Rakuten is a massive business with lots of different aspects and divisions. Based in Japan, in recent years ecommerce hasn’t been a primary focus but it has found growth by developing revenues from credit cards, online banking and other financial services. It’s 90 million users are loyal and tied in so there is opportunity to provide them with more. And it looks like ecommerce and marketplaces are going to be a bigger part of the future.
The idea is not to try to win with any particular service alone, but rather by combining them together. It’s OK to be number two if your combined lifetime customer value is higher than that of your competitors. The goal is very simple. How do we build the most disruptive network not just in Japan, but in the world?
– Kentaro Hyakuno, COO, Rakuten
In reading that comment, and thinking about ecommerce and how Rakuten wants to claim more ecommerce market share, it’s not hard to interpret his comments as referring to being content to trail only Amazon in the online retail stakes. But ecommerce can be a draw to other of the company’s many products.
Part of the plan is full consolidation of the services and divisions under a readily recognised brand. But there is also a new strategic direction for the conglomorate and Rakuten will be focussing on three areas in the next 4 years: expanding its mobile payments service, improving logistics for ecommerce customers and building a wireless network.
Rakuten, Ecommerce and Europe
In Europe, some progress has been made. Only this month, PriceMinister in France was fully reborn as Rakuten France. That follows the full rebranding of Tradoria in Germany. But what about the UK? If Amazon is the target, a solid presence in the UK is surely absolutely necessary.
They bought Play.com and successfully operated that for several years before shutting down the service altogether in 2016. Rakuten.co.uk is still in operation but exists simply as a shopping comparison site.
More marketplaces, increased competition and innovation are always welcome and good news for merchants looking to develop sales and explore new avenues. Rakuten has an opportunity to build on its existing expertise, brand and customer base to make a success of ecommerce marketplace expansion. Whether that includes the UK will become apparent in the months and years to come.
Would you trade on a new Rakuten marketplace that served the UK? Or were you stung by the Play shutdown?