Tamebay Comment: The fall of Rakuten and why we need a third big player

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Rakuten homeThe announcement that Rakuten UK will be closing wasn’t a surprise but it did come out of the blue last week. Their new proposition never resonated with sellers and the new branding was bewildering to buyers. What was Rakuten? They didn’t answer that question.

They also managed successfully to alienate those play.com merchants who were doing well. Many were not invited on to the new Rakuten platform at launch and plenty justifiably felt they were treated with contempt, let alone loyalty.

They’ve pulled out of the UK (Europe’s biggest ecommerce market) with the aim of focussing efforts in France and Germany. They can never come back: all the goodwill is squandered. One seller we spoke to last week has spent several months building out his Rakuten operations only to learn (from Tamebay) that they are shutting down Rakuten.co.uk. That’s a shocking waste of time and money for him.

Rakuten was, after all, still touting for business in the past few weeks at events. It’s difficult to know when the decision was made but certainly some sellers would have appreciated news sooner of the shut-down.

Rakuten’s demise is a useful reminder of the truly epic power that any marketplace has over a retailer who relies on them for sales. Not that Rakuten was a game changer for anyone. But their withdrawal serves as a reminder that marketplaces are not accountable to their sellers in any real sense and make their decisions based on shareholder interest.

In a sense though, it’s sad to see them go. The UK desperately needs solid competition on the marketplaces front especially because eBay hasn’t flexed its muscles much recently and is mired in technical glitches. Amazon is going great guns and increasingly dominating the scene with verve, innovation and bold expansion. And yet a single dominating marketplace isn’t to be wished for either. We need more players.

Where will future marketplaces come from? Obviously there are numerous attractive little, niche and specialist marketplaces out there and we welcome that. Etsy, Notonthehighstreet, yumbles … to name but a few… are vital. But surely a big new generic marketplace is required?

Google would be an obvious contender. Microsoft and indeed Apple. What do you reckon?

15 Responses

  1. I think we will see more retailers like Tesco, Halfords and Game adding marketplaces to their exsistings sites.

    To launch a brand new marketplace, unless original, you will need buckets and buckets of cash!

    Would not surprise me if ASDA don’t launch in the next 2-3 years, as Walmart have in the US, plus there are some rumours about Sainsbury’s but I think with the Argos buy out going on it will be some time until we see that.

    I hope whoever decided to close Play no longer has a job with any business as that had to be one of the most stupid ideas ever, lots of us sold well on there and it was always growing, they should of put the effort in to it.

  2. i like buying on ali express, dont know if i’d like to compete with the prices, even if i could understand the chinese seller signup sheet.

  3. I would say that Google already is a massive marketplace with its ‘shopping’ function. It just works in a different manner to the other players. Already costs a fortune a day already requires a lot of information as anew amazon/ebay does.

  4. The way Rareburg.com display products is fantastic…way better than eBay but they have a long long way to go. If you sell collectibles they’ll import your entire stock from eBay to Rareburg for free & delete anything you sell on eBay within 15 mins so you don’t have to worry about selling the same thing twice. It’s much cheaper but extremely slow. I have only sold one item in months. They need to do some serious promotion & get some new sellers on board. Maybe someone at Tamebay could have a word with them & ask how they are doing.

  5. I agree that we certainly need a new big player, one who has auctions as well as fixed price. As a seller of collectables my only viable option is eBay which, where auctions are concerned, is a shadow of its former self. I hate having all my eggs in one basket.

    As Dan says, eBid exists but I do wonder how they have survived for so long because they just don’t have enough buyers and Joe Average has never even heard of it. So unless they get some major publicity they’ll never do anything more than just exist.

    We need an established big player (Google, Microsoft etc) to build a new ‘old eBay’ but I can’t see it ever happening. I think we’re stuck with eBay until it finally self-destructs.

  6. we dont need new players that are a time consuming gamble , we need the existing players to be more ethical and reasonable with sellers,

  7. I was looking for another marketplace apart from eBay and Amazon this year. I knocked back a store with Rakuten and seems like a wise choice. I eventually went with Game, and there is no monthly fee with that marketplace. Limited traffic however. Every marketplace has the same lowest price wins format apart from eBay, which has been really good for us this year and we market it heavily, it gets a lot of grief eBay and rightly so sometimes but I can see what it is doing.
    Amazon to me is a fight to the bottom we have drawn ourselves right back from there this year, the margins at the end are not good for the sellers.
    We actually have lack of competitive marketplaces in the UK. I also think sometimes the UK online shopper is afraid to try anything new, which can be an issue.
    Plus marketplaces really have far too much control over a sellers fortunes. We built a decent website this year so we have at least some control. I actually think the next big thing will be social media when customers can just check out direct in the UK.

  8. No surprise to me and many others that Rakuten have bit the dust.
    They solicited me directly after finding my Ebay shop/profile. Rakuten’s proposal was an instant Non-Starter for me, Upfront Subscription? Were they serious, “who does that?” Needless to say Ebay and Amazon do not charge upfront with start-up, of course different levels of subscription are available once a track-record is established/taking it to the next level.
    If I don’t sell on a given platform I won’t spend on it either… Rakuten’s Loss, Not Mine.



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