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WHY CROSS-BORDER IS BOOMING FOR RUSSIAN ECOMMERCE

01.03.17

Russia is the largest nation in the world, spanning eleven time zones with over 100 minority languages. As a market, it is both fascinating and challenging for aspiring ecommerce entrepreneurs, especially when considering its geographical vastness coupled with, at times, tricky local logistics infrastructure and restrictive customs.

In 2016, Russia’s ecommerce market was worth approximately USD$12 billion, an increase of 14% on the previous year. In the same year, cross-border sales boomed reaching USD$4.3 billion, a massive increase of 26% when compared to figures from 2015. With cross-border ecommerce accounting for the fastest growing segment of Russian ecommerce, we decided to take a look at what is driving online shoppers to venture outside of their national borders.

Ecommerce in Russia, EWDN, February 2017

[Ecommerce in Russia, EWDN, February 2017]

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A developing infrastructure for Russian ecommerce

In Moscow, where internet penetration is high, and delivery costs are reasonably cheap, there is a still a tussle for customer attention between ecommerce sites and physical shops. However, in small cities and villages across the Eastern part of the country, despite lower internet penetration, online order volumes have seen a rapid increase from shoppers looking to find greater variety at the best value for money. Think about it, what is the probability of finding a good fashion shop in the Kamchatka Peninsula?

Internet penetration by district, Russia.

[Internet penetration by district, Russia, Ecommerce in Russia, EWDN, February 2017]

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Recently, to cater for this increase online appetite from the far corners of the Russian landscape, several higher quality logistics suppliers have emerged to provide relatively fast delivery to medium-size cities across the nation, with a focus on continually improving transportation costs. It is expected that future investment in delivery systems across the country will continue to reduce the costs of ecommerce delivery, increasing the accessibility of online shopping to small cities and remote areas.

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China is making an impact on Russian consumers

One of the most remarkable insights about Russian ecommerce is the impact that China is having on the growth of cross-border sales. Local consumers are turning to China to find a wider selection of products at excellent prices with an assortment of delivery options.

In 2016, China accounted for more than 80% of Russia’s total cross-border purchases, and consumer trust has steadily been increasing since 2015. Incredibly, internationally delivery times now compete with local logistics carriers, having been significantly reduced from around one month to only a week.

Estimated share of fulfilled orders from China to Russia.

[Estimated share of fulfilled orders from China to Russia, Ecommerce in Russia, EWDN, February 2017]

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Established Chinese players in the Russian market include LightInTheBox.com and DealeXtreme.com. Recently, more retailers have been making headway into this expansive market including DHgate.com and TradeEase who began operating in Russia in August 2015 and followed a month later by Umkamall.com. By September 2016, they had been joined by LeEco and RuMall.

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Understanding your market: what Russian buy nationally

What, where and how to buy. The Russian on the Internet, GFK RU and Yandex, 2016.

[What, where and how to buy. The Russian on the Internet, GFK RU and Yandex, 2016]

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Among other well-established market players, popular online sites like Otto Group, Ozon, LaModa, and KupiVIP have succeeded in carving a foothold in the Russian market, ranking among the top 20 ecommerce marketplaces in the country. Their success has come from listening carefully to local consumer habits and expectations surrounding product offering, localisation and personalisation.

In general, mums’ and kids’ product categories are the fastest growing sector for online sellers, while apparel and footwear are leading the way from both Russian and Chinese online stores. Food, drink, alcohol and health products are bought on the domestic market exclusively as they are still strictly related to cultural habits, brands and local taste.

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Payment methods that work for local consumers

Cash on delivery still dominates the Russian ecommerce landscape, although more electronic payments are emerging. This is particularly the case in the main European cities of the country, where credit cards are close to becoming one of the main payment methods.

However, eWallets are still in the minority, with PayPal among the leaders alongside with similar local services. For international sellers, it is important to consider local payment preference and work with trusted local suppliers to offer a wider choice for the consumer.

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