Re­tail Go­ing On­line

In 2013 Be­laru­sians made 4.7 mil­lion pur­chases on­line

Economy of Belarus - - FRONT PAGE -

On­line shop­ping sneaked into our lives a long time ago by push­ing away off­line com­pe­ti­tion. Nearly half of Be­larus’ adult pop­u­la­tion has made at least some on­line pur­chases. An av­er­age con­sumer spends about $300 on on­line shop­ping and makes slightly more than three pur­chases ev­ery six months. The most common types of prod­ucts bought on­line in­clude phones and com­put­ers, equip­ment, ap­parel and cos­met­ics, cin­ema tick­ets and flight tick­ets. On­line shop­ping is so popular be­cause it is fast, con­ve­nient and of­fers great deals. As a re­sult, in Jan­uary-June 2014 Be­laru­sians made over 2.5 mil­lion on­line pur­chases. In 2014 the num­ber of regis­tered on­line shops dou­bled in com­par­i­son with 2013 to reach 10,500 in Oc­to­ber. The prospects of on­line shop­ping and the is­sues fac­ing on­line re­tail­ers to­day were dis­cussed at a round­table ses­sion held as part of the expo Bank.In­surance.Leas­ing, with the Be­laru­sian na­tional pay­ment sys­tem BELKART co-or­ga­niz­ing the event.

Gov­ern­ment and On­line Re­tail Business That Fits Any Size

A ma­jor step to pro­tect con­sumer rights was made in 2014 when the new trade law re­quired on­line business plat­forms to en­able con­di­tions con­ducive to the pro­tec­tion of con­sumer rights and the ob­ser­vance of on­line shop­ping laws.

“We ac­tively co­op­er­ate with all plat­forms. We have de­vel­oped guide­lines for In­ter­net ser­vice providers that of­fer on­line shop host­ing ser­vices. The guide­lines spell out re­quire­ments for ev­ery party tak­ing into ac­count the in­ter­ests of sell­ers and buy­ers,” stressed Irina Barysh­nikova.

It is re­mark­able that Be­laru­sian legislators de­fined the term “on­line shop” only a short while ago — in 2009 when de­scrip­tion-based trade reg­u­la­tions came into ef­fect. The gov­ern­ment’s reg­u­la­tion of this business started back then.

“That year marked the birth of on­line shop­ping in Be­larus, with rules en­forced to de­ter­mine in­ter­ac­tion be­tween sell­ers and buy­ers,” said Irina Barysh­nikova, Head of the Con­sumer Rights Pro­tec­tion and Ad­ver­tis­ing Con­trol Of­fice of the Be­laru­sian Trade Min­istry.

Since then the leg­is­la­tion on dig­i­tal com­merce has been de­vel­op­ing rather fast. Manda­tory reg­is­tra­tion of sell­ers was in­tro­duced in 2010. In 2012 all on­line shops were obliged to al­low their cus­tomers to pay for their pur­chases re­motely. In 2013 all on­line shops were in­structed to have cash reg­is­ters.

The on­line shop­ping mar­ket in Be­larus is still in its nas­cence but is full of prom­ise, ex­perts be­lieve. On­line shop­ping ac­counts for about 1.5% of the to­tal re­tail sales in Be­larus, with the weighted mean vol­ume of the mar­ket at $420 mil­lion in 2013.

Min­i­mum start-up in­vest­ment cou­pled with the pos­si­bil­ity of gain­ing quick re­turns at­tracts new play­ers in this business. It is re­mark­able that on­line shop­ping pri­mar­ily at­tracts self-em­ployed busi­ness­men. They own over half of the 10,500 regis­tered on­line shops. Ma­jor Be­laru­sian re­tail­ers are learn­ing the new kind of business slowly but steadily. On­line shops have been opened by the depart­ment stores TSUM, GUM, and Be­larus, the na­tional postal ser­vice provider Belpochta, the Be­laru­sian man­u­fac­tur­ers Bel­west, Pin­skdrev, Keramin, and the trad­ing house Na Nemige.

“The Min­istry en­cour­ages on­line ef­forts of man­u­fac­tur­ers and ma­jor re­tail­ers. We be­lieve that such eco­nomic op­er­a­tors will safe­guard con­sumer rights,” noted the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Be­laru­sian Trade Min­istry.

Yet par­tic­i­pants of the round­table ses­sion agreed that state-run busi­nesses need to put more ef­forts into rais­ing the aware­ness of con­sumers about their on­line pres­ence, should be more dar­ing in their pro­mo­tion of var­i­ous goods and ser­vices on the Web. For in­stance, Belpochta could of­fer its cus­tomers an on­line op­tion of or­ga­niz­ing a par­cel or pack­age from home com­puter and or­der­ing courier col­lec­tion. This would be much more ap­pre­ci­ated by con­sumers than sim­ply the op­por­tu­nity to buy en­velops and stamps on its web­site, said Yev­ge­nia Ch­ernyavskaya, head of the on­line shop­ping plat­form kupi.tut.by. Busi­nesses, which are fo­cused on re­tail, have even broader op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“On­line pres­ence is a must and is un­avoid­able. The sooner Be­laru­sian re­tail chains un­der­stand it, the bet­ter. Rus­sian, Chi­nese, and Euro­pean shops have been scal­ing their business for a long time, get­ting in­creased rev­enues thanks to on­line pres­ence,” stressed the ex­pert.

A project launched by Be­larus’ top off­line re­tailer Euroopt is an ex­am­ple of on­line shop­ping suc­cess. Regis­tered in June 2014, the on­line re­tail ser­vice of­fers over 3,000 prod­uct ti­tles at prices, which are 5% be­low those in Euroopt’s

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