Russia has proven to be a difficult market to enter for the foreign online retailers. The problems do not end with difficult language, local search engines and advertising platforms, and cultural differences. The logistics is one of the main challenges; payments is the other.
Russian market is very different from other European markets when it comes to online payments. E-commerce is on a pretty early stage of its development, and the trust to online payments is low. Cash on delivery is still very common way of paying for products purchased online. Local online payment systems dominate the market, while PayPal has a very small share of the market.
During the last Russian Internet Forum (RIF) conference help in Moscow in April a number of Russian online payment providers such as PayU and Robokassa, as well as an independent research companies TNS Russia and DATA Insight shared some insights into the situation with online payments in Russia. Below I will try to summarize the main points from their presentations and give a snapshot of the current state of the market.
1. Not all Internet users are Internet buyers
Last year Russia became the biggest online market in Europe, and the latest official statistics say that there are 68 million Internet users in Russia today. This number, however, hardly describes the size of the market. According to the statistics presented at RIF 2013, out of 68 million Internet users, only 23 million has ever bought products or services online, and even fewer people paid for their purchases online.
The online shoppers are generally younger people, and the majority of people using online payments (61%) are younger than 35 years old. Out of the total amount of Internet users in the 18-35 age group, 30% use online payment. This percentage is lower (20-25%) for the 35-55 age group, and is very low (approx. 10%) for the 55+ Internet users.
The average purchase that is paid online payment costs about 3200 rubles (approx. 77€). The average is however largely influenced by industries with large payment checks (travel, consumer electronics). In reality, half of all online payments in Russia are below 500 rubles (12€).
2. Cash (on delivery) is the king
No matter which market research you chose to believe in, the role of cash in Russian e-commerce is impossible to underestimate.
According to some estimates, up to 69% of all online purchases are paid by cash upon delivery.
3. Credit card is the most common way to pay online
Despite the lack of trust towards online purchases, the largest online payment method in Russia is a credit card, followed by electronic money (WebMoney, Yandex.Money etc.), and Internet banking, reports PayU.
This breakdown of course varies depending on the industry. For example, percentage of credit card payments is higher than average in travel segment.
4. Phone and Internet bills are most often paid online
According to TNS Russia survey that was held among younger (18-45) population of Russian larger cities (800 000+ inhabitants), the most common purpose of online payments were phone and Internet bills. The data presented below is based on answers of the respondents, who made at least one purchase using any of online payment methods in the last 6 months.
5. WebMoney is the most used electronic currency
While PayPal is almost not present in Russia, there are plenty of local players on the market. The largest ones are Webmoney, Yandex.Money, QIWI, Robokassa, and RBK Money, followed by smaller ones like PayU, PayOnline, MoneyMail etc.
The data presented below is taken from a research conducted by Robokassa, where over 1 million Russian e-commerce sites were analyzed and classified based on the integration with various electronic currencies.
Working with most of the Russian online currencies from abroad is quite complicated. Out of the main 5, only Yandex.Money can be funded with a bank wire from a foreign bank account, for example. Recent integration with Skrill should make it even easier to use this electronic currency for foreign merchants.
Payment methods can be a serious, while underestimated, obstacle for foreign retailers trying to enter so lucratively-looking Russian market. Integration with local payment providers in Russia should be planned at an early stage, as implementation itself as well as connected to it administration work are usually more time-consuming than it might seem. Yandex.Money / Skrill probably is the easiest alternative today, and WebMoney should also be on the road map for any soon-to-be-launched e-commerce site targeting Russia.