Rakuten sets the course for borderless business in Europe

We hear a lot about Globalization, but what does it look like in practice?

Rakuten’s European businesses are overcoming the challenges of cross-border commerce and language barriers to grow together, strengthening synergies and connecting the dots under Rakuten Europe CEO Toby Otsuka’s vision of a regional ecosystem.

“What started with first steps more than a decade ago has grown into an innovative network of more than 15 companies in this core region,” says Otsuka. “Rakuten’s unique partnership with FC Barcelona kicked off in 2017, followed closely by a strategic global brand integration initiative that has increased brand awareness across the region. Now an ambitious push forward by the individual companies, bolstered by strong regional leadership, is driving a seamless and borderless experience for customers in Europe.”

Examples, like Rakuten TV’s expansion to more than 40 countries, showcase the group’s ambition, but its success is centered on the shared knowledge and exchange of experience between the group companies themselves — giving Rakuten a key advantage over many of its competitors. The latest example of how cooperation between group businesses can build a foundation for future success can be seen in the launch of the all-new Rakuten.co.uk and Rakuten.es shopping sites.

The next generation of shopping, earning and spending

Established in 2015, Rakuten Affiliate Malls EU has developed and scaled its loyalty businesses in Spain and the U.K. The service allows users to earn Rakuten Super Points by shopping online at affiliate stores — points that can later be redeemed on other Rakuten services as well as exchanged for coupons and store credit with major brands like Decathlon, Sports Direct, Media Markt and Mango.

When the Affiliate Malls team was looking for ways to lay the foundation for further growth in Europe while improving efficiency for content managers and developers, help was just around the corner: Montpellier-based Rakuten Aquafadas — part of Rakuten’s technology branch and a leader in no-code mobile app platforms, cloud authoring tools and digital publishing software — offered its support.

In true cross-border spirit, teams in Barcelona, Berlin, London and Montpellier set off on a new journey, leveraging ecosystem technology and resources on what may mark a leap in EU open e-commerce operations.

More fun for users and creators

With fewer than six months from design and development to launch, the project to relaunch the U.K. and Spain affiliate malls kicked off in September 2018, releasing the final, all-new platform in February 2019. Rakuten Aquafadas’ technology “Stitch” was chosen to replace the old system, allowing for greater flexibility while significantly increasing the usability for content teams.

Sebastiaan Rasterhoff
Sebastiaan Rasterhoff, head of Open E-commerce Europe, sat down with Rakuten Today to share how Rakuten Affiliate Malls reached across borders to help customers across Europe.

“Being able to work on what’s basically a drag-and-drop CMS allows us to create, curate and publish campaign sites and new content within minutes,” explains Sebastiaan Rasterhoff, head of Open E-commerce Europe. It also enables us to coordinate campaigns across different markets for the first time, which is not only a huge benefit for publishers, but also for shoppers.”

Now visitors to Rakuten.co.uk and Rakuten.es will be able to enjoy fresh deals, new content and updated curations much more regularly. Meeting consumer needs — more than 50 percent of customers already visit the mall on their mobile device — is easier than ever with an enhanced mobile experience and increased usability.

Laying the foundation for future success

While the six-month timeline and seamless cooperation between multiple teams and offices is impressive in itself, the possibilities it creates for the open e-commerce team is even more so.

“The new platform not only frees up resources and really allows us to scale the businesses in the U.K. and Spain, it’s the beginning of something even bigger: continental expansion,” shared Rasterhoff. “We’re about to launch our services as part of the German marketplace Rakuten.de’s Club membership program.”

And more is on the horizon: Increased mobile performance and usability was a must for the newly developed platform. Operating on Rakuten Aquafadas’ platform already lays the next step to address audience need. Being one of the leading app publishers, it will be only a matter of time before a brand new Rakuten Shopping app hits app stores and takes Europe by storm.

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