"E-commerce truly meets Russian consumer demand in a way that traditional retail cannot -- it gives shoppers the option to choose for themselves when and where they want to purchase their personal goods," said Mark Zavadskiy, general manager of Alibaba Russia. "Chinese sellers have grown in popularity with Russian consumers because they have the products consumers want at prices they want to pay. It makes sense that we follow this demand."
With a $14.5 billion e-commerce market, Russia has a few local players, including Ulmart and Ozon, but there's still room for Alibaba to sweep in and provide a selection and price otherwise unavailable.
As an emerging market, Russia poses an opportunity for Alibaba to get in early before other players emerge to challenge them. Amid this lack of competition, Alibaba offers a selection of products that Russian consumers likely wouldn't have access to otherwise. "Consumers [in Russia] have fewer retail choices compared to consumers in similar economies," said Erik Gordon, an expert in Chinese businesses and a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Alibaba first launched a global marketplace, known as AliExpress, in 2010, and it has since launched a Russian-langauge version tailored specifically to consumers in Russia. Over the past three years, Alibaba has partnered with different payment solutions providers in Russia (QIWI, WebMoney, and Yandex Money) to make the transaction process more convenient for Russian consumers. In February, Alibaba partnered with Russian delivery company SPSR Express to improve its logistics in the area.