Despite a difficult trading year in 2015, luxury brands are staging a comeback in the Russian marketplace, according to customer engagement specialists Contactlab and investment company Exane BNP Paribas.
However, some brands appear to be better than others when it comes to adapting their offering to Russian consumers. For example, only four brands are offering Russian-language customer service.
The luxury market in Russia is now valued at €3.5 billion following a 5% growth in sales compared to the previous year and representing 1.4% of luxury sales worldwide. Given the fact that Russian luxury consumers spend on average 60% more than their global counterparts, Contactlab has found surprisingly lax attempts to reach Russian consumers among leading luxury brands.
The study, titled “Luxury in Russia: the comeback,” analyzed 32 brands and ranked them across different metrics, notably the strength of Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and Loro Piana in the key area of digital customer experience.
These brands perform well when it comes to localized Russian websites, product selection, and Russian-language mobile apps, among other criteria. The report shows how Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, and Swatch are the only international brands that engage Russian customers on social-media platforms, such as Twitter and VK.
Growth potential in ecommerce
Perhaps the largest area of potential growth for luxury brands in Russia is ecommerce. Ecommerce penetration in Russia (as a percentage of total retail sales) lags behind other international marketplaces. Worldwide penetration in 2015 was 7%; in Russia, it was only 2.5%. Nineteen brands offer Russian websites, but some brands, such as Valentino, Hermès, Chanel, Prada, and Zegna, still rely on worldwide websites and neglect to tailor content for local consumers.
“The Russian market represents huge growth potential for global luxury brands,” says Massimo Fubini, CEO of Contactlab.
“Some luxury brands are well behind the curve in the Russian marketplace and in engaging with Russian customers. It is surprising how few international brands are on the Russian social-media landscape as this is a key area to reach people in a personal way and build a relationship with the brand.”
The report highlights a gulf between luxury brands in terms of customer care. Only four brands currently offer phone and email assistance in Russian, with rivals Chanel, Gucci, Hermès, and Prada conspicuous in their lack of localized service.
“As we have seen, ecommerce in the luxury sector remains an untapped market for many brands, with a great number of Russian consumers unreached at the current time,” Fubini continues. “We were surprised at how some companies have not put together complementary newsletters, local content, and URLs.” He notes that the exception is Armani, which is leading the way with content that “really speaks to the local market.”
Some brands, according to Fubini, are “clear leaders” in giving “a rounded service” to Russian consumers, specifically phone and email assistance, and personal services, such as style advisory and in-store appointments.
“Building a footprint in this market requires brands to be fully committed in offering a full array of services and making their customers feel valued and secure in their purchases.”