Testing the waters in Russian market

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Russia is a big uncertainty – huge territory with weak infrastructure, brand-savvy consumers with low per capita income, unpredictable past and future as well as double-digit numbers of internet sales growth. The market of great attractiveness and great risks, the place where one can lose by both coming and not coming here. How to tackle this problem, to make a wise and well-informed decision whether these waters are for you or not?

 

It seems that the simplest way is to use a business model that works already in the home country and stretch it to the new territory. Lean and efficient business processes so well tested and fine-tuned back home, logistics, customer care and marketing – if you have already succeeded once, why not replicate the success again? However, simplest is not always the smartest – huge cultural, legal and consumer perception differences can plunge you into large and risky investments with unpredictable return rate.


Market reviews will give you general understanding of major trends and numbers, but they will never tell you what will happen to your brand in Russia. The better way is to test the waters, probe the customer, watch his brand attitude, behavior and needs and build your launch strategy based on that knowledge. There are several ways to test the Russian waters.

ANALYSE SEARCH TRAFFIC

Simply digging into WordStat tool of Yandex (Largest Russian search engine) will fill you with a wealth of knowledge about your product category, competitors and the level of interest to your brand if it is already somehow present in the market. Check the trends in search volume growth, analyze seasonal peaks, see the regions and cities where your product or product category is mostly and least popular. Give special attention to the words that have been used together with the word you are searching for – deep analysis will bring you new ideas how the product can be promoted and what are the real needs customers are filling in with your product.

 

Use SEO parcing tools to get additional keywords for your analysis and consideration. This kind of search can give you the first idea how to segment the customer base and which traffic sources could work best when you are ready to launch your business in Russia. Bear in mind linguistic differences between Russian and English languages – Russian language is much richer in synonyms and ways to explain the same things in a different way, nouns have endings that may alter the meaning of the word – use native Russian speakers to build and check the semantic kernel for your product.


How long it takes to set up the tool: no set-up needed


Budget from: free


Results: traffic volume projections, customer segments, consumer needs, consumer language, consumption patterns, opportunities for up-and cross-selling and partnerships

CHECK THE MARKETPLACES

Local marketplaces such as Yandex Market can give you a quick snapshot what you can expect in the country with your product offer – just starting from the analysis of what’s already available, if there’s already someone else selling your product and at what price and followed by more sophisticated tests on price elasticity. You definitely will not make a fortune selling your product like this (well, there is always a place for an exception) and will not establish conscious and controlled brand presence in the territory, but it would be a good quick test to see the demand for different product lines. eBay is quite active in Russia and Aliexpress has ambitious plans here as well – testing your product presence on few major marketplaces will poor a wealth of practical marketing knowledge on your future in the country.

 

How long it takes to set up the tool: few days – weeks depending on product


Budget from: GBP 100


Results: demand estimate, price elasticity analysis

SET UP A CONTEXT AND SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN

As simple as that. It never hurts to run a Google or Yandex ads directing right to your website. This is not a sales effort – English-language website, no delivery to Russia will be almost an unpassable barrier and you won’t make any sales out of it, but marketing data on click-through rate, channels and keywords, results of different targeting options will spare you from many expensive mistakes. Just be very careful with budget estimates – low conversion and high drop-off rates will inevitably push your prices up for such adverts, setting up proper local language website will substantially improve consumer behavior and CPC.


How long it takes to set up the tool: few days – weeks depending on product


Budget from: GBP 100


Results: demand estimate, kewords efficiency, consumer behavior stats

LAUNCH A LANDING PAGE

Making one step further, set up a local language landing page. Keep all brick-and-mortar components as simple as possible at this point of time – you are not trying to make any profit out of it or sell as much as you can, the purpose is to learn, test and improve. Invest in options, testing different product lines, channels, prices, delivery times, options and marketing catches. The more A/B tests you will run, the better idea you will have about consumer behavior, preferences and needs.


After completing this exercise, you will be armed with actual, practical, specific knowledge about your product perception in Russia, clear vision of marketing budget you will need to set your business here, good idea about tools that will and will not work in your case and major things you need to do first. This will save you a lot of time and resources when you decide you are ready for commercial market entry. By the way, landing pages you have built can continue to serve you as a test zone for your new products and marketing activities when you are already present in the country.


How long it takes to set up the tool: few days – weeks depending on product


Budget from: GBP 200


Results: product portfolio analysis, marketing budget forecast, comparison of communication channel efficiency, sales funnel analysis, consumer behavior


Russia is a sleeping giant – it pays off to test the waters now and be the first to greet it when it wakes up.

 

If you would like more information on expanding your online business into Russia, why not take a look at our detailed International eCommerce Russia Passport.


Interested to know more about marketing in Russia? Call + 7 921 303 91 99 or drop me a line at olga@gusseva.com - it never hurts to chat about the topic you are interested in.


About author:

 

Olga Gusseva
Crossborder marketing expert in Russia
+ 7 921 303 91-99, olga@gusseva.com

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