Previously in my blog I have written a lot about the topic of Russian e-commerce, gathered stats from different sources and interviewed the experts of the industry. Many companies still wonder whether entering Russia is a smart business decision. The size of the market is huge, but so are the obstacles. Recently I got hold of the most full and comprehensive research about Russia e-commerce created by EWDN.ru and DataInsight I have ever seen. I have taken out the most interesting parts of the research. Reading this will surely answer a lot of questions.
Latest stats about Russian Internet
As of today, Russian Internet population is estimated to be 69 million people (56% of the total population), out of which 56.5% use Internet daily.
The Internet usage in Russia has been growing fast for the last 10 years, and although still lagging behind average for Europe in terms in penetration, Russia became the largest online market in Europe in terms of amount of active Internet users back in 2012 and held this position ever since.
Source: Public Opinion Foundation (FOM)
In terms of online retail turnover Russia is still behind matured European markets such as Germany and UK.
Source: Estimates of Data Insight (Russia), eMarketer (other countries)
Russian e-commerce in numbers
The total size of the Russian e-commerce market is estimated to be 16.5 billion USD (this number includes the sales of plane and train tickets, but does not include hotel bookings and B2B sales).
Online retail accounts for just 2% of total Russian retail sales, but the segment is growing fast (25-30% year over year).
What Russians buy online
With regards to the popularity of different product categories, household appliances are by far the biggest one in Russia, followed by clothing and footwear and computers. Substantial growth is seen in most verticals apart from books and groceries.
According to the report, there are 39 000 Internet shops in Russia (comparing with 32 500 in 2013). Very few of those are however sustainable. DataInsight reports that 80% of all the shops are the “long tail”, meaning that they only receive a handful of orders every month. The company estimates that the “long tail” accounts for less 10% of all orders made in RuNet.
The largest e-commerce players in Russia are:
The two capitals – Moscow and St. Petersburg – are the most advanced when it comes to both Internet usage and e-commerce. The amount of users, however, is growing faster in the regions, and they also start adapting the concept of shopping online.
Source: Public Opinion Foundation (FOM)
Internet usage in the regions increases faster than in large cities as well, according to the research [in Russian] presented by Yandex and FOR last year.
Online consumption in the regions is set to increase more than in the two capitals.
Some of the largest Russian online retailers see major revenues coming from cities outside Moscow and St. Petersburg. KupiVip.ru, an outlet for designer clothes, reports that almost two thirds of their sales are generated in the regions. This trend is not surprising though – the competition in the regions is much lower and the assortment of products available in traditional offline stores is limited.
Obstacles for entering Russian market
Transportation & Logistics
As one of my guests on Russian Search Tips Peter Prabhu explained in his interview, the delivery situation is Russia is difficult. Large territory combined with slow and unreliable service of Russian Post makes it challenging to deliver packages to different regions of the country. Smaller e-commerce players often refuse delivering goods to remote places across the country as the shipping cost is too high.
Larger online players like Enter.ru, Lamoda.ru, and Ozon.ru have built their own warehouses and delivery facilities across the country. Others, like multi-channel (online and offline) retailers like Otto and Svyaznoy, use their existing logistics systems to serve the growing needs of their e-commerce branches.
Lastly, various private delivery companies are popping up offering services of various cost and quality to online retailers. Ozon.ru and even Yandex are also tapping into this territory: Ozon by starting up Ozon Production [in Russian], a service for 3rd party online shops that will allow them using Ozon’s storage, packaging and logistics facilities, and Yandex – facilitating delivery of goods sold on Yandex.Market via partnership with MultiShip.
Two years ago in one of my posts I tried to explain the Russian online payment “jungle”. Since then the situation did not change too much. Cash on delivery is still the dominating payment method in the market, although usage of credit cards and electronic money is slowly increasing.
According to the industry experts, the situation of dominating cash payment will continue to be a reality in the foreseeable future.
In the last few years a number of laws was passed in Russia that were meant to regulate the internet. This has had direct influence on e-commerce, and especially on foreign retailers’ business in Russia.
In the beginning of 2014 the Russian government set new limits for custom-free import of products from abroad. The previous limit of 1000 Euro was replaced by a new one – 150 Euro. This new state initiative caused a chaos in cross-border e-commerce sector, even resulting into DHL and FedEx temporarily suspending delivery services to individuals residing in Russia.
Another initiative that can cause difficulties for foreign online retailers in the new personal data storage law that from 2016 will only allow storing personal data of Russian citizens on the territory of Russian Federation. This is not such a big deal, and a lot of European companies, like for instance French La Redoute, have been hosting their Russian site in Russia from the beginning, however drastic changes like this can lead to a lot of confusion in the industry.
Lastly, some very unexpected twists, like the ban of lace underwear, occasionally happen in Russia :).
To round up, there are great possibilities for companies abroad to create a successful e-commerce company in this growing market. It is not all easy and it does require local Russian knowledge to overcome the potential problems. But if you are willing to invest time and money you might end up becoming one of the Russian e-commerce giants for me to write about in the future.