New opportunities for online sales of OTC drugs in Russia

Nielsen Russia survey results highlight new opportunities for online pharmacies and for the Russian FMCG online market

Nielsen Russia conducted a survey of over 1,000 respondents in Russia, aged between 18 and 64, residing in cities with populations over 1 million people. Survey results show that online sales of OTC drugs have a high growth potential. In addition, the survey highlights the reasons why Russians are switching to online purchases. Read the post summary and Nielsen Russia experts’ analysis of new opportunities in this sector below.

OTC medications purchases in Russia: from a hybrid model to a fully online purchasing model

According to Alexander Shurkayev, head of the Nielsen Russia e-commerce department, the hybrid model of buying online and picking up purchases at a pharmacy or at a pick-up location is likely to be replaced by the home delivery model, driven by a change in attitudes towards online buying in Russia.

According to the Nielsen Russia survey, 62% of respondents believe that prices are lower in online stores than in pharmacies.

Given that 88% of respondents mentioned comparing prices at different pharmacies before making a purchase, this is a non-trivial incentive to shift to online purchases not just for millennials, but also for older generations.

Online sales of OTC drugs in Russia: barriers to growth

The biggest barrier is currently the delivery timeframe. While the survey respondents would like to have their purchases delivered to their homes in less than 24 hours, on average they have to wait almost 2 days.

Ekaterina Petrova, head of the Nielsen Russia customer research department, believes that drastically shortening the delivery time is going to be crucial for growth of online sales for many OTC drug categories, particularly flu or cold medicine. She believes that on the Russian market this will be one of the deciding factors in growing customer base and online sales.

FMCG and pharmacies sales in Russia: better together

Despite obvious differences in product categories, in many cases Russian buyers decide to shop online for FMCG products and for OTC drugs for similar reasons:

Comparison of survey responses about reasons to shop online for FMCG products and for non-prescription drugs

Reasons to shop online for FMCG products and for OTC drugs, according to Nielsen Russia surveys. Source: Nielsen Russia

It’s likely that in the future online retailers will start offering OTC drugs in partnership with pharmacy chains – or that online pharmacies are going to start offering FMCG products.

Alexander Shurkayev believes that Russian buyers are ready for this model and are likely to prefer shopping for all products in one place to avoid overpaying for delivery.

An additional reason that is likely to lead to the growth of OTC drug sales online is the return of the healthy living trend (Russian Search Marketing wrote about it previously here).

According to Nielsen’s research:

  • 81% of respondents believe that it’s important to lead a healthy lifestyle
  • 47% regularly buy vitamins
  • 41% are willing to pay extra to buy organic products
Nielsen Russia survey data on healthy lifestyle preferences of Russian respondents

Nielsen Russia research shows that healthy living trend is back. Source: Nielsen Russia

In an upcoming post, we’ll dive deeper into the Russian pharmacies e-commerce data for 2018–2019 with a summary of Data Insight’s report. Sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive updates about e-commerce and online marketing trends in Russia.