Localizing for Russia

localizing for Russia

The Russian market is one of the largest in the world. If you want to grow your company internationally, you’ll surely want to access it sooner rather than later and begin to think about localizing for Russia. So, Let’s take a look at some statistics:

  • Russia ranks as number six in terms of the world’s largest economies. 
  • The country’s GDP stands at US$ 4.016 trillion. 
  • Russia has a population of more than 140 million.
  • Moscow, St. Petersburg, and fifteen other Russian cities have populations of over one million.
  • Russians have increasing purchasing power and are increasingly demanding trusted global brands and quality services. 

Number of Internet Users

According to a report from Morgan Stanley, internet penetration in Russia stands at 80%. And, smartphone penetration is not lagging far behind at 66%. This means there are lots of potential customers for your products or services. However, the level of e-commerce is still very low – read on.

E-Commerce in Russia

Although internet penetration in Russia is quite high, e-commerce (toward the end of 2018) had only a 3% share of the total retail industry. There are many reasons for this situation, but the main thing you should be concerned with is the future.

The Morgan Stanley report predicted that e-commerce in Russia would grow by 170% during the following five years. This means that by 2023, the Russian e-commerce industry is expected to be worth over US$ 56 billion. Consequently, Russians will increasingly be spending a lot of money online. So now is the perfect time for you to position yourself to reach this growing market by localizing for Russia. 

Localizing for Russia Presents a Challenge

However, localizing for Russia is not an easy task. First off, the Russian language uses a Cyrillic script, and then Russians also use their own distinct social media platform and search engines. So let’s do a deeper dive into what you need to know about localizing your business for the Russian market.

The Russian Language

The cyrillic script means that the text will expand by about 15%-20% when you translate your content into Russian. This is a very significant factor to consider if space for your content is restricted by buttons, calls for action, etc. 

  • Encoding: You will probably be translating your content from a Latin script. You need to be aware that Cyrillic script adopts a different encoding. Understanding this is important if you want your localized text to be displayed correctly.
  • Placeholders: These can be problematic if you are translating your content into Russian (or any other Slavic language). For instance, a string that reads – User} says – will create a problem for a Russian translator. This is because the Russian language includes a masculine style of the verb say that goes with masculine nouns and a feminine style that applies to feminine nouns. This means that when localizing for Russia, the string will need to be rephrased. However, this will make it sound awkward in Russian if you rephrase it as – user {User} says – in order to use only the masculine form of the verb.

Are You a B2C Company?

Depending on which type of company you are, you will find other challenges on your road to success. B2C companies will be challenged for the following reasons:

  • Russia does not currently have a leading e-commerce platform. There is no Amazon, no Tmall, as in China, or anything similar. However, things are changing, and several platforms are trying to fill the void. One notable sign is Alibaba’s joint venture with Mail.Ru.
  • Russia has one of the highest logistics costs in the world. Because Russia’s population is far less dense than other emerging market nations, this results in long delivery times and high delivery costs. Parcel delivery is still mainly the concern of the Russian postal service. 
  • In the past, the preferred payment method in Russia has been cash payments upon the delivery of goods. However, online payments are now regarded as being just as acceptable as card payments made in physical shops. 

Search Engines in Russia

Much like Baidu in China, Russia has its own homegrown and widely-used search engine, Yandex.Ru. In January 2019, Yandex held a market share of almost 54% compared to Google’s 42.69%. Other search engines are practically non-existent, with a combined market share of less than 3.5%.

The takeaway here is that your website content, metadata, and product manuals need to be in Russian. If you don’t localize for Russia, there is no way your target audience will find you on Yandex. You will never rank high enough to make any inroads into the Russian market. You should also consider placing your online ads with Yandex.Direct instead of Google.

Social Media in Russia

Another issue differentiating Russia from other markets is that Facebook and Instagram are not the top social media platforms on the online landscape. Instead, Russia has its own popular social network, Vkontakte or VK. Over 60% of the Russian population uses VK, compared to 35% who use Facebook and 31% who are on Instagram.

What Are Russian Users Buying online?

If you are looking to market your good or services in Russia, you need to know what Russians are buying online and where they are buying from.

Localizing for Russia 1

As you can see from the chart, the top sellers online are clothing (including shoes), cosmetics, and small appliances. As for sources, Chinese and other foreign e-commerce companies are strong in certain product categories but almost or totally non-existent in others.

  • To read about online shopping trends during the pandemic, click here.

Localizing for Russia: Final Thoughts

It is apparent that Russia is a vast and diversified market, and the growth in e-commerce is set to continue far into the future. However, it is also clear that Russia is a very distinct and specific market, both in terms of marketing and localization. 

Let Localize Help You Enter the Russian Market

An English-only website will only hinder you from reaching a Russian audience. So, if you are considering entering this potentially lucrative market, feel free to reach out to us. Localize can help you localize for Russia, so give us a shout-out today. 

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