Bonus Material: The Godzilla of Japanese Online Shopping

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka


If this were a Japanese monster movie Mothra would be played by Amazon in Japan has always been a contender, but one that is too often on the losing side of the fight.  (Recently, for example, the company was asked to pay $119 million in overdue Japanese taxes after being accused of failing to properly report income from 2003 to 2005).

Godzilla would be played by none other than — the true lizard king of Japanese online shopping. (Grrrrr, stomp, stomp, grrrrr.)

The difference between the two companies is elementary: Rather than buy, warehouse and sell products as Amazon does, Rakuten acts as virtual real estate for individual stores to sell direct to consumers (not unlike Amazon’s own affiliate program in the USA). The company makes money by charging rent for hosting a store on the site, as well as by taking 2.6% of total sales. The limited overhead means higher profits. Plus, with 28,000 stores selling 35 million products on the site, it also translates to happy customers.

How popular is Rakuten? One in every three Japanese people is registered on the site, or approximately 47 million people in all.

TECHCRUNCH: offers a case study of the battle for market share between the two behemoths.

SHOP: Rakuten’s English-language site.

READ: more about Amazon’s overdue Japanese taxes.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.