Rakuten Points: The road to two trillion

Two trillion (2,000,000,000,000) points. The Rakuten Points program celebrated an important milestone in September 2020 when it awarded its two trillionth cumulative point to a lucky member. With each point equivalent to one yen, that’s more than $18 billion USD. Or, put another way, more than 260 points for every person alive on Earth today. Either way, that’s a lot of points.

Perhaps the most impressive fact about this milestone is the speed at which it was reached. While it took 15 years for Rakuten’s flagship loyalty program to award its first trillion points, the second trillion took little more than three years. 

What has changed since 2017 to allow for this marked acceleration? Let’s take a look.

Rakuten’s expanding ecosystem

In 2017, it was already well-established practice for Rakuten members to accumulate and spend their points on a wide variety of goods and services, whether online or at brick-and-mortar stores. But now there are more ways than ever for members to use their points.

Why not let your points work for you? Shortly after that first trillion, Rakuten Securities launched its Point Investment service, which allows users to exchange points for investment trusts and domestic stocks. In 2018, the service was streamlined to make investing with points even easier. 2019 brought users the ability to pay insurance premiums for certain insurance products offered by Rakuten General Insurance. 

Of course, without the fun factor, a points program is unlikely to catch on and rise above the competition. Rakuten, which has long believed that shopping is entertainment, puts the user experience first. As a result, research has found Rakuten’s points program to be the number one loyalty points program in Japan in overall customer satisfaction.*

Consider the Super Point Up program, which offers game-like points multipliers for every Rakuten Group service a member uses in addition to Rakuten Ichiba. Say, for example, you’ve got a Rakuten Credit Card, are a Rakuten NBA subscriber and you’ve just signed up for Rakuten Mobile. If you shop through the Rakuten Ichiba app, you’d earn 5.5 times the standard number of points.

Points create visible value ⁠— customers can watch the numbers multiply before their eyes.

One to two trillion in only three years? No wonder Okaimono Panda is so excited!
One to two trillion in only three years? No wonder Okaimono Panda is so excited!

Partners benefit from Rakuten Points too

From the customer point of view, it’s easy to see why accumulating points when making purchases is an attractive proposition. But what about from the vendor side? In the past, larger retailers often offered their own points programs in order to keep customers coming back. However, with the societal shift toward online shopping, a more comprehensive approach to earning points has become necessary. Luckily, a pair of recent initiatives by the Japanese government have encouraged businesses to come under the Rakuten Points umbrella.

First, there’s the Project for Encouraging Businesses to Introduce Cashless Payment Systems and Pass on Benefits to Consumers, a project palatable to businesses and customers alike. It has led to more retail locations and restaurants accepting various forms of cashless payment, thereby allowing use of Rakuten Card, Rakuten Edy and the Rakuten Pay app — all viable options for earning points. There’s also the My Number Point Project which offers bonus points in an effort to encourage Japan’s populace to make use of their government-issued My Number cards.

Nowhere to go but up

These days, for many shoppers in Japan, earning points along with purchasing is only to be expected. Walk into any convenience store and the staff member behind the register will ask you if you’re collecting points no matter what you’re buying. Vending machines, online vendors and gas station pumps all prompt customers for their point card of choice. Since launching in 2002, Rakuten has stayed ahead of the curve by helping to make points programs an ingrained part of the shopping experience. Rakuten is still leading the way 18 years later, offering enticing new uses for all those accumulated points.

When the Rakuten Points program launched, only the most vivid imagination could have envisioned two trillion points being awarded in less than 20 years. As the shopping landscape continues to evolve, there’s no telling how members will be earning and spending their points in the years to come, but that’s part of the excitement.

Here’s to the next trillion. 

*Source: “Survey on Points Systems.” Valid responses: 1,000. Online survey conducted by MyVoice Communications, Inc. in July 2020.

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