A Word from Russia's Biggest Online Store
Good day to you all.
Today I'll be bringing another interview to you. But today's one is going to be quite different from the previous one. Today I'm happy to introduce you Maria Nazamutdinova, PR-manager at Ozon.ru, the biggest Internet-retailer in Russia! And although the business she's dealing with is really huge (about 6 million registered customers this year) and rapidly growing (it was 4.8 million in the previous year), she still has something to tell small business owners.
Konstantin: Hello Maria! To kick off with, could you briefly tell how's the year 2011 been for Ozon? I believe the official statistics are not yet available, but maybe you could describe it to us.
Maria: Hi Konstantin, yes, the annual totals are not yet collected, normally we present them in the beginning of April at our annual press conference. The most popular goods are traditionally books, then goes electronics and then all the other categories.
Konstantin: Ozon.ru is the biggest Internet-store in Russia. Please tell our readers a little about how it all began and how has Ozon become what it has.
Maria: It all started in 1998 in Saint Petersburg with the website where book lovers used to share opinions about latest books. Step by step this project has grown up to a bookstore.
Today we have over 1,500,000 titles in stock. These are not only books, but also electronics, kids wares, housekeeping products, music, movies, cosmetics, antiques, e-readers, shoes, and more. We have about 700,000 visitors daily and 1,000 delivery points across the whole country.
Konstantin: How often do you get that “Ozon is just Russian Amazon, they even sound similar” bit? Does such comparison offend you at all?
Maria: No, it doesn’t. Actually, it’s quiet the opposite. That’s exactly what we want — to be Amazon in Russia, for our customers. Already today we offer a huge selection. Ozon was founded a little later than Amazon (2 years). We both started with books, then added multimedia products and lots of other categories later. And we currently develop as a merchant service as well.
Konstantin: How’s customer activity growing on the threshold of the holidays? Is it correct to say that the tendencies on Russian market are similar to the ones in Europe and the USA?
Maria: New Year is the main holiday for Russians when people just don’t want to save on the festive table and gifts for their loved ones. For us it is the most active period of year: sales growth starts in November and continues up to the very holidays. New Year is our top sales.
Konstantin: Do you see any basic differences between a Russian and, say, an American buyer? What is that difference if there are any? Would Ozon be different if was not based in Russia?
Maria: Well, we are indeed a little behind in the level of the Internet circulation (I mean mostly small towns, of which there’s a lot in Russia), although the fact that Russia has taken the lead among all the European countries in the number of the Internet users makes me just happy (see the research by comScore).
In Russia more people (in comparison with the United States and Europe) pay in cash — 80% of our orders are paid in cash. Some common mistrust for the Internet shopping still exists, but the situation gets better every day.
Konstantin: Is it hard doing business in Russia? What about the (in)famous Post of Russia?
Maria: We build our own delivery system across Russia, we are already present in all major cities. Still, there are some back lands, which are reachable by Post of Russia only, and that’s very valuable for us. Unlike western countries, Russia has good industry growth rates. And huge development prospective.
Konstantin: In one of my previous blog posts I mentioned that the level of design is generally higher in Runet compared to the one in Europe and maybe even the USA. (I proposed an Amazon.com vs. Ozon.ru comparison as a proof of that statement).
Ozon.ru works with Art. Lebedev Studio, doesn’t it? Please tell how the redesign by the most well-known design studio in Russia has affected your sales? Do you personally see good design as a powerful marketing tool?
Maria: Yes, the new design from Lebedev’s studio had quiet a positive impact on our sale rates, unfortunately the exact values and numbers can’t be disclosed. Generally design and site usability are very important for an online store: it must be intuitively clear for a customer what they should do next, how to put a product into cart, how to place an order, etc.
Konstantin: And the final question, what advice could you give to our readers who plan to expand to Russian ecommerce market?
Maria: I’d advise not to be afraid to come to Russia, our country has big potential in ecommerce. Offer unique products and services, occupy the areas that are still free.
Konstantin: Thanks for the great answers Maria!
Maria: Thank you!