26 May 2017
Cross-border E-commerce Activity Soars Across Russian Regions
Conventional retail sector giving way to growth of digital purchasing both domestically and internationally.
Russia's retail sector is gradually being subsumed, as e-commerce takes over as the country's favoured route to purchase. Conventional modes of shopping are, however, leaving something of legacy, at least according to the latest report by AKIT (The Russian Association of e-Commerce Companies), which sees many of the factors that shaped High Street trading still having an impact on its digital counterpart.
According to the report, the Central Federal District (CFD) accounts for the largest proportion of e-commerce activity, representing more than 50% of the national total. Within the CFD, Moscow and the Moscow Region together represent more than 80% of the total. Despite this, the CFD now has the slowest per annum growth rate of any Russian region, making many believe that its level of e-commerce activity is approaching saturation point.
In terms of cross-border e-commerce activity, however, the CFD still retains a commanding lead. While domestic e-commerce within the region grew by only 6% in 2016, cross-border purchases soared by 40%. A similar phenomenon has been observed in St Petersburg and the adjacent Leningrad Region, with both recording a 30% rise in cross-border activity in 2016. This rapid rise has been confirmed by data from the Post of Russia, which handles the delivery component of the majority of such transactions.
Away from the country's major metropolitan areas, a number of other bright spots for regional cross-border e-commerce activity have emerged. These include the Krasnodar and Rostov Regions, both in the South Federal District, and the Sverdlovsk Region, adjacent to the city of Yekaterinburg, an area regarded as the heartland of Russia's heavy industries.
It is a generally-held consensus that the growth in e-commerce activity in these regions has been spurred by wider economic developments. Most market analysts concur that increased e-commerce activity directly correlates with the enhanced economic development of these regions. With Sochi, Krasnodar and Kazan all topping the league for inward investment, for instance, it is no surprise that their levels of e-commerce activity are correspondingly high.
In regional terms, much of this growth is being driven by many of the national electronics and toy retail chains whose e-commerce activity has already peaked in Moscow and St Petersburg. This has seen them leveraging on their local physical presences in order to boost their digital offer in the more affluent regional cities.
Detsky Mir, Russia's largest national toy chain, for instance, has recorded significant online sales growth in the South Federal District, which includes the cities of both Sochi and Krasnodar. Svyaznoy, a national smartphones, wearables and accessories chains, has reported similar success.
In the case of Ozon.ru, the country's largest domestic e-commerce player and a business frequently referred to as 'Russia's Amazon', it is said to be enjoying a substantial growth in sales in the Northwest Federal District, which extends across St Petersburg and Leningrad. This, apparently, is at least partly down to the Post of Russia's new next-day delivery service.
Beyond electronics and toys, a number of other sectors have also enjoyed robust recent growth in terms of online sales, most notably fashion garments, footwear and accessories. Taking a lead here have been three national players – KupiVIP, Wildberries and LaModa.
All such players have testified as to the huge and positive impact that the wider availability of high-speed broadband connections has had on their businesses. As of the end of 2016, 56% of Russian households had access to broadband, a 5% year-on-year increase.
For Hong Kong traders looking to capitalise on Russia's growing enthusiasm for cross-border e-commerce, it is worth evaluating the most cost-effective delivery options on offer. Looking to take a lead here is the Post of Russia, in association with its overseas agents and partner companies. Reviewing the rates offered by the mainland's leading delivery companies, such as SF and EMS, is also advisable. There is also a number of Russian and international e-commerce logistics companies offering competitive rates in order to build their market share in this hugely lucrative sector.
Leonid Orlov, Moscow Consultant