The Data Age

Big Data and Living in an Age of Data

The Data Age - Big Data and Living in an Age of Data

Ecommerce in Russia

By Edward Chenard:  Author, Speaker and thought leader in big data and personalization



I just returned from a trip to Russia where I spent just over a week in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  This was my first trip to Russia and it was an educational experience.  It is always good, in my opinion, to get out of one’s comfort zone and learn how others do things.  My experience in Russia helped me to see how others are using technology to conduct ecommerce.


Consumers Are Innovating Not Companies:

The first thing I noticed is that in Russia, the consumer is the driver in a lot of ways.  You can forget about advanced big data or personalization, it wasn’t happening.  There was still a sense of the old mentality of make money and focus only on that.  You paid for everything!  You could walk around town and still find places that will charge you to use the toilet.  That’s because a sense of making customers happy is still not there for a lot of places.


As a result of the lack of focus on consumers, the consumers are doing the work to satisfy themselves.  Many have smartphones and use them to get what they want to augment the experience.  In fact I noticed that people really didn’t expect much out of merchants.  I remember one of my experiences where a guy was too busy to answer my questions.  I was the only one in the store and I used my phone to look up the price and make a decision that his prices were too expensive.  If he had engaged me, his odds of making the sale would have been better.  This lack of service means the relationship between the consumer and the company is a poor one at best.  The consumers treat the merchants as commodities.  However, when I did get great service, it was noticed by the Russians and they commented on the great service and wanted it as well.  So there is clearly an appetite for it.



Mobile First

People certainly have PC’s and laptops but the use of mobile was much stronger than in the US.  Tablets and smartphones were everywhere.  In fact the craze for man purses in Russia I think is fueled mainly by men wanting to bring their tablets with them wherever they go and needed a case that isn’t too big to carry the tablets around.  Also, free wifi is everywhere in Russia, so it makes it easy for people to jump on their mobile device and start shopping.  I for one had no trouble finding wifi to connect to. 


Another reason for mobile first is the traffic.  Many people use public transportation to get around.  Unlike in many cities in Europe and the US, getting around was a task.  In St Petersburg, I was in a hotel outside the city center.  I had to walk a good 15-20 to get to the bus stop.  Now imagine it is January, do you really want to walk in that?  I wouldn’t.  Where as here in the US, I have easy access to home.  In Russia, the mobile device becomes the primary device because of that lack of easy access to go home.  If you have to take three subway trains to get home, it becomes a task.  I was told that Russians will leave home for a long time because it is a hassle to go home and do short trips.  And for those with a car, parking was not easy.  I often found people getting towed or parking on the side walk.  So this means that the mobile device becomes the primary tool for most Russians in these two cities.


Lack of Engagement

Most sites in Russia lack any real engagement for customers.  Thus there wasn’t any real need for big data or personalization.  However, that’s mainly a disconnect between the business and its consumers.  I went to two high end malls in Moscow, Gum and Tsum, the kind of places where you spend $500+ on a scarf.  I would expect a rich web experience to go along with them but no.  Gum didn’t even have wifi.  Such a waste of an opportunity.  If someone is willing to spend that kind of money on a scarf, give them a rich experience both online and offline.


Overall, I think Russia is a great opportunity for companies that want to have a rich web presence and engaging experience for customers.  The consumers want it and the tools are already all in place.  Give the people what they want.  Because most companies are not giving the consumers what they want, any company in Russia that does, will enjoy great market acceptance.



The End of E-commerce or the End of Silos

I saw this great article on the End of E-commerce.  I wanted to give my opinion on this as well as it is something I get to spend a lot of time thinking about, although in a very different way.  It isn’t really the end of e-commerce but the end of silos that needs to take place in retail.


Having cut my teeth in start ups during the dotcom era, I heard all kinds of comments about how e-commerce was going to kill the malls.  Well, most malls are still around.  In fact the one near my house got even bigger since the dotcom era.  The net did not kill physical stores, if anything, they made them more relevant.  I remember during the dotcom era, I was into the way under reported movement of cross commerce.  That was, taking the elements of the net and brining them into the retail space.  We knew the technology was not there but it would be in about 10-15 years, aka, right now.


When I look at retail today, I see tablets and phones that bring the web right into the store location.  What is an online sale and what is an in-store, there is almost no different now.  People do research online and buy in-stores and vice versa.  What smart retailers get is that you can’t have separate groups anymore, one handling the stores and the other handling online.  These are one in the eyes of consumers.


Think about it, when you shop at Walmart or Target, you don’t think, “gee, I’m dealing with the online team now, I should think differently about my consumer experience and realize it is not like the stores.”  Nobody thinks that way.  They see Target and think; it should be the same as the stores, same products and same brand promise.


For some retailers, this concept is revolutionary, but for the consumer, it is evolutionary.  The best companies in the near future are going to be the ones that are able to bridge all their channels in a seamless experience, both front and back.  And to be honest, nobody has done that to a truly evolutionary level.