How to Attract and Convert Russian Online Shoppers by properly using Language

Every time a new client approaches us at Yandex, one of the first questions we ask is whether or not they have a Russian optimized site.  Some foreign markets don’t require site translation and significant optimization for users.  When launching in other English speaking countries, sometimes small tweaks like adjusting forms for foreign addresses or a few spelling changes are required.  In non-English speaking foreign markets a webmaster can get away with an English landing page when there is still a significant portion of the population (and more specifically the Internet population) who reads English.

However, for select foreign markets like Russia, English landing pages acts as hindrances for the majority of the users due to the low population of English language speakers. In part this is due to a complete inability to read the text and in part, this is due to the customer wanting an experience tailored to them.  Russians, among a number of other international shoppers will convert higher when the landing page is optimized for them.

According to a study conducted by the Common Sense Advisory Board titled “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy,” conversions  were negatively impacted by English landing pages.  The report asked over 3,000 respondents from 10 different non-English countries a series of questions about their online shopping preferences. The goal of the research was to establish whether or not sales will increase by localizing websites for foreign based consumers.  Here are a few of the key findings:

  • 87% of consumers who can’t read English don’t buy products or services at English-language websites
  • 55% of users only make purchases from websites in their first language. When including respondents with limited English, the preference to make purchases in their native languages increases to more than 80%.
  • 60% rarely or never buy at English-language sites.
  • Global brands can be the exception to the rule depending on the reputation of the product worldwide

Users set relatively reasonable expectations for cross-boarder and international online sales. Depending on the success and notoriety of the brand, English language can be maintained but the users native language certainly encourages conversions.  An English landing page can also be enticing because it alludes to a high quality western product or service being provided.  Converting Russian online shoppers is certainly still possible with English landing pages but more successful with Russian.

When it comes to keywords and some ad copy text, using your brand in English can be preferable.  Users search for brand names in both the original Latin text but also in a transliterated text or spelling out the brand using Cyrillic.  As seen below, English spellings and Russian spellings vary depending on the brand. Conducting keyword research on Yandex.Wordstat will help brands make language decisions for their keywords.  Either way it is encouraged to utilize both English and translitereated Russian to target the entire audience searching for a brand. This is especially important because a higher English search volume for a keyword or brand doesn’t mean there are more English language users searching for the brand.  Rather users often search for the brand name in Latin character and then add the specific item or service in Russian.  For example, a user may search Adidas +бутсы, combining the Latin spelling of the brand and Russian word for the product when searching for Adidas cleats.

Latin Cyrillic Yandex Brand name searches

For brands that decide to maintain their English landing pages, indicating the that landing page is in English by adding (EN) in the add copy will tell users that they will be presented with English text.  This helps advertisers attract more quality clicks from users who are more likely to still convert on an English landing page.  Its advisable for brands to utilize Yandex.Wordstat for keyword research on their brand name. It’s also useful to research how other international brands are finding success in foreign markets in relation to the languages decisions on their landing pages.