Pandemic-led change in consumer behaviour is here to stay, says Russia’s leading online retailer

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By Daniil Fedorov, chief financial officer of Ozon, Russia’s leading multi-product e-commerce platform, founded in 1998

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing millions of people all over the world indoors, prompting them to change lifelong habits virtually overnight. People of all ages and backgrounds, those who were perhaps afraid to try something new, suddenly find themselves with little choice but to go digital. 

We at Ozon, Russia’s leading multi-product e-commerce platform, saw the number of new customers more than double in March (+101% in March 2020, compared with the same period last year). The number of sellers, who registered on our marketplace on 24 March alone surpassed 600 people and small businesses, a record for Ozon.

Moscow city government began urging its residents to limit social interactions and stay home in late March, following in the footsteps of New York and London, which communicated similar measures to their respective city dwellers a bit earlier. What we saw in Russia in days that followed is a surge in demand for exercise equipment, educational and lifestyle products. 

Demand for sporting goods for working out at home rose more than eightfold in late March and early April on an annual basis, sales of developmental games for kids jumped 120% year-on-year since the self-isolation period began and even X-rated toys for adults saw a 300% jump in sales on an annual basis. Demand has skyrocketed, as people scrambled to get everything they might need to happily pass the time at home.

Even though we have a robust and sophisticated logistics network to supply customers across Russia, the world’s largest country, this unprecedented surge in new orders means that we can employ more people in order to continue scaling up our capacity quickly. This is where I hope we may be able to support people made redundant in struggling sectors of the economy, such as travel or hospitality, by employing them at Ozon. 

In fact, we have already begun to do so through our partnership with Sheremetyevo, Russia’s largest airport, Sportmaster, a sporting goods retail chain, and Rosinter, which operates multiple restaurant chains and fast-food eateries. Ozon has recently created 200 new jobs and we pledge to create around 500 additional positions at our delivery service and logistics centers, ready to employ people, who are struggling in these difficult times.  We are also opening new positions at our fulfilment facility near Moscow, Russia’s most populous city. 

I’m heartened to see leadership from different companies coming together to help one another solve operational issues, which have arisen as a result of this pandemic. In turn, our cooperation will help consumers receive the best service and care, while they stay safely at home. 

As a leading multi-product e-commerce player, Ozon has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight in Russia. We get to see first-hand how people’s priorities and needs change over the course of this global crisis. We see that safety from this disease and the ability to cater to the needs of our customers flexibly take centre stage.  We are proud that as a company we have been able to support these needs. 

I’m very grateful to our staff, who have been instrumental in our ability to serve our mushrooming customer base by working on the frontlines and taking all the recommended precautions to help dampen the spread of COVID-19. 

The pandemic is still continuing to sweep the globe, but it will not last forever. However, the new consumer behaviour that it forges, as thousands of people discover the ease and convenience of online shopping is here to stay. Ozon is ready for the e-commerce revolution.