Cities are under lockdown. Brick and mortar stores are shut. Consumers are stuck behind their computers or in front of their televisions. The workers who form the backbone of the social infrastructure that we depend upon for daily life face uncertainties that many may never have considered before signing up for the job.
But amidst the pandemic, internet services represent a lifeline. For merchants, they provide an avenue for continuing to do business. For consumers, they are a source of critical supplies and engagement. For students, they allow studies to continue. For many of us, they give us a tangible way to stay connected to communities and workplaces.
Empowering businesses and organizations across the globe
Throughout the world, Rakuten’s marketplaces are helping a wide variety of merchants keep their businesses open and vital. Rakuten Germany helped retailers transition online by temporarily waiving fees for new merchants. Rakuten France is offering reduced fees and personalized support through accelerated training webinars for new merchants impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown.
In March, Japan’s Rakuten Ichiba marketplace created a special hotline to support merchants and offer advice on topics ranging from product delivery delays and inventory shortfalls to difficulties with payments. The service also launched online seminars on best practices and eased merchant delivery standards during this period.
Based on feedback from regional merchants, the Japan marketplace launched a nationwide campaign to promote fresh local delicacies, from fresh noodles to crabmeat and specialty desserts. Rakuten contributes to a special COVID-19 fund with every campaign purchase.
The marketplaces are working with merchants to be a reliable source of critical health products and supplies like face masks, liquid sanitizers and sanitizing wipes. They are also monitoring and taking action against potential price-gouging or scamming.
Rakuten Americas moved quickly to launch Rakuten Takeout, a free platform powered by Rakuten Ready for local restaurants to offer takeout options to Rakuten members. For a limited time, members who use Rakuten Takeout are earning 20% cash back on orders from their favorite local restaurants. While the service is currently only available near the Rakuten Americas San Mateo, California headquarters, plans for expansion are underway.
In a campaign run in March, Rakuten Rewards supported the retail businesses hit hardest by the pandemic because of their reliance on foot traffic to drive sales. This campaign resulted in a 100% lift in online shopping trips and a 46% increase in their sales.
In the U.K., Rakuten Advertising is providing free ad space on Rakuten media for public service announcements from governmental organizations, including the National Health Service. The company is also supporting brands with data and insights through free Rakuten Intelligence webinars and network performance evaluations. Its COVID-19 Resource Center provides regular updates for retailer and publishing partners on how the pandemic is changing consumer behavior across the globe.
COVID-19 has deeply affected the communities and economies of countries worldwide. Rakuten is working within these communities to offer assistance where possible — and even inspire optimism.
In Japan, Rakuten announced earlier this week that it is collaborating with genetic testing kit pioneer Genesis Healthcare to offer a COVID-19 PCR testing kit developed by Genesis Healthcare with the cooperation of Souseikai Medical Corporation to businesses and other organizations in the Greater Tokyo Area. The kit is intended for people who do not show the symptoms of COVID-19 infection but are concerned about possible spread of the virus. This new initiative is designed to support businesses and organizations in improving their understanding of the level of impact of COVID-19 across their workforce and promoting effective communications.
Rakuten was one of Japan’s first companies to champion social distancing by developing a distinctive visual logo and implementing best practices for its employees across many of its 70 services. Through a special charity fund, the company has also begun accepting donations in points or other cashless payment methods to support COVID-19 crisis response initiatives.
Rakuten Travel is working to alleviate the virus’s spread. More than 860 registered hotels have offered to make available approximately 110,000 rooms in Japan to quarantine patients with mild symptoms, assuring that hospital resources are reserved for the most serious cases.
When Japan’s schools shut down in February, Rakuten ABCmouse English Learning Academy for Children responded by offering free online English language courses to educational businesses for their students to use from home. ABCmouse offers more than 5,000 different games and lessons that teach young students more than 2,000 English words and phrases.
Around the World
On the global stage, Rakuten Viber has partnered with the World Health Organization to offer millions of users in 23 languages verified and reliable information about COVID-19 through interactive chatbots. Its #SocialDistancing sticker packs educate about the virus’s danger. The messaging service is partnering with government health institutions in 16 countries and providing real-time updates and approved information to over 13 million members.
In Italy, Rakuten Kobo gave away e-books to people affected by the country’s quarantine as part of a larger government initiative. The company also launched a #StayHomeandRead campaign, collaborating with publishers and governments in 27 countries to encourage people to stay in and enjoy a wide selection of free and deeply discounted books. In the last 30 days Kobo delivered more than 10 million books worldwide.
Rakuten TV has added over 100 movies to stream free of charge in a number of European countries impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown. The platform reached an agreement with Hollywood studios to offer newly-released high-profile movies like Trolls World Tour through video on demand during the theatrical release period, allowing users to experience first-run cinema at home. The company also joined with one of Barcelona’s largest hospitals to donate tablets and movies to patients who cannot see their relatives while they are under quarantine.
Together, we will make it through this crisis. Messages of support from local leaders and global celebrities have provided constant and unexpected sources of inspiration for many. Athletes playing for Rakuten teams and in Rakuten events are taking up the cause, appearing in an inspirational video titled Empower Japan. Professional athletes from football legend Andrés Iniesta to tennis star Kei Nishikori all urge us to “stay together” to get through the daunting challenges presented by the pandemic.