Rakuten is undoubtedly one of the go-to platforms if you wish to start an online business in Japan. In Japan, the fourth largest eCommerce hub of the world, Rakuten is larger than Amazon, accounting for 26.8% of the entire eCommerce market share, and a collective 116.5% in categories such as apparel, food, and household accessories.
Becoming a Rakuten seller can contribute largely to your go-global strategy and take advantage of the international market amidst the global travel restrictions.
So how do you sell on Rakuten? Here is a complete guide for you:
I. Introduction: Why Sell On Rakuten?
01. What is Rakuten?
A rising B2B2C platform, Rakuten Group was founded in Tokyo in 1997 and soon pioneered to be the Largest Marketplace in Japan that offers eCommerce fin-tech, communication service, digital content to its multitudes of active users. To date, the corporation has 70+ businesses and over 1.5 billion members across the world.
The Rakuten Ichiba (or Rakuten Japan) selling platform, or the “Amazon of Japan”, currently has 1.3 million global members on the site and allows over 50,000 merchants to access 30+ countries and a variety of regions on a global scale.
Impressive statistics about Rakuten (Source: https://www.rakuten.co.jp/)
Rakuten eCommerce platform – Japan (Source: https://www.rakuten.co.jp/)
Rakuten started to expand its market in 2005 to a global scale, acquireing Viber, Viki, Overdrive, eBates, and many more. These joint venture deals and acquisitions have taken Rakuten to the top as a leading business giant with a huge network system.
Rakuten eCommerce platform – the US (Source: https://www.rakuten.com/)
02. Why sell on Rakuten?
First of all, launching on Rakuten means breaking into one of the most prominent eCommerce markets. Japan has a recorded population of 126 million in 2019, considered the third-largest in the world by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest global eCommerce market. The country has over 119 million internet users (80.9% penetration rate) actively engaged online.
About market share, Rakuten dominates the online market in Japan with over 25% of the online B2C market and over 30% in categories such as apparel, food, and household accessories.
A dedicated E-Commerce Consultant (ECC) is assigned to every registered shop to work closely with the business owner on the latest market trends and sales strategies.
Rakuten is also a shop-centric marketplace in which merchants can control their own storefront, product pages, and customer experiences. Merchants are able to conduct CRM activities to first time purchasers and nurture them into the purchase cycle.
Rakuten marketplace has a diverse network that includes e-commerce companies, logistics, marketing firms, and loyalty bonus programs such as Rakuten Viki, Rakuten Marketing, Rakuten Viber, and Rakuten Super Logistics. Rakuten empowers 3P sellers to personalize their brand identity with customized storefronts and also own their policies.
II. Selling on Rakuten: Cost and Fees
Rakuten offers different plans to its sellers. However, if you are selling from abroad, you will need to choose the basic package designed for international merchants. This will include ongoing costs such as registration and monthly account fees, as well as varying fee rates adjusted for your activities, such as commission rates, affiliate fees, and payment processing fees.
Here below is the summary of the pricing if you choose to go for Rakuten Japan.
|60,000 JPY (APX: 552 USD)
|Monthly fixed fee (consultation fee included)
|50,000 JPY (APX: 460 USD)
|20,000 (can be increased upon request)
|2.0%-4.0%, +0.5% via mobile
|System enhancement fee
|Payment processing fee
|2.6%-10.4% (sales via affiliate)
|1% (base %)
(*) Note: If you enlist the help of a service partner, always check upfront how much commission they will charge. This is important for building an overall picture of the relevant fees you’ll pay for operating on Rakuten.
International merchants can opt for direct cross-border shipping or in-country warehousing models such as the Rakuten Super Logistics solution, offering full-service freight management, multichannel order fulfillment, and return management for online orders.
III. 03 Steps To Sell On Rakuten
Just like other platforms, the application for merchant status on Rakuten is quite straightforward. The biggest plus is that throughout the process, sellers will be assisted by a consultant who will advise them on the necessary steps to get set up.
Step 1: Registration
Our team of Onboarding Consultant specialize in overseas business, and will guide you in preparing materials to submit for your company’s screening. Once you pass all stages of screening, you can begin to create your store on Rakuten’s marketplace.
If you’re in Japan, please take a look at this form: HERE
Please note that merchants should adhere to certain requirements, including but not limited to Japanese language proficiency, logistics, foreign exchange bank, DUNS number and items allowed for sales in Japan.
Do work closely with your consultant to figure it out!
(*) HERE for more: https://marketplace.rakuten.net/how-it-works
If you’re attempting to apply on the Rakuten global marketplace, the process will be as follows.
First, visit the seller portal and click Apply.
Next, fill out the provided application.
Then play the waiting game. Typically, Rakuten will get back to you within three to 10 business days with the next steps.
Step 2: Store setup
After you gain access to RMS (Rakuten Merchant Server), the next step will be to register your items, upload your company’s information, set your return and shipping policy, and create your storefront. A Shop Open Adviser will be standing by to support you with set up.
For this, there are some paperwork that you need to follow:
- Your products with one of the following barcodes- UPC, EAN, JAN, ISBN.
- Own Brand name (you can use your name as well) and
- A unique manufacturer id ( to ensure you own a business)
- After screening & confirmation, List your products in either of 4 ways: RMS web tool, FTP feeds. Open API or Third-party integration.
If you want to list your products on Rakuten.com (aka the US-based Rakuten), you must meet all of the following criteria to sell on Rakuten:
- Hold U.S. bank and credit card accounts.
- Merchants need to have a W9 form before applying to become a merchant at Rakuten Marketplace.
- Rakuten.com will also accept a W-8 instead of W9 for merchants without United States tax status.
- Mandatory customer service email address answerable during U.S. business hours
- A U.S. customer service phone number (optional)
- Fast enough shipping time for U.S. customers
In case you are a seller based in any other country than Japan and the US, you can still sell on Rakuten marketplace with the help of the third-party partners approved by Rakuten. For this, you need to sign a contract with any of the service providers, which in turn will handle all your setup, administrations, and operations of your store. You can contact their Support Center.
Step 3: Shop opening
Once your store is live, a dedicated E-Commerce Consultant (ECC) will be assigned to further drive sales and maximize your store’s performance to ensure success on Rakuten’s marketplace.
For the global marketplace. Be prepared to start selling on Rakuten when you apply. You have three weeks from when you open your account to upload all necessary content for your storefront to go live. If you miss that window, Rakuten may suspend your account, and you could be charged $199 to reopen the account.
Once you’re accepted as a seller, upload your catalog, begin designing your storefront and work on gaining traction in a new marketplace. There are four ways to upload your products:
- RMS web tool
- FTP feeds
- Open API
- Third-party integrator with Rakuten partner options
IV. Selling on X Platform: Best Practices and Examples
01. Create your storefront
The best feature of Rakuten for sellers is the ability to create a storefront.
Storefronts on the Rakuten online marketplace can be personalized to a high degree. A storefront can mimic your own website, allowing you to market products in a way that suited your needs and inventory. Rakuten allows sellers to support brand consistency across multiple channels.
The original page: https://www.dental-fit.com/
The Rakuten-hosted page: https://www.rakuten.ne.jp/gold/d-fit/
02. Custom product pages
There is no doubt that some products sell better than others and bring the highest revenue. Needless to say, every seller wants to sell as many of such products. Custom product pages will help you highlight such items, showcase them in detail and bring them to the attention of customers.
When you create a custom page for your product, you can add demo videos, additional images, and in-depth content that will show your item in detail and help more buyers forward toward making a buying decision in your favor.
Above is a quite functional product page. I like the fact that Rakuten automatically converts the currency for the buyers.
For Rakuten US, you can even compare prices.
03. Shipping options
Rakuten allows you to add up to 20 shipping options.
Plus, you can save on shipping with Rakuten Global Express
Rakuten Global Express is an overseas shipping service for products purchased on Rakuten or other shopping websites, which are combined together at our warehouse in Japan and then shipped overseas. It is perfect for you if you want to save on shipping by combining products purchased on multiple different websites into one package, or want to buy products from shops that don’t provide overseas shipping.
Go bigger with Rakuten logistics here: https://www.rakutensl.com/
04. Work with e-commerce consultants
Rakuten provides every seller with an e-commerce consultant and you can take advantage of such generosity. Get in touch with your consultant to get your products pages reviewed, to get recommendations on how to improve listings, and increase your sales.
05. Market your Rakuten site from your own online store
Although Rakuten is a nice place to list your products, owning an online store can help you manage your sales strategy from a thorough perspective, while increasing the credibility for your Rakuten listings.
There are currently many platforms out there for you to set up an online store easily. Once ready, you can place a link to your online store somewhere on your Rakuten listings. From there the customers can learn a deeper story behind your products on the online store. Vice versa, upon dropping in your website, visitors on your site might run into a link to your Rakuten presence and start their discovery on the spot.
You can take a look at the free Shopify & PageFly combo for the start. While Shopify is a hosting platform for your online store, PageFly helps you establish different types of eCommerce pages for free. We’ll talk shop in detail later.
V. Rakuten and Shopify – Enjoy The Best From Both Worlds and Build Your Own eCommerce Brand
When you have items in high demand, selling them through Rakuten can help build your loyal customer base. Considering selling globally, Rakuten is one of the most popular online retailers in Japan, so it’s a great step to entering the international market.
While providing vast exposure to high revenue markets, selling on Rakuten takes time and attention to build loyal customers. Plus, in case you wish to do something outside the Rakuten territory, e.g. exploring new markets and flexibly customizing your storefront to your liking, Rakuten may not be the perfect fit for you.
Shopify is a multichannel commerce platform that supports merchants in building and operating their own online stores on multiple e-commerce sales channels. In the basic plan, merchants are provided with the necessary functions to operate an online store, such as site building, product registration and inventory and order management tools. Merchants can also download additional functions as apps from a dedicated app store within the Shopify admin panel to cater to their diverse needs, including access to multiple e-commerce sales channels, customer email tools, delivery tools including invoice printing, and social media linkage tools.
In this sense, if Shopify lays a foundation to capture mass audiences, Rakuten is a great choice to target specific markets with revenue potentials.
The two e-commerce giants are offering store support services that empower Shopify merchants in the U.S. and Japan to operate e-commerce stores on Rakuten through the Shopify admin panel.
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By downloading the Rakuten App from the dedicated app store from the Shopify admin panel, Shopify merchants will be able to use Shopify’s systems to register products and manage inventory and orders for stores on Rakuten Ichiba.
VI. How To Sell on Rakuten With Shopify
If you try looking up ‘Shopify – Rakuten Integration’ on Google Search and Shopify App Store, these two results will return.
Rakuten Ichiba and Rakuten France apps are the two go-to apps for those wanting to penetrate into Rakuten from Shopify.
What’s the difference? While Rakuten Ichiba focuses on Japan’s market, Rakuten France concentrates exclusively on France and bridges the gap between sellers and potential users in European countries.
Let’s take the Rakuten Ichiba app as an example from here.
Go to Shopify app store, search for Rakuten Ichiba (JP) and hit Add app
Go to your Shopify admin panel, click on Get credentials and provide your information.
After that, you can sync your products in the Shopify inventory with Rakuten.
Edit your product details
Merchants can upload the products in bulk through CSV on Rakuten Marketplace and carry out changes in the product listings – title, description, quantity etc.
Aside from creating Rakuten listings for your Shopify products, here are some other things that you can do on the Shopify panel that has been linked with Rakuten.
- Order Acknowledgement: The orders are synced with the app once merchants receive them at Rakuten, thereafter they are created on Shopify store, thereby, enabling merchants to manage the orders from their store.
- Price Customization: The app empowers merchants to customize the item pricing and adjust them periodically as per marketplace dynamics and competitor requirements.
- Rakuten Feeds: Merchants get notifications about the status of the products. This facilitates tracking of successful orders & failed orders etc.
- Threshold Inventory Setup: This feature enables merchants to avoid overselling. The merchants can set-up a minimum threshold limit for item inventory. This alarms the merchants whenever inventory level goes below this limit.
- Auto Cancel Orders: The app automatically cancels the orders as soon as the product has gone out of stock so as to prevent “late delivery” warning for the orders.
If you wish to make your first sale on Rakuten, it’s never too early to hop on the platform, create a seller account and make your listings visible. But then again, driving sales in eCommerce requires a long-term strategy.
Starting your online store on Shopify is one critical step to incorporate Rakuten into your collective marketing efforts, make further sales and take your business off the ground.