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Rakuten Marketplace Sees Strong Growth on Black Friday Weekend

Rakuten COO and Chief Marketing Officer Bernard Luthi revealed how the marketplace fared over the Black Friday holiday shopping weekend in an EcommerceBytes podcast interview on Monday. Rakuten acquired Buy.com three years ago, and Luthi said Rakuten is the first and perhaps only marketplace that is focused on growing third-party merchants and ensuring merchants have the tools they need to be successful.

Rakuten saw Black Friday shift to the day before and said even as early as Monday of Black Friday week, “we were seeing an intensification of people coming to the site to look to see what we had, looking to get information on the sale. We even saw sales spiking the week prior,” he said, which is not typical in an ecommerce environment.

“We had a very strong Wednesday leading into Thanksgiving Day, but Thanksgiving Day itself was pretty incredible itself. We saw YOY (year over year) increases of over 100% in our business on Thanksgiving Day, which leads me to believe people really did come out early to shop.”

Luthi said Rakuten saw 50% YOY growth on Black Friday, 75% on Saturday, and up 123% year over year on Sunday.

“Just as we saw the Black Friday shoppers come out on Thanksgiving Day, I think we saw the Cyber Monday guys jumping into Sunday now,” he said. And he believes there is some cannibalization in sales as consumer behavior changes to earlier shopping.

Luthi said Rakuten ran a robust marketing campaign that kicked off early in the week that included some “pretty aggressive” promotions, and they pulled some deals forward as well as utilizing the company’s Rakuten Super Points loyalty program. But it continues to see great results post-Thanksgiving, and he said he’s happy with the results so far. Time spent on site and conversion rates are both up, and Rakuten saw overall 80% year over year growth from Wednesday through Sunday, he reported.

Luthi discussed which products and product categories were popular over the holiday weekend. While the company continues to be strongest in tech products such as tablets, laptops and high end cameras, as it has moved to a third-party seller model, it has broadened into categories such as home, jewelry, toys – pendant necklaces, Dyson vacuum cleaners, American Girl dolls, Furbies and LED flashlights did well over the weekend, for example.

Rakuten is purposefully growing non-tech categories, which are expected to catch up and surpass tech over the next 12 – 18 months as it expands that part of the business.

Luthi also provided some tips for online sellers during the final weeks of the shopping season. You can listen to the full interview with Rakuten’s Bernard Luthi on the Ecommerce Industry Soundbytes podcast.

Update: Rakuten provided official stats on 12/3/13.

Rakuten Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sales Data

Sales Growth by Day

  • 101% YOY growth on Thursday
  • 61% growth on Black Friday
  • 76% growth on Saturday
  • 123% growth on Sunday

Additional Sales data

  • Mobile sales up 62% on Thanksgiving, 47% on Black Friday
  • Conversion rate up 29.4% (Thursday-Sunday), 27% Wed-Sun
  • Page views per visit up 22% (Thanksgiving + Black Friday)
  • Cyber Monday morning – Share of traffic from mobile devices up 44%

Wed – Sun Sales Growth

  • Mobile GMV up 48%
  • 32% of visits were from mobile – up 7%

Peak Times: Traffic

  • 1:00PM to 9PM Thanksgiving
  • 5:00AM to 8:00PM Black Friday
  • Highest peak 10:00AM Black Friday

Peak Times: Revenue

  • 10PM Thanksgiving
  • 12:00AM Black Friday
  • 5:00AM to 9:00AM Black Friday
  • Highest Peak is 2:00PM Black Friday
  • 6:00PM to 9:00PM Black Friday


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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.