Western e-commerce companies see cross-border sales to Russia resume dramatically

After almost three years of fall or stagnation, Western retailers’ sales to Russian online consumers are resuming – in certain cases dramatically. This new trend was discussed earlier this month at the Global E-Commerce Summit in Barcelona in a special Russia round table, where Russian and international players shared their most recent sales data.

Thus ASOS saw its sales to Russia grow by more than 200% in the period between September 2016 and February 2017 compared to the same period one year before, according to company chairman Brian McBride (see interview below).

In the first half of 2017, the number of units shipped to Russia by service provider Shiptor almost doubled, reaching some 120,000 parcels and packages, up from some 60,000 monthly in early 2015 – without any substantial changes affecting Shiptor’s client portfolio during this period.

On its side, Russian payment giant Qiwi expects that the e-wallet payment volume generated by one of its clients, a US health and beauty site, will double this year. This site may receive more than 900,000 euros in sales revenues from Russian online consumers in 2017, said Dmitry Danilenko, Qiwi VP Strategy & Business Development.

Affiliate network Admitad noted that some of its western clients saw their revenue in the CPA channel grew substantially in 2016 — by 82% and 25% in the case of two apparel sites, according to Evan Johnson, Global Business Development.

The traction of the Russian market is also confirmed by the traffic numbers of iHerb, with Russia generating more traffic (18.8%) than the USA on this US site. Russia ranks second (15%) after Italy for Yoox, second (10%) after the USA for Farfetch, and third (7.7%) after the UK and the USA for ASOS, according to the freshest SimilarWeb data.

After a few golden years, Western retailers’ traction in Russia decreased in 2014-2015. During these years, the ruble’s fall and the economic depression did not put an end to market growth – but Chinese players captured it almost entirely, overwhelming the Russian market with cheap offers and service improvements.

Thus, early mover AliExpress became number one e-commerce operator in Russia by traffic and number of fulfilled orders, overrunning eBay and even the most popular domestic e-commerce sites and marketplaces. The platform’s traffic in Russia exceeded 23 million users in March 2017.

Last year, according to the NAMO industry association, the Russian cross-border market reached some $4.3 billion (up from $3.4 billion in 2015), with 245 million parcels and small packages shipped to Russian online consumers. China’s share accounted for more than 80% of fulfilled orders (but significantly less in market value), according to expert estimates cited in EWDN’s report.

As confirmed by the latest market news, Western retailers keep all their chances on the Russian market, while Chinese retailers generally cover different product and price segments.

According to research agency Data Insight, Russia’s domestic B2C e-commerce market reached $12 billion, not taking into account digital goods and online services.

“Russia is a very attractive market for e-commerce companies at the moment. Consumer confidence seemed to have returned, and the strengthening of the rouble was a major factor. Russian customers want the same fast fashion as the Western customer, so ASOS and Wiggle were both working at improving delivery speed, and ASOS had improved its proposition significantly. In the period between September 2016 and February 2017, sales were up by over 200% year-on-year, as mentioned in recent company reports.

“With a large population and with e-commerce, in general, having a smaller share [around 3%] of retail than many other countries of that scale, and with sales via smartphones being much smaller than in the West or China, then Russia will be a very attractive market as these key metrics start to resemble Western markets. My only real concern is the strength of the currency which is something we cannot affect.”

This article originally appeared on EWDN on June 26, 2017 by Adrien Henry