Going global isn’t easy, but chinese e-commerce brands are ready to accept the challenge. Alibaba Group’s largest online brand AliExpress even managed to wriggle into favor of “uneasy neighbors”. Let’s see what’s the secret behind their smashing success in Putin’s land.


Why Russia is a tasty morsel for AliExpress

Russian economy hit by a double whammy of low oil prices and economic sanctions is going through a hard times. In this situation more than 60 famous global brands left the Russian market over the last few years and dozens of others are currently thinking over quitting, too. The mid-segment, which includes brands like Zara, Mexx or Mango, felt the hardest pressure, while the luxury segment remained untouched and felt most stable. Mass-market and e-commerce are the only segments experiencing a rapid growth, which isn’t surprising, now that 60% of Russians confirmed they pick a shop by low price.

AliExpress is among those brands that turned the market’s big troubles into their own advantages. It was especially important for them in the times, when their sales in China slowed down. AliExpress became the most popular online retailer with over 15 million users in Russia, which is twice bigger than country’s own Ozon.ru shop number of visitors.

Russia’s internet penetration levels doubled in the last five years, which opened up zillions of opportunities for brands’ expanding to the market, and AliExpress didn’t fail to make use of them. Implementation of marketing localization strategies helped them to win over trust of the populace, and here’s how.


Going global by becoming local

Language & culture

“The challenge for marketers is to find a way of striking a balance between core global brand objectives and creating, or adapting, content so it speaks to consumers in market”, says Paula Shannon, Lionbridge’s Chief Sales Officer. The first step to achieving this goal is to make a careful translation, so that all of the website content elements were available in a language your target country speaks. Which is why the very first move AliExpress made was launching a Russian-language website in April last year. However, they didn’t just stop right there, understanding that a simple translation isn’t enough, so they opened an office in Russia two months later to be closer to customers and study their culture.


Social media platforms

Facebook maybe conquered the world, but Russia still remains one of those countries that didn’t fully fall under its influence. The leading social network, VK.com, has over 80 million user visits daily, which is twice the size of Facebook’s in Russia. However, apart from a choice of a social platform brands have to take into account a specific users behavior. For instance, Facebook is still considered to be more like a professional network, where they add their peers and love to discuss business trends and political news with them, while VK.com remains a place for silly jokes and guilty pleasures.

AliExpress. Russia. Content Marketing. Vkontakte

So, AliExpress began its Russian social media presence in VK not only because it has a bigger audience in Russia than Facebook, but also because its users more prone to open discussions and therefore better engage with one another and a brand. From a small community it grew to over 2 million users, thanks to implementing gamification principles through all sorts of contests and sharing users’ stories.


Mobile shopping

Mobile internet penetration is growing rapidly in Russia: it more than doubled during the year. This means that smartphones become an essential part of daily Internet usage, which is why e-commerce businesses also need to adapt new mobile strategies and become m-commerce as well. While a demand for mobile-friendly website seems obvious, what e-commerce brands often forget about is the importance of mobile apps with push notifications. Custora study showed that 78% of users prefer mobile app over mobile browsers. What is more, according to Localytics, push notifications drive 88% more app launches and e-commerce sees 278% rise in engagement. Tremendous, right?

AliExpress quickly jumped on the mobile app bandwagon and launched its own shopping app tailored to local usage in April last year. Their app supports all kinds of user interactions in Russian language and now even accepts Mir payment cards, which made it significantly more popular than local alternatives.


aliexpress vs local shopping apps in russia


Just like any other markets Russian has its own peculiar features brands need to take into account, when penetrating the market. Even though Russian economic affected by socio-political changes is seeing hard times, e-commerce experiences a heyday. With AliExpress revenues from sales in Russia skyrocketing it’s getting obvious that the region can become a key market for global content marketing strategy, if players do their homework and learn the rules.

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