Online retail country focus: Russia

Russia provides a wealth of opportunity when it comes to eCommerce and mCommerce. In order to fully exploit the potential, a comprehensive understanding of how to delight the shopper is required. In revealing what influences purchasing decisions, Planet Retail's shopper research for Russia paints a picture of how this can be achieved.

The opportunity in Russia

To give you an idea of the size of the prize when it comes to eCommerce in Russia – at present, online sales amount to around $25.6 billion, equating to just 4% of retail sales. However, by 2019, Planet Retail expects Russia's eCommerce market will reach $68.8 billion. This is a growth rate of 169% from today, far outstripping the already healthy growth of 21% in store-based sales over the period. By 2019, online sales will account for 8.4% of total retail.

Being mobile optimised is a must

Planet Retail questioned 1,496 shoppers in Russia, and found that while 53% of Russian shoppers connect to the internet via their mobiles, only 27% use this access for shopping. Compared to the UK, where 62% do so, this is a relatively small proportion. Looking at online spend in Russia, 77% is via a computer, with just 7% of transactions via mobiles.

Although it seems shoppers in Russia have not yet embraced mCommerce, this is not really the case. We found that 39% of those questioned said that it was likely they'd shop online via their mobile in the future. It is essential that the expectations of the constantly-connected consumer are met, if not exceeded given how rapidly consumers are adopting mobile technology. The provision of an adaptive website to ensure an optimised experience regardless of device is only one piece of the puzzle. With consumers seemingly unwilling to transact via mobile, the priority should be catering to their desired smartphone usage when shopping. We found that 38% of shoppers in Russia would be encouraged to shop more online if there was a greater choice websites that were mobile optimised, while the provision of such a site would influence the choice of retailer for 37% of those questioned.

Catering for the always-on shopper

With Planet Retail finding that 57% of Russian shoppers want to use their mobiles to quickly and easily compare prices, retailers need to focus on price transparency, building solutions to facilitate this. With our research also revealing 49% of shoppers are wanting to gather loyalty points or bank savings on their mobiles as they shop, and 37% wanting to receive real-time offers while out shopping, the mobile channel becomes not just about delivering the best deals, but a perfect way for Russian retailers to nurture and reward loyalty.

It is not just about enhancing the experience though. In Russia, 42% want to be able to use their mobile to order out-of-stock items when instore for home delivery. Interestingly, 42% want to use their mobile as a payment device. So, it seems that mobile is fast becoming not just the ultimate shopping companion in Russia, but has the potential to become an important payment option. Successful retailers will be those that can best accommodate and respond to this.

With the rise in smartphone ownership, and their use as the primary means of using the internet, this is only set to rise. The importance of mobile in exploiting the opportunity of online retail in Russia can't be underestimated.

Enticing and influencing online spend

Looking at how to encourage more to shop online in Russia, our findings indicate that the focus should be on two key areas, payment and fulfilment. Of those questioned in Russia, 75% said they'd be encouraged to shop online more if it was safer to make card payments online. The same proportion said they're decision to shop more online would be influenced by the provision of a range of flexible payment options, such as pay on delivery and pay with cash. When it comes to  influencing the shopper's choice of retailer, our research found that 61% would be encouraged to shop online with a retailer if they could pay using cash, cash on delivery or when collecting items.

Looking at fulfilment, 48% of online shoppers in Russia currently choose to have their items delivered to their home. This is compared to 87% in the UK. We found that 56% prefer to use click & collect, compared to 35% in the UK, while 52% use collection points, compared to 12% in the UK.

Online shoppers in Russia don't have much faith in retailers' logistical capabilities it seems, nor trust having items delivered to their home. When it comes to the role of fulfilment in encouraging more to shop online, the research findings are compelling. 82% said they'd be encouraged to shop online more if there were more convenient ways to get their purchases, such as collection points, lockers and click & collect. When it comes to influencing the choice of retailer in Russia, our researched showed that 69% would be encouraged to choose a retailer online if it offered convenient collection points to pick up their purchases, while 67% said being offered more flexible delivery times and options would persuade them to choose a retailer.

To delight Russian shoppers the focus should be on catering to the constantly-connected consumer through mobile solutions, providing flexibility, choice, speed and value for money on fulfilment, and enabling the consumer to use alternative methods to pay for their online purchases.

Malcolm Pinkerton is research director for eCommerce at Planet Retail. He writes a regular Essential Retail column on global eCommerce trends.

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