As COVID-19 spreads, the uncertain situation has led many people to rush out and stock up on essential goods. Since this results in shortages and empty shelves, people are increasingly having trouble finding staple goods. With additional stay home orders in place, online shopping has become an even more critical service for users.
As a major eCommerce provider in Russia, we have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that everyone who needs essential goods can find them. Between our two platforms, Yandex.Market and Beru, we serve a daily audience of more than five million people.
To help fairly spread resources to these people, we have implemented new policies to limit shortages and prevent price gouging by third-party sellers. Since our two platforms run independently, we have introduced different policies on each platform.
Yandex.Market Updates for COVID-19
Yandex.Market, our eCommerce marketplace platform, is more carefully monitoring prices and the assortment of goods in specific product categories. Sanitizers, medical masks, cereal, canned goods, and hygiene products are in especially high-demand right now and have been for some weeks.
Within these categories, the Yandex.Market algorithm monitors the price charts and can detect any dramatic price increase (twice or more). We will temporarily disable a merchant if we find at least one product with an inflated price. Over the past week, we deactivated 300 stores that sold products at inflated prices. After deleting the entire assortment of goods with inflated prices, a store can reinstate its operation on our platform.
At the same time, we appreciate there is a lot of pressure on stores right now, so we have adapted our quality control measures to keep the products moving efficiently. Among other changes, we have suspended our regular shopping cart checks and only check in some instances, such as when we receive a signal that the store is not operational.
To increase safety for customers and couriers, we are also promoting certain measures to minimize the spread of the virus when receiving online orders. In Russia, cash on delivery (COD) to the courier and other in-person exchanges at pickup centers are typical eCommerce practices. We are encouraging users to pay for their items via contactless payment methods and choose other shipping options. We also suggest customers carefully wash their hands after handling their packages.
Beru Updates for COVID-19
With Beru, our end-to-end marketplace that we run with Sberbank, our team is also committed to ensuring a steady supply of staple goods at fair prices. The Beru team set a maximum price for certain product categories and will only display products that are priced accordingly. Categories such as groceries, canned goods, hygiene products, and household cleaners will remain at fixed prices for the foreseeable future.
On top of our efforts to keep Beru products at reasonable prices, we are doing everything possible to deliver goods to our users’ homes on time and have strengthened our delivery capacity. To reduce the likelihood of physical contact, we also added the option for users to have couriers leave prepaid orders at their door.
We have also taken a number of additional steps to help our partner stores on Beru. We improved the process for integrating new merchants onto the platform so that we can more quickly respond to high demand. We limited our merchant suspension policies only to cover extreme violations such as counterfeiting and price gouging. We are also enabling more flexible shipment time (from two days to three) for our partner retailers who operate through drop shipping.
While the majority of our office team members are working from home, we are committed to helping people and are working around the clock to support our community. Special thanks to our team members in logistics centers, as well as couriers who continue to bravely navigate cities during the COVID-19 outbreak!
Almost 20 years ago in 2000, Yandex launched its first group of services beyond search and search advertising. In addition to news and email offerings, we introduced our first products designed to help users find goods sold online and in stores. In 2002, we officially launched our comparison shopping platform Yandex.Market, offering books, films, cosmetics, footwear, clothing, stationery, and toys from 150 e-commerce sites. Today, Yandex.Market serves over 20 million monthly users, offering them over 160 million goods from over 21,000 sites.
For eighteen years now, Yandex has grown this e-commerce platform and led the way in helping Russian consumers to adopt online shopping. Through our advances in machine learning, specifically our recommendation and search technologies, we have improved our services’ capabilities and developed many new features to enrich the experience for both shoppers and retailers. Today we are excited to highlight our next steps for advancing the online shopping experience in Russia, using the experience we’ve gained from operating Yandex.Market.
While we will continue to offer a comparison shopping engine, we now also provide an online marketplace, Beru (in Russian), or “I’ll take it.” With Beru, shoppers can make purchases from multiple categories on one platform and rely on smooth delivery and logistics. Today, Yandex also announced Bringly (in Russian), an e-commerce platform that is dedicated to enhancing cross-border shopping for Russian consumers.
Yandex and Sberbank have been operating the Beru platform in beta since June 2018, fulfilling over 180,000 orders. Two weeks ago, Beru was officially launched to the Russian market, featuring over 1,000 retailers and 600 shopping categories from household appliances to cosmetics. During the testing period, Beru also added new categories including grocery that features dry goods and pharmacy that enables shoppers to order medications for in-store pick-up from over 10,000 participating pharmacies.
To provide more reliable and affordable shipping options across Russia, Beru orders are processed and delivered from a Moscow-based fulfillment center. Beru offers next day delivery in Moscow and improves the delivery experience to the far regions of Russia, which have traditionally had longer wait times and higher shipping costs.
While Beru provides a leading e-commerce platform for goods delivered within Russia, Bringly will help cater to the growing cross-border e-commerce market, improving logistics and delivery times. Bringly offers shoppers over four million products from the world’s most popular brands, such as clothing and footwear by Koton, LTB Jeans, and Lumberjack, as well as Korean beauty products and niche products, such as shock and water-resistant smartphones from Chinese brands like Cubot and Nomu.
Bringly will house the site’s most popular goods in a Latvia-based warehouse to expedite shipping. The cost of shipping varies depending on the location of the retailer. For instance, Bringly offers free delivery for all goods purchased from Turkey, China or Latvia. Customers can also opt to use standard or express delivery by Russian Post.
“The Russian e-commerce market is still developing and has incredible potential for both domestic goods and cross-border sales," says Maxim Grishakov, CEO of Yandex.Market. "While the e-commerce market continues to grow, there are still many areas for improvement to make the online shopping process better for users. With Beru, Yandex is using its technological developments to create a greater e-commerce experience. Through Bringly, we are excited to be providing users with even more options by delivering goods directly to consumers, as two in three Russians make cross-border purchases online.”
These two new e-commerce platforms will be added to Yandex.Market, which yielded 71% growth in Q3 2018 compared to 2017, to offer a comprehensive online shopping experience for Russian consumers and retailers. We are excited to introduce customers to a new, efficient shopping experience as we expand our logistics capabilities to offer even more categories and goods.