5 charts that explain online purchasing behavior in Russia

Based on data from Yandex.Market and the market research company GfK. Original Russian article here.

The number of online consumers in Russia continues to grow rapidly. According to July 2018 data from the German market research company GfK, 35% of Russians purchased items on the internet at least once in the last six months. This number has increased by 17% since the spring of 2017.

Increase in online buyers in Russia

Yandex.Market and GfK conducted a survey to find out what Russians buy, where they make their purchases, and what motivates them to purchase items online specifically. A total of 5,470 people between the ages of 16-55 who live in Russian cities took part in the survey.

The study took place in September 2018. The full version of the report is available to download (in Russian).

Motivators for purchasing items online

Saving money is the main motivation that affects online purchasing behavior in Russia. More than half of those surveyed said that prices online are lower than those in brick-and-mortar stores.  People also like having the option to compare prices, look for the best deals, and purchase items at the most convenient place and time.

People who don’t buy things online (or do so rarely) don’t like the fact that they can’t see the items they’re purchasing in person and thus can’t be assured of the quality. Approximately a third of those who dislike purchasing items online claimed that they don’t know who to contact in the event that there is a problem.

Reasons Russians purchase items online

Most popular categories of items Russians buy online and where they purchase them

The top categories of items people purchase online haven’t changed in the last few years. Clothes and shoes are still the most popular items that respondents order from both Russian and foreign online stores. Rounding out the top-3 categories of items Russians purchase online are small household appliances and cosmetics. In comparison, Chinese buyers purchase smartphones and children’s goods more frequently than other categories of items, and cosmetics and children’s goods are the most popular categories in other countries.

Items purchased in Russia and abroad

Two-thirds of Russians prefer to purchase from foreign stores than Russian ones because prices tend to be lower.  Other reasons that respondents gave for purchasing foreign items include the fact that certain items are not sold in Russia (28%) and that a wider assortment of items is usually available in foreign online stores (27%). Reasons Russians gave for refusing to purchase foreign items include long delivery times (36% cited this reason), difficulties returning items, and stores not offering of a service warranty (27%).

It should be noted that the percent of people who encountered problems using foreign sites decreased from 2017 to 2018. People also reported fewer problems with delivery schedules and inaccurate product descriptions.

How Russians choose which stores to buy from

Price is the main factor governing online purchasing behavior in Russia (38% of respondents mentioned this criterion). The second-most-common criterion (noted by 29% of respondents) is the store’s reliability and reputation. Having a wide assortment of products is also viewed as an important criterion.

The relative importance that respondents assign to different criteria also varies based on age. For example, people over 40 appreciate the benefits they get from participating in a store’s loyalty program more than teenagers do. Among respondents in the first age group, 14% noted that this criterion is important (in comparison to only 6% in the second age group). For other criteria, the reverse is true: 21% of buyers under the age of 20 pay attention to the reputation and popularity of a store, whereas only 10% of people over 40 do.

Problems purchasing from foreign online stores

Factors affecting online purchasing behavior

Devices
Judging by how respondents placed their last order, Russians still purchase items most frequently using their computers. However, the percent of orders made using a smartphone or tablet is increasing and has almost doubled over the past year. Up to 21% of orders from Russian stores and 40% of those from foreign stores were placed using one of these devices. According to survey data, Russians purchase more items from foreign stores on their mobile phones because it is easy to pay, the apps are more convenient to use, and these stores offer discounts on purchases made from smartphones.

Item selection
Users have slightly different ways of selecting items depending on if a store is Russian or foreign. When they purchase items in Russia, they usually compare prices across different sites and look at delivery conditions. When they buy from foreign sites, they are more likely to read reviews and check out photos of the items.

Actions Russians take when purchasing online

Discounts and promotions
More than 70% of items purchased recently were sold at a discount or as part of a promotion. Furthermore, almost 60% of respondents would have been willing to purchase those same items at full price. The most common promotions are direct discounts and free delivery. Russian stores use promotions, store-card points, and customer-loyalty discounts more frequently than foreign stores as a way to draw in customers.

More than 90% of Russians at least occasionally compare prices on different sites to check whether a store is actually offering a discount when they say they are. Almost 40% of respondents say they always compare prices this way. People over 30 years old are most likely to check whether a discount is authentic.

Spontaneous purchases
Of purchases made in Russian stores, 18% are spontaneous. In foreign stores, this number goes up to 22%. Youth are most likely to make spontaneous purchases. Women make spontaneous purchases in foreign stores much more frequently than men.

Payment and delivery

The most widespread method of paying for purchases in Russian online stores is by bank card. Cash takes second place and bank card on delivery is the third-most-common option. In 2018, more than half of all purchases were paid by card.

The relative popularity of various delivery methods has held steady from last year: Russians go to physical locations to pick up nearly half of all orders placed in Russian online stores. Delivery by courier is the second-most-popular option at 26% of all orders and delivery via the Russian postal service came in third at 17%. For orders from foreign stores, 80% were delivered by the Russian postal service.

Conclusions

Though price is clearly a big motivator when Russians select items to purchase online, delivery conditions and customer service are also major concerns. Foreign sellers that take pains to ensure orders are fulfilled accurately and in a timely manner will gain more traction with Russian consumers. Transparency throughout the purchasing process is also paramount — consumers need a bit of extra reassurance that someone will be there to process their refund or exchange when they are buying from a foreign online store.