… but still has some work to do
Joining the ranks of leading international e-commerce companies like Amazon, Kayak, Airbnb and eBay either announcing plans or opening a localized Russian offering, UK-based ASOS has officially launched the Russian version of its site.
The ASOS Russia country site is the latest edition to the company’s country-specific sites, joining the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Australia. Importantly, this is their first localized site in an “emerging market” country. A dedicated China site is due to launch by the end of 2013.
So how does it compare to indigenous Russian companies, from a Russian customer’s point of view?
- Product descriptions: Product descriptions in Russian are adequate and follow the style of the main site.
- FAQs: There is extensive information in Russian about topics such as ordering, delivery and returns.
- Site search: ASOS site search is well executed. Searching the site for “очки gucci” (gucci sunglasses) returns the expected product listing, as does the more challenging test of “очки гуччи”.
- Delivery cost and options: While the company offers free delivery thoughout Russia, the standard service is through the lamentable Russian Post (and possibly EMS). However, customers can upgrade to SPSR, a private courier service.
Areas for improvement
- Customer service: ASOS Russia does not list any telephone number, Russian or otherwise — the only method of contact is via an online form. Russian customers generally expect to be able to contact online retailers via telephone or chat.
- Payment options: are limited to credit cards and PayPal whereas the majority of online fashion sales in Russia are made via cash-on-delivery. About 80% of fashion goods are sold in this manner.
- Returns: Returned products must be sent to the company’s warehouse in the UK with the cost to be borne by the customer.
- Blog: the link to the ASOS blog is in Russian, thus elevating expectations, but once you click through, all of the blog content is in English.
- Social media: While ASOS established a Russian Facebook group on 18 April 2013, it doesn’t have a VK group (VK being the dominant social media property in Russia, albeit one with a less upscale demographic than Facebook). Their Russian Facebook group (AsosRu) uses some nifty re-direct coding so that Russian users see only the AsosRu group while at the same time this new group inherits the 2.3 million members of their main group (ASOSOfficial). This latter point belongs in the “Well done” section!
- Content and display: Pricing in kopeks is a cute feature… virtually all Russian sites omit them, given that 1 ruble is about 3 US cents.
ASOS Russia falls far short of the service levels being offered by local fashion e-tailers like LaModa, Wildberries and Ozon. It doesn’t seem that ASOS is trying to compete with them, but rather make their site more friendly to existing Russian customers.
The “look and feel” and selection of merchandise on ASOS positions it as more upscale than LaModa or Ozon and their target customer base is more likely to be of a higher income level, which arguably reduces the need for a localized Russian site. In this sense, ASOS’ product selection is more comparable to upscale Russian fashion sites like TrendsBrands.ru or TopBrands.ru, but with more competitive prices.
It’s a major hindrance to the company’s efforts in Russia that their distribution centre remains in the UK — this has a negative impact on delivery times to Russia, introduces potential complications with cross-border procedures, and discourages Russian customers from ordering in cases where they are unsure about sizing, etc., since there is quite a large cost and time loss in the case of returns.
Overall, it is a good sign that ASOS is trying to accommodate current and future Russian customers — a Russian site and social media presence definitely help to reach out to aspirational Russian customers. But if one of the goals is to target such aspirational customers, it makes sense to have a social media presence on VK in addition to Facebook.
In summary, this “Russian launch” is basically a translation of their English site. The company hasn’t undertaken any true localization of its operations and will thus have limited effectiveness in expanding its addressable market in Russia.