For any websites launching abroad, localization is an important factor in being successful but Russian localization is especially important given the size of the audience and lack of English skills. At 87 million users, Russia has the largest Internet audience in Europe, making it a huge market for online shopping and advertising. However, only 5.48% of Russia’s population is fluent in English—about 30% of Russians have some knowledge of English, and only 20% can read and translate with a dictionary. The highest numbers of Russians who speak English are between 18 and 24 years old, which bodes well for businesses targeting this demographic but excludes a major part of the population with money to spend.  With far fewer users being able to read your website in comparison to other European countries where English is more common, webmasters looking to Russia will find more success with a localized version of their website catering to the Russian audience.

Why Russian Localization Matters:

Localization has the ability to increase a site’s presence and sales in the area the site has adapted to. Studies have shown that users are more likely to visit a site for twice as long, and are four times more likely to actually make a purchase when they are using a website in their native language.  Simply put, if someone can’t read your product information, they’ll bounce and won’t buy it.

However, beyond basics of just learning about your product, customers need to feel confident about their purchase. As a foreign retailer or business, you may or may not have strong brand awareness and it is especially important to make your customers feel comfortable and satisfied with your brand and product or service.

In any language or country, trust, loyalty, and satisfaction drives business. For Russian consumers, this is equally, if not more, important:

  • Trust: Culturally trust is a very big factor for Russians in all areas of life. As the Internet use grows, Russians are trusting online activity more but want to know they are purchasing from an official site and can guarantee their purchase. The Russian dominant preference for  payment on delivery exemplifies the hesitance of Russian shoppers.
  • Satisfaction: Russians like all shoppers want to be happy with their purchase. As they are researching your product and after they have made a purchase, options to read and communicate in their local language only encourage shoppers to buy exactly what they are looking for and give feedback should they need to.
  • Loyalty: Russians are incredibly loyal people. Once a consumer is satisfied with your offer, upselling them on other products and services proves important to maintain your business but difficult to do when you can’t truly connect with your customers in their own language.

By properly localizing your site, you can increase the overall ROI by connecting with your customers and providing what they need to feel confident about making a purchase on your website.

Tips for Russian localization and Translation:

Some of the simplest ways to significantly improve conversion rates are through translation and localization.  Surprisingly, many aspects of translation and localization get overlooked that could potentially make the difference between a sale and a click on your ad that goes nowhere.  According to research by Common Sense Advisory, translation has shown to significantly improve conversion rates; 72.4% of consumers say they prefer to use their native language when online shopping, and 55% of global consumers say they only buy products form websites that supply information in their own language. In fact, 56.2% of consumers say they care more about information being provided in their own language than the actual price of the product or service. Wow! But your product and price do still matter.

  • Translating your site’s most popular and important pages: When entering a new market you don’t necessarily have to translate everything but can be selective about what your audience needs and what you are trying to sell. Popular and informative pages for clients should be translated. Home page, products page, checkout page, payment page, FAQ page, and the contact page should all be translated to reduce any uncertainties for a client and to build their trust in the company and its service. Translating targeted marketing emails into the recipient’s own language has the same effect as well.
  • Including localized live service support:  Offering a local service support number not only shows the customers you are an official site but give them a way to communicate should they have any questions or issues throughout the order process.
  • Including a local address: Local addresses further help Russian customers see you are legitimate.  Beyond building trust with your customers, listing a local address for a brick and mortar location encourages Russians to experience your brand in person.
  • Adjusting for local currency: Price adjustments by country of origin or preferred currency will eliminate the client having to go elsewhere to check current exchange rates. Similarly, making shipping costs and additional taxes available in the user’s preferred currency helps the client understand the total cost in their own currency.  Although, FYI for them most part Russians expect free delivery.

The example of the Vans website shows how a brand properly translated and localized their website without losing the vibe of their brand. Users can still be exited to see this “off the wall” product that tells them they are getting a trusted and trendy foreign brand but all relevant information is supplied in Russian and offers a phone number, store information, and local pricing.

vans product page

After clicking on the “where to buy” link in the top right corner, users are then direct to this nice page where they get all relevant information for a local store, including the closest metro stop, which Russians expect to see in major cities like Moscow. Vans also includes a map to help customers through Yandex.Maps, Russia’s preferred search engine and map service.

vans russian stores

A site’s potential is severely limited if users are unable to understand the content presented to them. Through language translation and Russian localization sites will gain the trust of foreign customers and increased credibility among their international user base.  Those who enter the Russian market and try to “test” things by running ads to English language landing pages do not receive real feedback on their potential with the Russian audience. If you are going to do something, you must do it right.