Online auctions site eBay announced recently that they plan to open an eBay Russia store, aimed solely at the Russian market. The ebay.ru site will not only expand ebay’s reach into Russia, but make it much easier for Russian people to access a service that they have historically found it difficult to use.
The problem for Russian eBay users until now has mainly been difficulties in making payments – PayPal, the most widely recognised payment system used online, has very severe restrictions on use in Russia. People there are not allowed to receive payments via Paypal at all, and can only make payments by linking their credit cards to their personal accounts. It remains to be seen whether eBay Russia will be able to institute a sensible payment system for bidders and merchants – perhaps we’ll soon see the introduction of Paypal Russia, so that we can all figure out how to make Paypal payments to Russia.
Russian users of the new service will also have to accept that they will have to start small – oddly, bidding on auction items – the service for which eBay made its name – won’t be allowed in the Russian version initially – instead, users will only be able to buy and pay for fixed price items, presumably from Russian eBay stores.
One interesting dilemma that I’m not sure how eBay will resolve is that of how to work with the antiquated and dreadfully slow Russian postal system. Too many delays and lost packages, and people won’t want to buy online; but use of courier companies could push prices up too high to attract Russians to bid in large numbers.
Hopefully though, this is good news for Russians. Even if they don’t get to grips with eBay, the news will certainly give current Russian eBay clones a bit of a shock, and force them to up their game. Rivals like molotok.ru have so far offered a cautious welcome to the news, noting that it will hopefully boost the whole sector, and they’ll be swept upwards on a rising tide. Igor Karpachyov, CEO of Molotok.ru, said that “the appearance of a new international player is always useful for the market as it boosts its development.”
Non-Russian customers may also benefit from the introduction of Russia eBay. A great deal of Russian memorabilia is sold on eBay at the moment – for example, Russian stamps, Russian postcards, and Soviet memorabilia (badges, hats, coins, etc). A lot of these items are sold by Western dealers, at a fairly inflated rate. Smoothing the way for Russian eBay merchants to enter the system more widely will hopefully introduce greater competition in the sector, and drive down prices across the board.