Both old and new work in Russia

Accord Post is in many ways similar to Stralfors, and it’s the leading company in its industry in Russia.
“We’ve been collaborating for a few years now, which gives us the opportunity to help our customers, perhaps mainly in the banking and finance sector, who are considering moving their operations towards the east,” says Tommi Hänninen, Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Stralfors. “Together with Accord Post, we can essentially deliver the same services we offer here in Russia and the Baltic region too. It simply makes things a little easier for our customers,” he says.
Dmitry Zelenko is Commercial Manager at Accord Post in Moscow. The company has been the market leader in Russia in the field of direct marketing and fulfilment solutions for more than ten years.

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While traditional marketing works well in certain regions, more urban areas require a modern, multichannel approach.

Can you describe the Russian direct marketing market?
“Russian consumers look for the easiest communication channels with companies, just like consumers in other countries. Right now it’s the multichannel philosophy that’s popular with our customers, that’s to say companies who in turn have a lot of B2C customers,” explains Dmitry Zelenko.
“New technology is supplementing and sometimes also replacing traditional methods. At present it’s difficult for our customers to see right away which channels generate purchases. A special offer will go out in several channels and customers also buy in several ways – online, via customer service and in regular shops.”
At the same time, the level of Internet penetration isn’t as high in Russia as in other parts of Europe.
“There are still many places where it’s difficult to get a connection. In those areas, traditional postal direct marketing still works better,” says Dmitry Zelenko.
“There’s also a lot of legislation that makes life difficult. In a number areas, for example, information must be sent out on paper.”

What makes the Russian market unique?
“The Russian market has vastpotential, covering an equally vast geographical area. What you have to bear in mind is that there are major differences in how consumers behave from one region to another,”says Dmitry Zelenko.
The large geographical areas pose exciting challenges for marketers looking for target groups, as they have to weigh in cultural differences in addition to age and social differences.
“But at the same time, there are also clear frameworks that are the same for the whole Russian market, the unique culture that defines Russia as a nation. That makes the whole thing a little easier,” says Dmitry Zelenko.
One major difficulty when doing business in Russia is the logistics.
“That’s the biggest challenge facing all kinds of companies. The fastest route to success here is to cooperate with the Russian postal service, even though that’ll mean you have to comply with strict laws governing mailings and database management.
“We also know that the Russian postal service is in the process of preparing a project to create a network of post offices all over the country. That would improve the situation significantly.”

Describe the Russian market from a direct marketing perspective?
“The trends that exist in Western Europe can also be seen here. For example, it’s very popular among many companies to print adverts and other messages on invoices and other transaction documents, i.e. transpromo,” says Dmitry Zelenko.

If a multinational company with major B2C communication needs from Western Europe were considering setting up a similar business in Russia, what would you recommend as regards marketing trends and population?
“Choose as broad a strategy as possible. The Russian consumer likes to receive messages on his own terms and through different channels. Of course, that requires a broad range of marketing techniques. 
In other words, to keep up to date you need a multichannel strategy. That corresponds with both marketing trends and consumer expectations,” believes Dmitry Zelenko.
“And as I mentioned before, the market is far more fragmented than in Western Europe, so while traditional marketing works well in certain regions, more urban areas require a modern, multichannel approach.”

So where are the opportunities in Russia in the area of marketing communication?
“If you ask me, it’s a company that can integrate marketing communication solutions while at the same time managing to be a reliable supplier of customer data for its clients. And if you can handle bigger fulfilment jobs as well, you’re very likely to get plenty of exciting enquiries from Russian companies,” says Dmitry Zelenko.