Rakuten planning 'large-scale' website launch

Rakuten planning 'large-scale' website launch

Rakuten is to launch its new UK website with a “large-scale multichannel campaign”.

Last week The Bookseller revealed that the Japanese e-commerce giant will launch a new website in the UK in October, selling books among its products. Rakuten.co.uk would then replace Rakuten-owned Play.com in March 2015.

The company has revealed more about the launch of the UK site, which will primarily operate as a third-party marketplace website initially. A company spokesman said: “Rakuten.co.uk is being launched [. . .] as part of a move to global borderless shopping in the future. Our new marketplace e-commerce site is part of the Rakuten Global Family and is focused on connecting unique, interesting retailers with new customers. We are launching Rakuten.co.uk with the support of a large-scale multichannel campaign.”

The company plans to provide incentives for customers by offering points in its loyalty scheme, which gives shoppers one point for every £1 spent. One hundred points are worth £1; the accumulated credit can be spent on anything on Rakuten.co.uk.

Many UK booksellers earn extra revenue by trading on third-party marketplaces such as Play and Amazon. Will Jones, founder of online retailer Wordery, which began selling on third-party sites, said: “Play.com is an important part of our book business. We are currently speaking to Rakuten about its closure [. . .] and moving to Rakuten.co.uk.”

However, a bookseller who declined to be named expressed concern that the Rakuten.co.uk brand was not as well known as Play.com in the UK, which may deter customers. Rakuten bought Play.com for £25m in September 2011, following its 2010 acquisitions of French e-commerce site Priceminister (for €200m) and US outfit Buy.com (for $250m).

Rakuten, which also owns e-book company Kobo, is Japan’s largest e-commerce company. It is owned by Hiroshi Mikitani, Japan’s fourth-richest man.