A virtual shopping mall to successRakuten Ichiba started out as a small-scale virtual marketplace that offered businesses an online platform to sell their products on. With the addition of an auction service targeted at consumers, the Rakuten brand was introduced to the consumer-to-consumer (C2C) e-commerce market. Through subsequent acquisitions and joint ventures, large businesses such as the internet bank Rakuten Card, the global voice over IP (VoIP) service with over one billion users Rakuten Viber, and the online food retailer Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper were taken under the group’s umbrella. This built up an ecosystem which resembled a virtual shopping mall.
Within the Japanese digital population, Rakuten Ichiba’s prominence as an e-commerce site has reached the same level as major competitors Amazon and Yahoo. To connect the horizontally expanding business portfolio and the respective user bases to its core business, cross-platform features like Rakuten ID were implemented as fundamental solutions for consumers to enjoy the majority of the company’s services. Marketing campaigns and a reward point system, which is emerging as a leading loyalty program in Japan, are promoted as further incentives to bind consumers to the Rakuten ecosystem. This contributes to the success of Rakuten Group as an all-round service provider.
The top of the Japanese e-commerce marketAlong with Yahoo Japan and Amazon, the Rakuten platform is listed as a leading online brand measured by active reach. While the three service providers are standing at the top of the Japanese e-commerce industry, new domestic competitors are challenging the leading retailers to improve the efficiency of their services and adapt to new consumer trends. Mobile applications introduced a new feature to the e-commerce market, with the shift to a convenient shopping experience through smartphones, stimulating the growing mobile commerce market. To keep up with small ventures, the market leaders are expected to expand to mobile channels.
The rising popularity of online shopping among Japanese consumers stems in part from the flexibility of shopping at any given time without having to visit a store, while ordered products get delivered to their doorsteps. The simplicity is further reinforced by the efficient and smooth handling of logistics and fast payment processes that cater to the busy lifestyle of Japanese people. To respond to common troubles during online shopping that deter consumers from ordering over the internet, marketplace providers cooperate with logistic firms and financial technology services to make refunds and returns an effortless process.