Rakuten.co.uk officially launched today

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Rakuten homeRakuten are today officially announcing Rakuten.co.uk to the world, although it went live to merchants on the 1st of October.

They say that “The marketplace will initially offer products from some of the UK’s most exciting merchants before expanding to include international merchants in the future. The move comes as Rakuten seeks to accelerate the global expansion of its internet services ecosystem“.

Rakuten Marketplace Philosophy

Kenji Hirose, CEO of Rakuten Europe lays out the philosophy behind Rakuten.co.uk saying “What consumers want from retailers is continually changing, however the desire for a personal and entertaining experience remains constant. With the launch of Rakuten.co.uk we are making it easier for shoppers to discover what they want and empowering merchants to provide it. Over the next 12 months we will pioneer a new era of borderless retail and entertainment by integrating our e-commerce offering with our global ecosystem of Internet services, to make shopping more fun”.

As well as the the ability to buy a broad range of products from independent retailers in the UK, customers will also be able to access digital services offered by Rakuten businesses including Kobo (eBooks and eReaders) and Wuaki (Online movie rental and TV) through a single account from December 2014. In the future, customers will be able to buy from Rakuten marketplaces worldwide.

(That raises a so far unanswered question… will Rakuten.com (ex buy.com) and Rakuten.de (ex Tradoria) also be migrated to the new Rakuten Marketplaces platform at some time in the near future?)

Rakuten Super Points loyalty scheme and promos

Alongside the new marketplace is a new loyalty scheme – Rakuten Super Points, which rewards customers with a minimum of 1 Super Point for every £1 they spend on Rakuten.co.uk. However, campaigns are running all the time so consumers will have many “fun and engaging” Super Points campaigns to look forward to.

To celebrate the launch of the new marketplace, Rakuten is offering customers the chance to become a ‘Rakuten Millionaire’- For the entire month of November 2014, customers who make purchases on Rakuten.co.uk, will be automatically entered into a prize draw to win 1 Million Rakuten Super Points, which equates to a redemption value of £10,000 to spend on the website. In addition until 31st October -customers spending £25 or £50, will receive £5 or £10 back in Rakuten Super Points to use on their next purchase.

You can also win the “Holiday of a lifetime to Japan”. To enter the draw to win an all expenses paid dream holiday to Japan, the home of Rakuten, all you need do is register your details.

Merchant adoption of Rakuten.co.uk

Rakuten-vs-PlayThe one thing that doesn’t seem to have happened so far is adoption by Play.com merchants. Play.com will be closing for business in the New Year, but life hasn’t been made easy as so far not a single multichannel management provider has added support for Rakuten.

Checking a couple of categories we can see that merchants haven’t been in a hurry to migrate their products. We’ve checked inventory listed on Rakuten, Play and as a comparison eBay, it’s pretty clear that there is plenty of room for more merchants and more product on Rakuten.

Rakuten vs Play.com vs eBay.co.uk Inventory

Category Rakuten Play.com eBay
Laptops 27 17,397 58,835
Pets – Cats 456 1,607 69,105
Women – Footware 3 13,394 238,400
Home & Garden – Cookware 463 14,251 231,599
Baby – Pushchairs 30 1,264 74,722
NB eBay’s figures may be inflated compared to Play.com as eBay doesn’t have catalogue listings to combine offers from multiple sellers

This is particularly surprising as Rakuten offered to transfer merchant’s listings over from Play.com to Rakuten.co.uk. However we hear that’s not taking place for all sellers, not least because there are no regular seller accounts (which meant you could sell every now again without paying a subscription but had to pay commission) on Rakuten.co.uk. As they no longer offer these types of accounts, many Play.com sellers will have to register their interest for a Merchant account which means being treated as a brand new merchant.

Play Home PagePart of me thinks that this is a missed opportunity and if Rakuten are going to be promoting the new site we should want to be there. The Play.com home page is already pushing traffic through to the new Rakuten site. In reality though, for most merchants, without a robust channel management solution it would be madness to list on the new site for the first time in Q4.

With Christmas fast approaching and sales starting to ramp up, have you got time to manually check for orders and balance inventory on a new marketplace. The lack of inventory says that there’s not much competition so sales should be healthy for those that take the plunge.

For those that decide to wait until the New Year to start listing, hopefully Rakuten’s marketing will have kicked in and there’ll be buyers queuing up waiting for you to list some product.

19 Responses

  1. Rakutens new channel has been interesting the say the least.

    The seller side of things implementation has been great. There is a lot of creative freedom, and the back end has a lot of promise. Unfortunately there are some issues with bugs (one such bug rakuten noticed as they went live, but this did affect the opening impression sales severely).

    I know one particular merchant who was doing well from the offers rakuten had been emailing people has already closed down for now, having had to cancel some orders and likely was unable to manage the stock without a system in place.

    It’s definitely shown an issue with lack of sellers, though. I personally feel rakuten got ahead of themselves trying to launch for xmas this year. Sellers have been reluctant to hop over during the busy period and that has meant a lack of options for customers who come to the site.

    One little note – it has been live for customers since 01/10/14, but it was only advertised to (I assume) certain play customers as part of voucher/points opening deals that I believe have just expired.

  2. “…we can see that merchants haven’t been in a hurry to migrate their products”

    As a Play.com seller I find it amazing that I have still never been informed officially of the winding up of the site or had an invitation to sign up for Rakuten.co.uk. I’ve now let my Play subscription expire. The Play site has been run down over the last 12 months so I would be surprised if many Play sellers have any confidence in things being much better with Rakuten and can make more productive use of their time.

  3. as a seller on play.com, I can say that I am not reluctant to get onto Rakuren, but have not been given the opportunity by play themselves. After downsizing their account managers, there has not been any communication to me as a merchant regarding my options. I have emailed several people since receiving notification of Rakutens launch (which I received as a play buyer not merchant) but am still waiting to hear how to migrate. Poor show by play.com to their loyal merchants…

  4. Well, signed up – found an eBay seller that I am buying my husbands xmas prezzie from…found the item (in stock on eBay)…not in stock on Rakuten!

    Tried but can’t find anything I want on Rakuten UK 🙁

  5. This is really bad, they had a chance and they blew it!

    website seems to be based around a free theme/shopping cart system, delivery details not clear, product pages I looked at were very long winded, lack of products on the actual site, checkout is long process. I experienced an SSL error, really bad almost no chance of survival… 🙁

  6. Really poor show all round for Merchants.

    We had only just paid our six month subscription only a few weeks from the news that Play was no more.

    We were there at the start with two accounts, we pushed products and did deals for them as we wanted to see the platform grow.

    Now I feel kicked in the b*lls and left for dead with no information and no thought of getting merchants on board with the new platform before you push it.

    Just had a look on the site and if I was a customer I wouldn’t bother going back as there is naff all on there. The six or so main categories I sell in are pretty empty, one has 11 items in and just from my business we could fill It with 300.

    I hope someone at Rakuten reads these comments from current merchants and thinks, right we need to focus on current suppliers and lets get them on board with us now before it’s too late!

  7. Thank you for your feedback.

    We have launched Rakuten.co.uk with a selection of merchants on the new global platform. We will continue to expand and grow the marketplace with existing and new merchants to ensure that we can deliver the fantastic shopping experience that our customers and merchants expect.
    We will be working closely with merchants who haven’t yet joined Rakuten.co.uk to help them take advantage of the new marketplace. Our team are on hand to answer any questions to support the merchants to make the most of the new Rakuten.co.uk marketplace and wider ecosystem of companies

    Many Thanks

    Shauna Murphy
    Social, Content and PR Executive at Rakuten

  8. I think most sellers will agree that we hope Rakuten establishes itself somewhat in the UK market to offer some much needed competition to Amazon / Ebay.

    My first impressions of Rakuten so far? Unimpressed.

    No telephone number for sellers – just an email link. Additionally no details about pricing. Why no telephone number for service and why no pricing details?

    I can only hope they offer a service with competitive pricing (with a clear understanding that the best way to grow this business is to offer a good pricing model to bring established sellers onto the marketplace at first). If they think asking us to pay 6 months in advance like play.com is going to work they have missed the boat. If they think asking us to pay high monthly fees to a site with no established buyers is going to work they have missed the boat.

    Rakuten has a great model generally, loyalty points is a great way to keep people using a variety of services and I sincerely hope that they try and remain a marketplace rather than an Amazon (who treat sellers as a commodity to push their own preferred services like FBA or to steal their sales information to compete against them) or eBay (who think most of their sellers are just noise and treat them with utter disdain).

    Get it right Rakuten and we will support you.

  9. My merchant experience echoes much of what is has already been said.

    VERY POOR communication from Play/Rakuten to their merchants for the past year or so, I’ve learned more from Tamebay than I have from ‘the horses mouth’.

    With nearly 1000 unique products on Play I’m still not sure if these will automatically migrate to Rakuten or if I have to start afresh…..

    Will leave it for a few months to see how this is all panning out.

  10. ebay are still a unique selling place for many. It seems that new marketplace entrants are not interested in a piece of this action and focus on commodity and large inventory sellers, The 10% and not the 90%. It is the 90% that draw in buyers. The 10% are the beneficiaries of this.

    ebay (and Amazon? They don’t make any money so are they successful? As Lord Sugar indicated in The Apprentice, any salesman can give stuff away for low or non existent margins) are successful because they think about what buyers want and whilst the 90% are never happy, we have to admit that ebay do have plenty of buyers, and that is probably more down to us drawing punters in than ebay own efforts. ebay have offered us the tools so maybe they do recognise this to a degree even though we may not think so at times. Maybe in time Rakuten will but for the moment they only really have their brand and this could be costly for them to establish in the UK.

  11. I think the biggest problem is firstly the late launch so close to Christmas, many merchants are frantically getting ready for their busiest period and making the final touches to their advertising etc, some merchants will stop listing new products alltogether closer to Christmas and focus on fullfilling orders and maintaining stock levels etc.

    If you then throw a lack of integregration, seller usability and bugs (as reported above) into the mix then who in their right mind will waste 50-100% more time trying to advertise on a new platform at this time of year when they could advertise 2-3 times more on established platforms with much higher chances of a return on their time investment. The time of year is wrong, plain and simple, another reasonably sized company which i will not name for NDA reasons made the wise choice to prospone their marketplace launch this year about a month or two ago due to a lack of time before the peak season, they made the right choice. I would be extremely surprised in Rakuten gets any real support from selllers until the end of the first quarter next year.

    The main reason we did not fully commit to play.com is because it takes 2-3 times longer to list on the platform compared to others, i hope that this is addressed on Rakuten in the future, if it is then perhaps we will invest some time in it later next year when it is sensible to do so.

  12. I never really got Play, never bought a thing on it. The same will apply to Rakuten.

    Why would anyone bother.

    As a seller it looks about as interesting a proposition as eBid.

    I’m out.

  13. We used to sell huge amounts on Play.com over the last 4-5 years but we are lucky if we get an order a week now so I am not really sure what Rakuten bought for their $25m, it would have been as well just to start a new marketplace?

    I echo everyone elses thoughts on how badly Play/Rakuten takeover has been handled for existing merchants, a massive missed opportunity but when you are dealing with a company with obviously very deep pockets following their buying spree to seemingly copy the best (or worst) of eBay/Amazon in an attempt to compete I am not sure they are really that bothered?

    The new Rakuten seller tariff does not inspire much confidence either especially as although the commission % is down there is a higher not so nice 6 month upfront subscription to pay for an unproven new player in the global marketplace race (Asia excluded) which brings Rakuten a nice little income in even if nothing is sold!

    A flat 10% ‘no sale, no fee’ commission would get things off the ground and make the other marketplaces sit-up and listen if Rakuten really want to compete.

    API information should have been released to the Order Management providers 6 months ago to allow developers time to integrate with the new platform coupled with a special offer for users of these systems to adopt/migrate.

    Unless there is a radical overhaul to attract sellers the new kids on the block are going to struggle regardless of fluffy marketing words like global, integrated, new era, ecosystem and fun!

    Needless to say without any direct retail if Rakuten are going to be a global success they are going to need sellers and lots of them quick.



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