The GWI data from the last quarter of 2012 indicated Russia as the fastest growing e-commerce market in Europe, with 19.59% growth between Q2 2012 and Q4 2012. This is based on the percentage change in the number of GWI respondents who purchased a product online via PC in the past month.
The growth of 19.59% in the last 6 months of 2012 is nearly five times higher than the average 4% calculated across nine European countries surveyed by GWI. The total e-commerce activity on PC in Russia has risen by 93.13% over the period of 18 months with an average growth rate of 23.28% every six months. This makes Russia the absolute growth leader in European e-commerce.
The upward trend in the number of internet users in Russia is the main factor fuelling its e-commerce boom. The internet population in the country has grown by 87% between July 2009 and December 2012 and now accounts for 55.45 million users, representing 54% of the total population. Having overtaken Germany, France and the UK, Russia is currently the largest online market in Europe.
This growth would not be possible without the development of the communication infrastructure. GWI data shows the gradual shift away from the traditional types of connection such as DSL Broadband towards greater diversity of internet access technologies, including mobile internet, starting from Q4 2011.
The growing size of the market and improved infrastructure has attracted investors. Previously benefiting from a lack of competition, the country’s leading online company Ozon.ru now competes against a wider range of players such as KupiVIP and Lamoda (clothes, shoes and accessories), Biglion (group shopping) and Wikimart (online retailer) to name a few.
The e-commerce boom has also benefited the leading Russian search engine, Yandex, which enjoys 93% penetration - 10 percentage points higher than global leader Google. Russia’s largest online company is expected to multiply its profits thanks to the increased demand for online advertising. According to GWI Q4 2012 data, 72% of Russian internet users searched for a product to buy via their Laptop/PC. Product search also falls into the category of top five internet usage motivations, with 26.46 million of Russians connecting in order to research/find products to buy.
Despite the current e-commerce surge, Russia is still looking up to the leaders in the European region – the UK, France and Germany. According to GWI Q4 2012 data, the UK remains Europe’s front-runner in online purchases conducted via PC, with 74% of internet users claiming they bought a product online in the past month. Sweden (26%) and Poland (23%) have the largest number of users researching and buying products via their mobile phones.
E-commerce via PC in Sweden has been growing at a slower pace than other countries, increasing by 1.33% on average every six months between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012. Poland, on the other hand, has maintained a rapid increase in online sales (8.52% between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012) thanks to relatively stable economy, continuously growing internet penetration (18.30 million internet users in Wave 8 (Q4 2012)) and the recent introduction of online shopping services by a number of global retail giants such as France’s Carrefour, the UK’s Tesco and US company Amazon.
Mobile is one of the key spheres in Russian e-commerce that still needs to be further developed. At the moment, Russia ranks second last in Europe in terms of the number of users who purchased a product via their mobile phone: 26% of the internet population use their smartphones in order to search for products to buy. Nevertheless, a strong sign of progress is in the on-going expansion of mobile internet structures observed above.