Earlier this month eBay announced it is putting 100 million rubles ($1.37 million at the current exchange rate) in a new program to support Russian online retailers in their effort to develop sales abroad.
Dubbed ‘Open To All The World,’ the program targets specifically entrepreneurs who register on eBay for the first time and make available on the platform at least 100 types of items. Eligible sellers will receive free subscription to some of eBay’s services, receive training opportunities and support from a personal consultant.a
Supporting the program, Russian bank Otrkrytie has made available for free some of its support services.
The program also enjoys the support of Russian Export Center, a federal business support agency, and the authorities of Udmurtia. Online exporters from this region, 1,000 km east of Moscow, will be eligible for additional support.
The research agency Data Insight has estimated at $817 million the international sales of Russian online retailers in the three first quarters of 2019. More than 15 million parcels were sent abroad (up 53% from 2018) with an average order value of $52. Sales to neighboring Russian-speaking countries for 43% of total sales volumes, vs 57% for sales to Western and other countries (USA: 20.4%, large European markets: from 2% to 4%).
These numbers look extremely modest with regards to the global cross-border sales market, which is in the range of $1 trillion. As for inbound cross-border sales to Russia, they barely exceed $5 billion annually, according to data cited in East-West Digital News latest industry research.
New opportunities in times of pandemic
The Russian diaspora in Western countries accounts for some $15 million potential online consumers, notes EWDN e-commerce expert Vladimir Shirobokov.
So far, Russian e-commerce companies tended to neglect these international sales opportunities. “Opening a new pick-up point in a remote Siberian town looked more important to them than addressing the needs of millions of Russian-speaking consumers in the USA, Europe or Israel,” says Shirobokov.
Wildberries, the number one Russian company, is one of the very few companies having made significant steps in this direction recently.
As the Russian economy is being hit severely by the covid-19 pandemic, many more online retailers are showing increased interest in selling abroad. From early March to mid-April, More than 5,000 sellers from Russia opened an account on eBay, according to eBay’s director for emerging markets Ilya Kretov.
In that period, while Moscow and St. Petersburg accounted for the largest sales volumes, e-merchants from certain Russian regions have begun using the platform actively. More than 10,000 items were sold from Udmurtia, 3,500 from Belgorod (a city near the Ukrainian border) and 3,000 from the Krasnodar region (in the South of the country).
Last year fashion, collectibles and electronic goods were the most popular product categories from Russia, according to Data Insight, accounting for 39%, 15% and 12% in value, respectively.
Beyond these categories, the Russian assortment is very diverse. Maskulo, a company from Novosibirsk, is among the world’s leading manufacturer and online seller of men’s fetish wear.