Rakuten.co.uk officially launched today

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.