Global conglomerates are everywhere; large companies that offer a wide range of products and services, seeking out efficiencies of scale and new synergies. At Rakuten, we’ve taken the concept a step further. We, like many global companies, have many divisions under one brand. We offer e-commerce, entertainment, financial services, logistics and mobile messaging, just to name a few; all operating under the Rakuten corporate banner. But we’re doing more than just assembling a collection of businesses.
Since we started with an e-commerce marketplace more than 20 years ago, we have consistently moved toward realizing a vision of an ecosystem for Rakuten members – a virtual marketplace of products and services that would empower the lives of our members, serving them with convenience and multiple other benefits as they shop, bank, travel, connect with others and more.
The key ingredients:
So how do you take a collection of disparate parts and form them into a robust ecosystem that supports your members’ needs? Here’s what I see as some essential ingredients.
Offer incentives: One rationale for a consumer to explore an ecosystem of services is the benefits that they enjoy by doing so. Our ecosystem offers incentives that our members can unlock in one service and use in another. For example, we offer a robust loyalty points program that users can earn in one Rakuten service and spend in another. In Japan, the Rakuten Super Points program has given out more than one trillion yen worth of points to its members. We also promote partnerships – such as one going on now between Lyft and Rakuten in the U.S., that allows Rakuten customers to earn cashback on Lyft rides. This encourages our members to experience the extended ecosystem of our services and those offered by our partners.
Provide a simple user experience: Consumers will not be impressed with your breadth of offerings if accessing them is difficult. A smooth user experience is paramount. We are always working on new ways to do this, such as the ongoing development of one app that will act as a connecting platform for all our services. Customers expect not only ease of use, but innovation in the user experience that makes it all seamless to navigate. We want our members who visit Rakuten for the things they need to stay around to discover the things that might bring them joy.
Invest in branding: Who does an ecosystem serve if no one knows it’s there? Part of our efforts to create the Rakuten ecosystem involves telling customers about it. We are in the midst of a global branding campaign that helps customers understand the connections between our various businesses. We are communicating this in a variety of ways including television ads featuring Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry. We want members to feel proud when they see the Rakuten badge gracing the front of the Warriors jersey or the FC Barcelona jersey—to feel that they are part of a bigger community linked by shared values and belief in the future.
Creating an ecosystem that serves our members is a vision very distinct from the traditional model of a global conglomerate. We are not just a collection of businesses. We are passionate about creating a new, mutually beneficial environment in which our members, our partners and our businesses can all thrive.