Exporting to Germany is simple – with a few challenges
The German and Swiss markets are quite similar. However, Swiss SMEs must meet some challenges when exporting to Germany. Read why a clear USP is essential, and what other special features are of note.
Exports to Germany are very important for Swiss SMEs
Germany is by far the most important export market for Swiss SMEs. In 2017, more than CHF 41 billion worth of products were exported to our neighbor. Exports to Germany are likely to be about the same in 2018: In the SME Export Prospects published by Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE), 83% of SMEs said that they planned to export goods or services to Germany in the next six months. Swiss SMEs also said that exporting to Germany is relatively simple.
There has been a free trade agreement with the EU countries since 1973, but it is still important to know the customs rules in advance. First, there is a customs tariff number for a product. You can find this on the website of the Federal Customs Administration (tares.ch) and learn if your product falls under a specially regulated category. Even seemingly simple items like an electrical switch or lampshade might be in a hazardous category, and must be registered with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
Exporting to Germany takes time
Some products also require certification for approval in Germany, such as electrical appliances, meters, medical products, and protective gear. You can apply for this certification in Switzerland or Germany, because Switzerland and the EU have concluded an agreement on this. In other sectors, such as food or supplements, regulators in Germany make exports more difficult. In case of doubt, be sure to ask the Federal Customs Administration.
As these examples show, even if you want to export only to our neighbor Germany, clarifications and registration processes are still needed. These account for a lot of time and are expensive: The costs can quickly run into the tens of thousands of francs. So exporting to Germany must be planned carefully, just like any other market launch. There is a checklist to help you prepare.
Exporting to Germany requires a clear USP
Thanks to the free trade agreement, exporting from Switzerland to Germany is relatively simple. The market, however, is challenging, because it's already saturated in most industries. The only way for Swiss SMEs to succeed in establishing a new product or service is a clear USP.
Swiss precision and quality are no longer enough. After all, the Germans also produce premium products. Swiss items also tend to be more expensive than competing products from Germany, so they must offer clear added value or advantages. If you want to export to Germany, it may be a good idea to register your trademark. Not only does it enhance your company's credibility, it can prevent copycats.