eBay Diving Deep Into Russian Marketplace
By Kenneth Corbin
eBay is making a major move to boost its profile in the fast-growing Russian ecommerce market, taking the wraps off of a new marketplace with native-language listings. The company on Wednesday announced the launch of eBay.com in Russia, the formal coming out party for what had begun as a soft launch about two weeks ago, according to a company spokesman.
eBay touted the move as a significant expansion of its operations in the fast-growing Russian market, where it first opened an English-only marketplace 2010.
With the new site, eBay is pooling listings from sellers around the world that are available for shipping to Russia, and inviting Russian shoppers to search the site either in English or Cyrillic, with payments processed through PayPal.
In March, eBay announced that PayPal had won the blessing of Russian regulators to operate as a non-credit banking institution, a key step in making the payments service available in that country.
eBay is planning to support the launch with its first TV ad campaign in Russia, airing a spot "highlighting the vast selection" of products on the site in major markets like Moscow and St. Petersburg beginning April 8. The Russian-language ad, available on YouTube here, carries the tagline, "If you can buy it, you can buy it on eBay."
eBay's new site in Russia comes as an early step in what the company promises will be a major push into emerging markets and the so-called BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - over the next several years.
Through 2015, the company is looking ahead to a 6.5-fold increase in the number of active users in BRIC and emerging countries, and a four-fold spike in sales, according to Wendy Jones, eBay's vice president of cross border trade and geographic expansion. Growth in those markets is a key pillar of eBay's broader goal of doubling its overall number of active users over the next three years.
"These are certainly bold goals, but ones we believe are a hundred percent attainable," Jones said that at eBay's recent analyst day.
Jones explained that eBay's expansion into new markets will be marked by localized sites featuring products tailored to the tastes of that country's shoppers and presented in their native language, as well as improved logistical support for shipping and customer service and, of course, selection.
Perhaps more than any other market, Russia is a cornerstone of that strategy.
"We are very excited about our opportunity to establish a meaningful leadership position in Russia," Jones said.
Last year, Russian shoppers spent more than $400 million on eBay, amounting to 54 percent growth over the previous year, according to the company. The volume of active Russian users increased 75 percent last year, and has continued that upward trajectory so far this year.
The new site that eBay has unveiled addresses the language issue, and through a personalized "feed" the company is aiming to present the most relevant and appealing products on its home page.
But in Russia, where erratic shipping and delivery has been a particular challenge, eBay is expanding its operations on its own, unlike in China, where the company has forged a major partnership with the domestic ecommerce company Xiu.com to handle delivery, customer service and other logistics.
"eBay is handling everything by itself - there is no external partner," Steve Milton, director of global communications for eBay International, said of the Russian launch.
Additionally, while the expansion in Russia could present a significant opportunity for sellers in other markets around the world, eBay has yet to establish a marketplace for domestic merchants in that country to export goods to buyers in other countries.
"Imports only - for now," said Milton, declining to comment on any plans for establishing Russia as an export market.
About the author:
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects since 2007, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here.
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