Consumer-to-consumer commerce is experiencing something of a renaissance – particularly in the digital realm.

The internet’s potential to facilitate C2C commerce was first demonstrated back in the mid-1990s, when platforms like Craigslist and eBay emerged. But it didn’t take long for the focus to shift to larger organisations, with the efficiencies and reliability they bring, and B2C commerce took center stage.

But recent trends suggest another change is in the offing. With today’s abundance of smartphones and social connectivity, it’s easier than ever to snap a photo and say goodbye to that collection of 90s VHS tapes you never watch anymore, or that pair of good leather shoes that never actually fit you. The result: a new golden age in C2C commerce.

Asia in particular has welcomed the arrival of this new trend. In Japan, Rakuten’s presence in an expanding industry continues to grow, with a recent announcement that annualized C2C sales are approaching 100 billion yen. The company burst onto the C2C scene with its own flea market app back in 2014, called Rakuma, allowing users in Japan to sell items directly to other users through the platform. After two years of strong growth and expansion into Taiwan with Rakuma, the acquisition of Fril, the C2C fashion app that wildly over-indexes with female millennials, placed Rakuten firmly on the map as an industry leader in this space.

Survey results from Rakuten Research revealed that Japanese millennials are more enthusiastic than any other age group when it comes to buying secondhand goods online.

Survey results from Rakuten Research revealed that Japanese millennials are more enthusiastic than any other age group when it comes to buying secondhand goods online.

Mobile C2C on the rise

Rakuten Research, recently conducted a survey into consumer behavior around secondhand goods in Japan, giving valuable insight into how the C2C market is changing.

The survey revealed that the majority (67.9%) of consumers were still buying secondhand goods primarily at physical locations (such as bookstores and thrift stores), but also that some 44.4% had experience buying online. Similarly, among those who had made purchases online, the use of smartphones was also on the rise, with 53.9% saying that they had bought or sold something on their mobiles. This is an astonishing jump from 22% just two years earlier – a figure from similar research conducted in 2015 – and great news for C2C apps.

Millennials enthusiastic

For C2C players, the good news doesn’t stop there: According to the survey, millennials are leading the charge online. The results revealed that the younger consumers were, the more enthusiasm they had for buying secondhand goods online, with 41.3% of people in their 20s responding that they were comfortable with it, compared to just 26.3% of people in their 60s.

Their avenue of choice for buying secondhand goods also differed significantly according to age: While older people who bought or sold online were mainly using auction sites, consumers in their 20s preferred flea market apps such as Rakuma, more so than other age groups.

When questioned about their reasons behind selling unwanted items, another interesting difference emerged between the two age groups. Sellers in their 50s and 60s responded that they didn’t want to be wasteful by simply throwing away their unused items, while a higher proportion of the younger generation were motivated by the prospect of making some extra cash.

A bright future for C2C

The research reveals two important things: that mobile C2C is growing, and that millennials are joining in.

The strong mobile growth figures don’t come as much of a surprise, being part of a wider trend across industries. The same can’t be said, however, about the level of enthusiasm from the younger generation. This is an age when cash-strapped millennials are known for challenging existing habits and even business models and competition for their attention is at an all time high. Enthusiasm from this segment is a positive indicator for C2C apps. Because in the end, does any industry really have a future if young people aren’t on board?