You’re sitting in the middle of your favorite park in Tokyo under a vast canopy of cherry blossoms. The seasonal petals are a beautiful, mesmerizing sight that have been praised by Japanese poets for centuries. There’s only one problem: you’re out of beer. Who ya gonna call?
Rakubin. It’s Rakuten’s express delivery service that promises goods brought to you in central Tokyo in as little as 20 minutes. If you’re too busy taking photos of pink-white petals, Rakubin is a quick, convenient way of farming out shopping tasks.
Launched last year, Rakubin services an area that covers most of the central Tokyo wards of Shibuya, Meguro, Setagaya and Minato. Apart from speed, a unique feature of Rakubin is that its couriers can deliver to spots without an address – such as a sidewalk, public square or park.
To try it out, Rakuten Today went to Miyashita Park near Shibuya Station. After placing an order for drinks and snacks through the Rakubin app we were quickly given an estimated delivery time of only 13 minutes. Not only did the courier arrive on time, he easily found us on the sidewalk by the park entrance because he was heading to our GPS location, not an address. That’s particularly handy in the Japanese capital, where even the locals can have trouble finding a building.
“We launched Rakubin last year because we wanted to make e-commerce even more convenient,” says Katz Nakanishi, who heads the service. “We found that people were spending an hour to go to a supermarket and shop or 20 minutes at a convenience store. We wanted to offer a surprisingly quick alternative.”
Rakubin operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year out of a warehouse in the Japanese capital. Every morning, the team of crimson-jacketed couriers assembles for a staff pep talk and prepares to bike or drive as far as Tokyo Tower or the south entrance of Shinjuku Station. They rely on a fleet of vans and motorized electric bicycles equipped with carrying cases for merchandise and handlebar grippers for smartphones.
Customers appreciate the precise estimated arrival times, such as between 2:15 and 2:30 PM, which is worlds apart from traditional couriers, according to Nakanishi, who often give a very broad two-hour slot for their arrival. Users also have the innovative option of picking an order up from a van or bicycle once it’s near, which cuts the delivery fee from 770 yen to 390 yen. Some of the most frequent users include pregnant women and busy mothers.
Rakubin has a focused selection of about 400 products that people want to order every day. Popular choices include Rakuten Ichiba and Rakuten CAFÉ goods such as chocolate donuts, drinks and daily necessities, but there are unusual items such as floral bouquets, canned crab meat and light bulbs. Rakubin also delivers orders from a number of restaurant chains, bringing you curry, sushi and hamburgers wherever you might be, and there are plans to expand the range of foods on offer in the future.
“I aim to increase our lineup of products as well,” Nakanishi says. “Customer satisfaction increases when shoppers can find the items they want, and that’s our goal at Rakubin.”