Russia is a cornerstone of BRIC, the acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China. BRIC represents the four largest and fastest growing economies in the developing world. Russia is one of the largest economies in Europe which has an increasing demand for consumer products, propelled by the growing Russian middle class. Doing business in Russia via Russian websites requires careful consideration of economic, cultural and linguistic factors.
Growth of Russian E-Commerce
Russia’s main economic partner is the European Economic Union (EU), which accounts for more than half of Russia’s external trade. Private consumption accounts for over half of Russian GDP and has been the primary driver for growth in the Russian economy in recent years.
- Small, specialized companies currently dominate Russian e-commerce.
- The majority of Russian online sales are paid for with cash upon home delivery.
- The Russian advertising market will increase to $17.2 billion in 2010, making Russian the sixth largest global market for advertising.
- Russian B2C (Business-to-Consumer) e-commerce is still somewhat limited due to low penetration rates on the Internet, restricted purchasing power of Russian consumers and limited use of Russian credit cards.
- Some grocery stores in Moscow and St. Petersburg now offer online ordering, illustrating growth of Russia’s online market.
Russian Consumer Values and Decision Making
- Russian Family and Friends: Home shopping is growing quickly in Russia as there is a tradition of accessing goods and services from a network of family and friends. Russian home shopping does not refer to western-style home shopping channels, but instead to sales people coming to a person’s home to sell goods directly.
- Russian Fashion: Following European fashion trends is considered an important sign of Russian consumer status.
- Convenience: Russian consumers prefer shopping at small shops close to their homes rather than going out-of-town to larger stores.
- Price: Russian consumers are very price-sensitive and want to get the most value for their money.
- Preference for Russian Brands: Russian consumers believe that Russian brands are less expensive than products from overseas. Purchasing Russian brands is considered patriotic, and Russian brands are believed to be healthier because they are made from local ingredients.
The Russian Language
There are approximately 227 million Russian language speakers worldwide. Russian is the most widely spoken Slavic language, and it belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. Russian is one of three living members of the East Slavic languages, which also includes Belarusian and Ukrainian.
The Russian language uses 33 letters and a modified version of the Cyrillic alphabet. Russian letters are divided into 11 vowels, 20 consonants and 2 letters that do not designate any sound.
Russian uses both print and cursive Cyrillic scripts. Russian is usually spelled and pronounced phonetically, but there are several unique rules to the Russian writing system and pronunciation.
Russian Website Localization Considerations
Russian Icons and Symbols
An ancient culture like Russia has a long list of symbols and icons that carry special cultural meaning. It is very important to be aware of Russian cultural perception in order to avoid serious cultural blunders or inadvertent use of offensive symbols.
- Flowers: It is rude to present a woman or hostess with an even number of flowers, as this number of flowers is reserved for funerals.
- Gestures: It is considered rude to point a single finger. The full hand should be extended instead.
- Hand Shaking: It is considered rude and impolite to shake hands with gloves on or across a threshold.
- Bragging or boasting: It is believed that bragging can have a negative effect on a project or venture and prevent future success.
- Religion: Many Russians keep religious icons in their homes. According to Russian Orthodox tradition, it is frowned upon to either wear shoes or to say something negative about someone in front of a religious icon.
- Weddings: Rain on a wedding day means that the couple will be wealthy.
Russian Meaning for Color
- Red: Bolsheviks and communism
- Orange: Creativity
- Yellow: Hope or hazard
- Blue: Depression or sadness
Russian SEO and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
The key to successfully promoting Russian websites is to appropriately localize website content and carefully select Russian keywords. You should also register local Russian domains and then promote them through local Russian search engines (Yandex), affiliate marketing, as well as online and offline branding and positions appropriate to the Russian language.
A Russian SEM campaign should be multi-dimensional for both short-term and long-term success. Using Russian PPC (Pay-Per-Click) campaigns on targeted Russian websites and Russian search engines is one way to produce immediate results and also to become familiar to consumers that are targeted in various Russian-speaking locales.
Your long term Russian SEM plan should also include the use of targeted Russian keywords and possibly some keywords in other languages from the selected consumer locale. Since Russians prefer to sense personal relationships with companies they do business with, it is important to capture this feeling through carefully crafted advertisements. One way to accomplish this is by procuring specific Russian domain names.
The top level domain in Russia is .ru. In addition, other domains that are popular in Russia are .com, .org, .net, .info and .biz and variations of these with .ru either before or after them. Russia also has responsibility for the legacy domain “.su”, representing the former Soviet Union, which is being phased out (CIA World Factbook, 2007). There are currently approximately 4,822,000 websites being hosted in Russia (CIA World Factbook, 2008). Cyrillic domain names have been allowed and registered in Russia since 2001. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a Cyrillic domain name for easier local recognition and further website cultural customization.
Getting Maximum Results from Russian SEO and Russian SEM
When globalizing and localizing your Russian website it is important to research cultural and linguistic issues for the specific Russian locale which you are targeting. Your localization agency should have extensive experience in this market and should be able to provide you with appropriate Russian keywords for Russian SEO (search engine optimization) and Russian SEM (search engine marketing) based on glossaries created from previous translation projects. Make sure that your localization partner has sufficient experience localizing Russian keyword lists and optimizing Russian SEO.