Rakuten Play.com – Should I stay or should I go?

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Rakuten Play homeI was interested to received this email from a Tamebay reader last week. He wants to remain anonymous but I think his experience is so interesting that it deserves being posted in full and he graciously gave me that permission. And, most importantly, it does pose a valid question. What are your views?

“I subscribed to Rakuten’s Play.com in May 2013 after reading a post on Tamebay. Rakuten had decided to become a marketplace and needed third party sellers. I thought Play could be a serious third contender and compete with eBay and Amazon.

I had to pay a 6-month subscription in advance, it was a bit of a punt but the website looked good and seemed to have a good customer base for media products. At the time the platform for sellers was in beta mode, some features didn’t work and glitches could take several weeks to be fixed.

One of the main issues for me was how difficult it was to upload my inventory. A task that would take 1 hour on Amazon and 2 hours on eBay would take 4 hours on Play. It was a very frustrating experience and the process didn’t make sense at all. It wasn’t well thought out and not straightforward at all. Luckily I managed to find a member of staff who helped me and after emailing each other CSV files back and forth I managed to upload all my items.

I was assigned an account manager earlier on and it was great. She was extremely helpful and always only a phone call away when I had issues. Sales were slow to begin with, about 2 sales a week which equals roughly to 1 sale for every 20 sales on eBay.

But the account manager really invested herself in boosting my sales. I started being invited to regular promotions. Rakuten would send a promotional email to their mailing list with discounted products. Every time one of my items featured in those promotions, I would sell about twenty in a day or two. It was a great boost. Overall sales were always lower than on eBay or Amazon but it was a welcome additional income.

Sales really took off during the peak season from October to December last year. My products kept being featured in promotional emails and it seemed to attract other customers to purchase other items too.

I even had a couple of weeks where sales were better than on eBay. At last all the hard work was starting to pay off but the issues with uploading inventory were still there. In November I purchased new products to sell for the festive seasons. I uploaded the listings on eBay and Amazon quickly but it wasn’t straightforward at all on Play.

Unfortunately the member of staff who had initially helped me with my first inventory had left the company and no one was there to assist me apart from my account manager. She did the best she could but in the end it was such a busy period that I didn’t uplaode the new inventory I held.

In January this year, I received a call from my account manager saying that her role within the company was to help new sellers and that my account was to be taken over by another manager who would be in touch.

Weeks and then months passed and no one ever got in touch me. I regularly emailed my former account manager to ask for an update, every time I was told the new account manager would be in touch shortly.

During that time sales dropped dramatically. From January to April, I only made two sales. Then last month I finally received an email from the new account manager but it was a subscription invoice for another 6 months. There was no other information so I decided to make a complaint. The new account manager finally emailed me, but after a few emails, he dismissed my complaint, saying that not all accounts were managed and that they didn’t have the same traffic as eBay or Amazon.

I am now faced with a dilemma – should I stay or should I go?

It seems to me that Play.com definitely have a customer base but unlike on eBay or Amazon, the customers don’t actively purchase items from the site. It seems they need to be sent promotional emails in order to open their purse.

I would like to know if other Tamebay readers have had the same experience or feel the same way. Is there really a future for a strong third contender or is selling on Play.com just a waste of time and money if you don’t sell media products?”

Update. 7th. May 2014
Since we published this article earlier today play.com have been in touch with this comment.

“We are committed to working in partnership with Merchants selling on Rakuten’s Play.com, and are very sorry to hear of this poor experience. We will be looking into all points raised, ensuring they are dealt with accordingly and would welcome the opportunity to discuss & provide the Merchant with a full response.

Our Ecommerce Consultant (ECC) team are there to provide personalised support throughout the process of selling on Rakuten’s Play.com. However, if Merchants have any concerns at all with their account or associated service, we recommend they firstly contact their Ecommerce Consultant, who will be happy to help. If for any reason they are not satisfied with the response, we have a Merchant Helpdesk service contactable on 0845 266 9651 or email [email protected].”

27 Responses

  1. What a great article, and very good information. It is so competitive out there these days that we all keep looking for new ideas and ways of selling. I have been considering Play.com for a few months and will have the ability to automate the stock inventory on the same system as we use for Amazon & Ebay, however I now wonder if it would be worth the investment.

    It would be really good to hear from other people who are selling on Play.com.

  2. I think if you realise who Rakuten are then you will know it’s a platform with big potential to it.

    I have heard very little from them of late of anything new happening so perhaps they are busy working on something to release in the Summer ready for Christmas?

    With regards to sales, we have two shops on there, it’s OK, it pays for itself and we have really good months and then slower months. It did really pick up for Christmas, as the article says, we also took part in some promotions with mix results.

    I think it’s a wait and see platform for selling on.

  3. We were approached by Play.com (as it was then) just before Christmas 2012 and invited to sell on their platform as they were actively looking to expand their third party seller market.

    I mentioned that all of our products are unique and don’t have barcodes, but the guy who contacted us told us that this wouldn’t be a problem.

    Long story short – it was incredibily complicated to list our items there, but we perservered and their technical support was superb. Eventually we got the hang of it and hired a lad who spent almost 2 months uploading our entire catalogue. Sales were so-so but we were assured that it would be money/time well worth investing as Rakuten were planning to throw ‘big money’ at the site.

    6 weeks later they changed their system and technical staff…..and fee structure!!!!

    Since then we’ve decided to keep the items we’ve already uploaded and see how it goes….we sell just enough to cover their monthy fees….

    I’m monitoring the situation but all signs are that we’ll simply leave. Very disappointed.

  4. I agree with the article. I sell my own handmade jewellery and I tried Play in Oct 2012. Not a site you would immediately associate with jewellery but worth a punt.

    Yes the uploading was time consuming compared to Amz and ebay and I had to wait for my items to be given numbers by Play as I didn’t have any SKUs etc. which isn’t a problem on ebay or Amz but Play were frustratingly slow to approve and return my files but pre-Christmas sales were good.

    I apparently had an account manager too but never got to hear from her unless it was the standard promotion email. The promotions were disappointing because they often only gave you 3 or 5 days to get a promotion together. I could have come up with some killer promotions but needed a little more notice so I could order in components and make the jewellery in time so unless I pre-made and waited for the appropriate promotion email they were a waste of time for me.

    I left Play after about 8 months as sales really slowed after Christmas but I was still making money. The main reasons I chose to leave were the following:

    1. Lack of promised support from account manager as the sales pitch was fab but the reality grim.

    2. Search was rubbish and if you searched say ‘pink earrings’ you would get all sorts coming up and I did wonder how customers managed to find what they were looking for.

    3. The site itself was too clunky for me and there were so many glitches that I had to find work arounds for because the tech support was pretty much ‘take it or leave it’ or ‘we know it’s a problem but that’s the way it is for the moment’ and I found the best solution was to delete products and reload them so I could manipulate them that way rather than through the usual way.

    4. It suddenly dawned on me the amount of time I was spending on Play with all its quirky ways could be so much better invested in ebay, Amz and my website that I didn’t hesitate and cancelled my subscription and have never once given Play another thought until reading this article.

  5. Very Interesting article, we too have just had to decide whether to renew our 6 month fees.

    We run two shops on Play.com (both also on ebay and amazon).

    Sales are very slow by comparison, though do peak when an item is promoted by Rakuten, and were much stronger at Christmas.

    The main issue for us also has been the time it takes to list so we literally focussed on a few of our best selling lines initially, so perhaps only have 10% of our inventory live on the platform…

    Once we have our remaining inventory listed we will see how sales are then. I can’t see that we will leave Play.com until we are at that point.

    A good account manager sounds key – I will make some noise now and see if that helps us? Maybe the powers that be at Rakuten may read some of our comments too.

  6. Speaking as a consumer, when Play were an actual retailer, I bought pretty much all my video games, CDs and DVDs from them. I bought a PS3 from them. I bought a large screen TV from them. I was a loyal and regular customer.

    Since they went marketplace only, I haven’t bought a thing because they don’t seem to have that many good sellers with good service and competitive pricing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this.

    I used to sell on there too. I found I was constantly badgered by phone calls and emails from a guy who was always trying to get me to upgrade my account (IE spend more money). He’d obviously done some homework on me because he’d found out my eBay ID (which was totally different from my Play ID), my Amazon ID and my website, and mentioned a few items I had for sale that would be a good fit for Play.

    Then they put their prices up massively, and wanted six months up front, but he told me if I got in early I could keep the £19.99 (or something like that) Pro Seller account.

    It all came across as a bit desperate.

    As regards to the question, it sounds like you’re not getting very good support, and for what they charge, I’d expect more. Do you really want to spend another 6 months worth of fees for a company that doesn’t seem to be bothered about helping you?

  7. Rakuten / Play.com

    We totally agree with all the comments especially the communication issue’s and uploading difficulties. I also want to add that the Sales Manager misled us when agreeing to subscribe. He assured us that we would be able to upload and maintain our products easily from our back end, but this proved not to be so. It had taken us considerable time to create our Marketplace but once we got there and our site was launched, all communication stopped. No matter how many emails or voice mails were left, no one responded!!! When our new account manager (we were not aware the manager had changed!!!) did get back to us after two months, the issues still have not been resolved!! We feel that the first six months subscription we paid has been wasted.

    We have come to the conclusion that we will not be renewing our subscription at present. This is due to the unviable costs associated with the man hours it has taken to create and manage our listings. Which have still not been resolved and not forgetting the serious lack of communication and helpfulness from Play.com account managers.
    If Play.com wants to become as successful as Amazon or eBay they seriously need to improve the product input system and their communication.

  8. It is absolutely time to go. Rakuten’s mismanagement of Play.com has started to be picked up by the press. Layoffs and restructuring are going to only exacerbate the problems you are already facing.

  9. Interesting and very useful to read, thanks. I sent my merchant account application off 5 weeks ago, have chased twice but not heard a thing. I was eager to get going and confident that it’d be a breeze due to their promises of ‘an account manager to assist with listing products’. But am now extremely sceptical and if they do eventually contact me to progress, I think I’ll decline.

  10. Just to say I’ve added a statement that play.com sent to us about this post at the bottom of the original article.


  11. Fair enough that you’ve posted their response, but it always worries me when a company only publishes something like that when complaints have gone widely public, as in TameBay’s example. They should have sorted it out before the cat was out of the bag; it’s too late now, boys!!

    After an extremely bad customer service experience with the sales side of Play.com (based in Belgium iirc) a few years ago, I would not trust anyone who has anything to do with that company to be able to aim a dump into their own toilet. No way I would entrust my precious, developed-with-sweat-and-tears product range to that set of jokers.

  12. Wow,
    if I had of read this a few months ago I probably wouldn’t have bothered signing up to Play.
    I started the process of signing up 24-3-2014 and got my store approved on 24-4-2014.
    I am NEVER under the illusion that it’s all going to be easy or plain sailing. It never has been and never will be, whatever any multichannel software tells you or sales rep.

    There was a severe lack of tech information available prior to me signing up and I knew it would be afterwards I would be able to work it out myself.
    BTW if you do want some information on the backend uploads and downloads https://academy.play.com/ will give it to you (Click get started with selling).

    I have around 5000 items on there and this was only possible through me making spreadsheets that use take the ebay information and what I use for my stock records and making new spread sheets to upload to play.

    What I have learned over the past 6 ish years is to keep all the information yourself. IE we have a ftp – server with all our images apx 30000. This means I can link them whenever I want in whatever way I want. I am not relying on EKM or Channelgrabber or EBAY or AMAZON.

    Whenever I get new stock I process my own spreadsheets and this automatically creates the images and listings for EKM PLAY EBAY AND AMAZON. Each are then imported into channelgrabber.

    I won’t bore you with more but we have had 4 sales from the 29th of April to 7th May. No feedback. So can’t complain yet.

    I made a few phone calls to the Play help desk and you can tell the guys are techhys. I managed to work out a way to upload line breaks in the description to make it clearer to read. I noticed that the description went back to one long note. I phoned them and they said immediately that it is a bug with play. (they are working on it)

    If you are thinking of uploading inventory that doesn;t exist on play’s catalogue yet, then think hard.
    The process is painful. You have to make an upload to make the item on their catalogue. Once that is done THEN you can create a listing for it.
    At least on Amazon I can list jewellery without it being in their catalogue and it will allow quickly creating the ASIN.

    I would say it is worth trying on PLAY but don;t listen to the sales patter, read as much as possible before taking the plunge.

    Last bit….
    As far as I can tell, like ebay, there is the plat.com and then there are the stores.
    Now the stores don;t have a category structure they have collections.
    This is MANUAL.
    You have to type in category – collection name.
    I worked out an automatic way to create using scripts but as they are all on the same level it makes it very difficult to show customers and also navigate.
    The nail in that coffin is that you have to download your csv file of products so that you can get the product id’s and then upload to the relevant collections.
    I haven’t tackled this yet and probably won;t bother.
    It’s one hell of a steep learning curve.

    Good Luck.
    As a final laugh most platforms tend to stick to one type of file format. Ebay = CSV – Amazon = TAB delimited – Play use 3 different types.
    XLSX to upload to catalogue
    TAB Delimited to upload listings
    and normal CSV (I think) for the collections B-)
    Nice and Simple B-)

  13. I considered signing up with Play about a year ago. They were very keen, after I’d expressed interest via an email. I had several follow up messages and phone calls. What put me off was the 6 month up front subscription. It seemed to me that they wanted me to take all the risk. Hardly confidence-inspiring and not the kind of ‘partnership’ their sales team kept harping on about. Too one sided for my liking.

  14. My company have been selling on play.com since last July when after a few months of deciding finally took the plunge and signed up for the first 6 months. I must say that I was sceptical about just how well we would perform on the site, I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried. Over the Christmas period last year we made more money in 2 Months than the last year selling on eBay. We went from a bedroom operation to being financially stable for the whole of this year and with the profit of 2 months sales managed to acquire an office and expand our business tenfold to the point where me and my business partner will have enough to quit our day jobs and work on our business full time. Without play.com this would not have happened. This was with no promotions or anything just basic sales and we put it down to less competition than other sites. Yes the listing of products is harder but we stuck with it and it really worked for us.

  15. I just withdrawn all the fund from my play account. Even I am on £17 (something) per month, it is still not worthy. ONE day in Amazon is equal to TWO months with play.

  16. We have tried twice to begin selling on play – expecting good things of Rakuten some time in the future – but with no success.

    One of our wholesale supply customers does sell there. I spoke with her just this morning about a few things and asked her for a breakdown of sales of the best selling item she has from us. In percentage terms, sales by platform in the last 60 days for her were

    Amazon = 64%
    Ebay = 19%
    Play = 4%
    Own websites = 13%

    This represents just over 600 units sold – about 10 sales per day of this particular item


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