Two of Japan’s biggest consumer-to-consumer (C2C) platforms are joining forces. Last month, Rakuten announced that its two flea market apps, Rakuma and Fril, would be merging under the Rakuma brand to increase the merchandise offering and pursue efficiencies in operations, providing the distinctive platform of choice for Japan’s C2C users.

Rakuma, launched by Rakuten in November 2014, introduced an ambitious business strategy that eliminated seller fees and took full advantage of Rakuten’s strong loyalty program. The strategy proved wildly successful and the app grew to occupy one of the top spots in an industry that – according to the Japanese government – saw sales top 300 billion yen in 2016.

Fril: Japan’s ‘original’ flea market app

In September 2016, Rakuten acquired Fablic, the company behind flea market app, Fril. Considered by many in Japan to be the nation’s ‘original’ flea market app, Fril emerged at a time when PC-based auction sites still dominated. It was a time when smartphone use was exploding around Japan as more and more users were searching for an easier and more efficient way to sell their used goods.

“Before Fril, you needed a PC to be able to put anything up for sale,” recalls Motoki Nagasato of Fablic. “Smartphones weren’t widely used back then … the process of actually selling anything was really long. Unless you were seriously motivated, you probably wouldn’t go to the effort of setting up your PC, buying a digital camera and making arrangements for payment just to sell something small.”

Fril launched in July 2012, aiming to solve this problem through a simple smartphone app. “The idea was that if you could snap a picture of something, put it up for sale, sell it, and even chat with the buyer, all within one simple package, younger people might be motivated to try it,” he continues. “We were the only player on the scene for about a year, and we got about 2 million downloads through word-of-mouth alone.”

The youth of Fril’s user base has remained one of the app’s core strengths – it continues to be a favorite among users in their teens and 20s looking to buy and sell fashion and cosmetic items.

Together at last

After over a year in the Rakuten family, Fril is now joining forces with Rakuma to tackle the world of flea market apps head on. The marriage looks to benefit both Rakuma and Fril users, as well as the Rakuten group as a whole.

From the users’ perspective, the combined service will offer greater product variety and the loyalty advantages of being part of the Rakuten Ecosystem. All users will be able to earn and spend Rakuten Super Points with the new Rakuma, while campaigns and collaborations with other Rakuten services will also be possible.

For Rakuten, the move promises to boost efficiency. “First of all, we can concentrate our management resources on one project,” says Ryo Matsumura, Director of Rakuten’s E-Commerce Company, who heads up Rakuma. “Our marketing teams and our engineers were spread across two services, but now they can work together. We will be able to concentrate marketing resources on one brand instead of two.”

Lofty goals for the new Rakuma

C2C is a growing market in Japan, and Rakuma is gaining traction as a major player. While the new Rakuma will occupy the number two spot in the industry, the team isn’t about to stop there.

“We are already making around 140 billion yen in annualized sales. We want to continue to grow exponentially,” explains Matsumura. “We are aiming for number one.”