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

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 merchant.helpdesk@play.com.”