As the e-commerce industry has grown rapidly around the world, the transportation companies that deliver goods ordered online have seen rapid growth, but also sometimes struggled to keep up with demand. In Japan, the situation has been exacerbated as norms of customer service are high – for example, urban consumers can come home at 6 p.m., find that they have missed a delivery and then request a redelivery that same night – often as late as 9 p.m.
As delivery and redelivery requests have ballooned and e-commerce companies have competed to offer faster and cheaper deliveries of goods, pressure has mounted on the nation’s three largest players in the delivery business: Yamato Transport, Sagawa Express and of course Japan Post. Things came to a head of sorts early this year. In March, Yamato announced that by the end of September it would be increase its base delivery fee for the first time in 27 years. Then in early April, the Nikkei reported that Yamato would no longer be able to service Amazon’s same-day delivery program, a development expected to have a significant impact on provision of the program.
“Just as the relationship with merchants on Rakuten Ichiba is positioned as a partnership, Rakuten is also committed to partnering with transportation companies,” says Naho Kono.
At the same time, Rakuten approached the issue from the perspective that has guided its marketplace model from the outset: collaboration.
“Just as the relationship with merchants on Rakuten Ichiba is positioned as a partnership, Rakuten is also committed to partnering with transportation companies,” explains Managing Executive Officer and President of Rakuten’s E-Commerce Company Naho Kono. “The outcomes of a successful partnership should provide benefits to both sides.”
On April 5, Rakuten announced several new initiatives related to its existing partnership with Japan Post. Broadly, there are two facets.
First, to maximize efficiency in communications between our 40,000+ merchants and Japan Post, Rakuten will work with Japan Post to offer delivery services to merchants at special rates. This will greatly streamline the process by which Japan Post offers its services and ultimately benefit all parties.
Second, Rakuten will work with Japan Post to develop a range of incentives and technological solutions to reduce the instance of redeliveries. In the near future, Rakuten Ichiba users will be able to receive notifications to their phones when a delivery is about to arrive. Pick-up options will also be increased with the addition of more convenience stores, dedicated locker boxes and post offices where consumers can collect their goods. Furthermore, consumers will be rewarded with Rakuten Super Points when a delivery is completed on the first attempt.
Yes, customers will get points for being at home at the delivery time that they designated themselves.
“Rakuten prides itself on its history of innovation, disruption and also high levels of customer service. Central to those achievements have been its relationships with its partners – and with this new arrangement with Japan Post, that tradition continues,” says Kono.