Rakuten’s supermarket digital transformation business Rakuten Zenkoku Super is reaching new corners of Japan. The platform recently welcomed yet another Japanese supermarket: Ryobi Store, a chain of 13 stores in Okayama Prefecture, which will go online in fall 2023.
Ryobi Store will join a group of eight supermarket chains on Rakuten Zenkoku Super, including recent recruit Ellena, which operates 44 supermarkets in and around Saga and Nagasaki Prefectures in Japan’s west.
Sharing Rakuten’s online expertise
Rakuten Zenkoku Super launched in January 2022 with a mission to leverage Rakuten’s expertise in the digital realm to empower businesses and communities all around Japan.
The platform is geared towards existing supermarket operators who don’t have access to the knowledge and resources to take their retail operations online. Much like Rakuten Ichiba has been doing for all manner of retail stores since 1997, Rakuten Zenkoku Super offers a one-stop shop for everything supermarkets might need to make the digital transition.
“We’re able to take these supermarkets online at a comparatively low cost,” explains senior manager Hideyuki Oi. “They can capitalize on Rakuten’s expertise for support both in preparation for their online opening and with operations and sales into the future.”
Joining the platform gives operators access to a wealth of e-commerce expertise. In addition to running one of Japan’s largest online shopping malls for 27 years, Rakuten has also operated its own online supermarket with partners Seiyu since 2018.
Harnessing Rakuten’s ecosystem: From management to logistics
Supermarket operators can take advantage of Rakuten tools for everything from order management and online payments to marketing, sales and building robust logistics networks. “They’re also able to leverage Rakuten’s own membership base, which is a powerful tool for attracting new customers.”
Meanwhile, everyday customers benefit from a growing array of attractive products available on the platform, as new retailers join.
It is this combination that is playing a key role in accelerating the platform’s growth, Oi reveals.
“Thanks to Rakuten’s point system and expertise in user experience and e-commerce, our business partners can grow while gaining specialist knowledge. At the same time, we can offer customers a truly positive shopping experience because of the range of popular products and services we have lined up on the platform.”
Zenkoku Super’s smart solutions for seamless grocery deliveries
No Rakuten service would be complete without high-tech business solutions, and Zenkoku Super doesn’t disappoint. The team developed a number of specialized tools, including a smart picking system that calculates the most efficient route for employees to take through the supermarket shelves on each order, as well as a smartphone app to help identify products.
For customers, grocery shopping with Zenkoku Super is as easy as buying anything online. A postal code search will reveal which supermarkets are available for delivery, and shoppers can simply log in with their existing Rakuten ID to use their registered payment details and address.
“We have a lot of experience building services with an intuitive UI/UX,” Oi boasts. “Being able to use your existing membership and earn and save Rakuten Points also makes for a smooth experience that only Rakuten can provide.”
Empowering rural economies through digital transformation
Demand for online grocery shopping jumped with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, introducing many new shoppers to the convenience of online supermarkets. Today, the service is popular among a broad spectrum of customers.
But Oi believes the market still has plenty of room to grow.
“The rate of e-commerce adoption for food shopping in Japan is still quite low, so it’s a market with a lot of potential,” he explains. “At the same time, supermarket operators often don’t have the experience or resources to take operations online, so they can’t take that step even if the desire is there.”
Rakuten Zenkoku Super could be particularly beneficial for Japan’s rural areas, as many Japanese towns can fall outside the delivery areas of urban operators. Being able to shop online at one’s trusted local supermarket could help alleviate woes of regional depopulation and dwindling transportation options.
“With the pandemic, more double-income families and a lack of transportation options, there are very high hopes in the potential for online supermarkets,” Oi says. “I believe that the value that Rakuten Zenkoku Super can provide here is extremely high.”