Publicis; BBDO; YOC; Conrad Caine.
• Agencies that have picked up MMA Awards for mobile work: Jung von Matt; Scholz & Volkmer.
• At the Mobile Web Awards 2012, Berlin-based agency Aperto Move won five awards, including Top Interactive Agency.
• Other mobile agencies: Iconmobile; Clanmo (SapientNitro); YOC; Neue Digitale (Razorfish)
• Digital agencies with over 30 percent of income from mobile, according to BVWD Internet rankings (largest first):
Webguerillas; TWT Interactive; Exozet; Triplesense; Zeros+Ones; Antwerpes; Chemmedia; Neofonie Mobile; 21TORR Interactive; dotSource; People Interactive; Sybit Media; APPSfactory; Wysiwyg* Software Design; Btexx; UNITB Consulting; Massklusive; Coma AG; BTD Newmedia; Von Affenfels.

Q12. What are the main mobile content providers?

ARD (Tagesschau); Axel Springer (Bild); Hubert Burda (Focus); Gruner + Jahr; N-TV; RTL; Spiegel;
ZDF (Heute).

Q13. What are the main mobile advertising networks?

• The mobile ad networks with the largest reach in Germany according to AGOF (January 2013): G&J EMS (10.1 million unique mobile users per month or 47.4 percent of German mobile Web users); Interactive Media, media sales arm of Deutsche Telekom (8.0 million or 37.6 percent); Axel Springer Media Impact (6.4 million or 30 percent); Tomorrow Focus (5.7 million thousand or 26.6 percent) and YOC Mobile Advertising (5.5 million or 26 percent)
• Other mobile ad networks: IP Deutschland (RTL); United Internet Media (part of the AD Europe mobile ad network); Madvertise;
• For profiles of YOC, Madvertise and other leading networks, see the Guide to mobile ad networks.

Q14. What are the main mobile network operators?

T-Mobile ; Vodafone; E-Plus ; O2.

Q15. What are the main mobile associations?

BVDW Fachgruppe Mobile; Mobile Marketing Association Germany.

Q16. Where should people go for more information – reference sites, books etc?

Mobile Zeitgeist; BVDW; MMA; ComScore; Statista; MLOVE.



Is there anything else we need to know about mobile in Germany? What mobile hotspot should we profile next? Please comment below or email editor(at)mobiThinking.com.
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See the Insider’s guide to mobile in: SwedenNigeriaKenyaBrazilFranceJapanCanadaUSAIndiaUKAustraliaSpainSouth AfricaCountry guides homepage


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