This is part 2 of 2 for the Social Media and webshopping trends of Russia article
So as we´ve learned before, webshopping in Russia is still more or less complicated for a number of reasons. What more, many of the local most frequently used social media sites and tools are local, or heavily localized. And then if any of you paid attention to the list in the previous post, one could see that LiveJournal (roughly 17,5 mill users), a blogging site, ranked quite high. It´s the 7th most visited website in Russia these days. And that gives us a nice bridge to the importance of blogs in Russia. If you´re doing business in Russia, online or not, you need to understand the meaning of having a known blogger by your side at all times.
In Russia blogs have much higher importance in influencing buying decisions than in most other countries in the world. In the top 20 list of most visited websites in Russia, also Blogger.com (Blogspot.com) is there at number 17. Additionally many of the other top 20 sites have blogging or microblogging features. The reasons for blogs´ success in Russia may well be found in history. It´s not so long ago when people were not allowed to speak their minds, and now that it´s allowed, the citizens journalism has been somewhat even more trustworthy than the official channels in finding information. People write blogs and comment blogs much more than in Western Europe for example, and the most famous bloggers enjoy a status of rock stars. So it’s fuel to the fire I guess.
Twitter has slowly gained ground in the Russian speaking countries, not least effected by the fact that President Medvedev and some other high-profile top-level politicians have started Tweeting frequently. Though Twitter is still far from popular, Medveded and other top Tweeters in Russia have gained a good amount of followers already – and not necessarily all Russian followers.
Facebook of course has to be mentioned here as well, as they try hard to compete with vKontakte, the local FB-clone. If Facebook has globally over 550 million users, in Russia the figure is a mere 1 million. Russia is one of the few countries where Facebook is not the most popular social network – far from it. Vkontakte has a nice 101+ million users, whichof roughly half are actually Russian, the rest are Russian-speaking, but not from Russia itself, but other Russian-speaking Eastern European and Central Asian countries as well as from the Russian-speaking communities around the world.
Funnily enough, the Russians nowadays own part of Facebook, did you know that? If I recall correctly, the Russian Mail.ru Group a.k.a. Digital Sky Technologies own about 1,96 percent of Facebook, and the owners are the same who own vKontakte, Mail.ru, etc. And another interesting fact is that as Microsoft also owns a small piece of Facebook, they only own 1,6%, but bought it with much higher valuation than the Russians did. Mail.ru Group also own parts of Zynga and Groupon (!). And if we dig really, really deep, they own directly or via their daughter companies significant parts of the Russian Odnoklassniki, the Polish Nasza-Klasa, the Russian social gaming network Zzima, the Baltic One-Social Networks, and again have heavy ties with the biggest Chinese Social Network QQ / Qzone, whose owners have recently invested a nice amount of dollars into Mail.ru. A nice little pack… If I was into conspiracy theories, I would start blogging and wondering about the information and intelligence that they could access through all these networks and how many people they could dig info about. But I´m not, that´s someone elses job.
Back to the subject. Many western companies are trying to get to the Russian markets these days; eBay is launching in Russia in 2011, Nokia has just 1.11. opened their first webshop for St Petersburg region and expanding to other major cities there by mid-2011, and so on. The importance of speaking and servicing in the native language can not be pointed out enough. If we look at Yandex, the market leading search engine in Russia, the have over 60% market share, Google et al all fall far behind. Google, Rambler and Mail.ru all have search functionalities, some better than the others, but they have all been loosing market share in 2010 compared to Yandex. None of them has even close to 30% market share.
From webshopping point of view, the lack of local retailers compared to the number in western countries and then again the buying potential are offering an interesting point when considering accessing the market one way or the other. Many of the domestic retailers are still not offering webshopping much, but they are learning fast. So the right time would be now, in 2012 it may be too late to reach a significant amount of users fast and easy. With over 80% of Russian Internet users looking for product information online to support buying decision, whichof over 60% directly searching for referrals and comments where to buy and which product in a certain category, I can sincerely say Russia is great opportunity to be considered for any foreign webshop. Another question is whether one should access the markets with their own webshop, by offering the products via a Russian webshop, via a Russian web-mall (yes, they do exist in Russia), or by joining forces with other Western companies and offering service together. Also private VIP-webshops are known to gain popularity in Russia just like what’s recently been happening in France. Wonder if this will be a global phenomenon about to launch…
I mentioned the logistic and supply chain problems in the first part of this post, now I´m offering you a solution for it. Well, perhaps not a solution, but something to consider. Pick-up points! One of the Russian leading webshops has established over 100 pick-up points for their packages around St Petersburg and Moscow. If one is to have a warehouse or some sort of delivery service in Russia with enough storage space, why not open a pick-up point? Or perhaps if the volumes are high enough, maybe you could negotiate a deal with the transporting company or courier service to handle the pick-up facility for you? I know the Finnish Itella (Finnish Post) has a major delivery centre in St Petersburg, perhaps they could be one partner to consider. And if the volumes are high enough (I mean significantly high), perhaps the customs and all that could be handled by the logistics company as well. I´m sure there´s a price tag there, but if the volumes are high, perhaps the price can be negotiated to reasonable. I don´t know, perhaps one of You will try and then tell me about it. I´d be happy to post an update on that if anyone has tried this type of set-up yet.
Ps. If you want to experience Russian blogging culture and can read some Russian (or have a good translation tool), try out dirty.ru, a collective blog with high number of visitors these days.