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40 Billion Reasons

01st August 2019

Russian ecommerce is booming. Are you equipped to take advantage?

Britain’s diplomatic relationship with Russia has had its ups and downs, but retailers have a lot to gain from maintaining strong commercial ties. Russia’s population of 144 million includes the largest online audience in Europe. The question, of course, is how responsive can we expect that audience to be? This week, East West Digital News (EWDN) gave us an authoritative answer.

The Russian ecommerce market is entering a phase of dramatic growth, and by 2023 it’s expected to reach a value of 44 billion euros.

That’s £40 billion in sterling. Want some?

For many years, Russian consumers had a reputation for wariness when it came to foreign purchases. The story has changed over the past decade, and so far it’s Asian retailers who’ve spotted and seized the opportunity. AliExpress, part of China’s Alibaba Group, is a B2C ecommerce platform that enables Chinese individuals and companies to sell direct to foreign consumers. Sixteen million paying customers per month make it the most popular ecommerce website in Russia. For aspiring service providers looking to follow in these footsteps, the playbook is clear; build trust by organising swift, reliable delivery and integrating payment options that consumers will recognise. And localise your website.

Translating and localising into Russian is a minefield that only professionals can navigate. The relatively formal structure of an English sentence may bear no resemblance to its Russian translation, in which the words can be put together in almost any sequence. English nouns have only two forms; singular and plural. Russian nouns have twelve different forms. And when you’ve mastered the intricacies of grammar, you face the issue of text expansion. On average, Russian words are 40% longer than their English equivalents. While Russian sentences are shorter, containing less prepositions and no articles, that still leaves you with 20% more text to cope with. 20% more text to fit into your translated documents. 20% more text to squeeze onto the pages of your painstakingly designed, ecommerce-friendly Russian website. Are you equipped to add pages, change font sizes and correctly localise menu items? One of the most important parts of your new site may be the Send button. In Russian it reads Отправить. Nine characters compared with the original four. Such a small detail, but if the button icon isn’t large enough for those nine characters, you’ll have a big problem.

And last but not least, as you’ll see from the single Russian word in this article, it has a different alphabet. If you’re not familiar with Cyrillic characters, you’ll find it challenging to master.

With internet penetration increasing, and with 95% of Russia’s treasured 16-24 year old demographic already online daily, the potential in this vast, resource-rich country is clear. You just have to approach it with diligence and expertise. By 2023 there will be 40 billion reasons to get it right.