Russia is large
First, to understand why Russia is interesting for you as a market: 145 million people. Largest online audience in Europe. 30% of the world's natural resources. Strong Oil & Gas, Chemical, and Mining Industries with an appetite for Western technology and machines. These figures show that Russia covers more than most of the markets that are eligible for global business development. Nevertheless, Russia is often seen by Western companies as a market that tends to be viewed at the bottom of the league. Everything we hear in the news, trade sanctions, political tensions and relatively slow economic growth have given Russia an unfortunate reputation in recent years.
Europe-friendly and online
While there is truth in these points, they also mean that the untapped potential for Western companies is correspondingly high, which can be reaped with good profits for those who take the step to get involved. For most types of companies, there are many reasons to consider Russia as a perfect expansion market. In Russia, there is a steadily growing interest in foreign industrial and technical products. European brands are considered more reliable and of better quality than machines of Russian or Asian/Chinese origin. China has partially filled the gaps recently. They now account for a much larger share of Russian imports of machinery and consumer goods than 5 years ago. However, habits and perceptions of quality take decades to change completely, and if presented in the right way with the right attitude and care, European products generally still are preferred. Moreover, Moscow and St. Petersburg are much further in the transition to digital societies than many European countries. Russia has the largest online audience in Europe and the eighth largest in the world, with almost 40 million Internet users more than Germany. Most recently, online trade in Russia has reached a volume of 31 billion dollars and is expected to double by 2025. Russians are a very digital society in their daily lives. Paying taxes or other communication with authorities and banks, calling taxis, paying parking, ordering food is largely done online. Only a few years ago, Russian private consumers were still hesitant to shop online with foreign providers. This has changed. Trust in cross-border transactions is growing thanks to the increased quality of finance and logistics.
Language is an issue
All this new openness to cross-border trade does not mean, however, that one can rely on English as language of communication. Only 3% of Russians speak fluent English. Hence, to reach the other 97%, you need to localize your content into Russian. You need Russian native speakers engaging with your audience, who understand the nuances of the language and know how to use them for effective marketing.
Social media is important
Social media is an important marketing channel all over the world. Also in Russia. But here the social media landscape is a bit different than we are used to. In the West, the vast majority of us google things, make business contacts in Linkedin or Xing, and connect with friends via Facebook. In Russia, Google and Facebook have much less reach, only 35% and 10% of the market share respectively. LinkedIn is officially banned on the Russian territory; the page cannot be accessed. Russians prefer the search engine Yandex and the Facebook clone VK, or Odnoklassniki, another social network for the slightly older generation. There is no real equivalent for a business network like LinkedIn yet. Professionali.ru, a similar network, focuses mainly on job search aspects, not on networking and content delivery. Nevertheless, you should know that Russians spend more time in social media than users in any other country.
Ready to engage
If you take these things into account and set up your online approach with the right partner, a website and a social media campaign can be great to connect with the Russian audience in B2B and B2C without having to have an own company in Russia.
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