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Guess Which Online Marketplace Is Advertising on TV?

Time and again, we hear online merchants urging online marketplaces to advertise their sites more prominently, with many sellers advocating TV campaigns to drive shoppers to their listings. eBay and Overstock.com have run some memorable television ads in the past, but for the most part, online marketplaces stick with Internet, email and affiliate marketing to attract shoppers.

So news that Rakuten.com Shopping has begun promoting its marketplace through television and billboard advertising in the U.S. is big news, even though they are testing the campaigns in limited geographic areas.

Rakuten.com Shopping COO Bernard Luthi told EcommerceBytes the company is targeting Portland, OR and Minneapolis, MN – “high success areas for Rakuten” – as test markets to generate awareness and drive traffic to Rakuten.com.

“The objective is to establish brand recognition and drive consumers to visit and engage with Rakuten’s site,” he said. “To do this we utilized local broadcast, cable TV, and outdoor space (high-impact bulletins and wallscapes) to increase awareness of the Rakuten brand among ages 25 – 54. Additionally, we have used print and radio advertisements to further to increase awareness of the Rakuten brand.”

Rakuten also continues to utilize its channel marketing programs, including email, affiliate, search and display, to further the brand and as both acquisition and retention sources, Luthi said.

EcommerceBytes has screened the 15-second television spot, which features lively music and dancing red dots, with the following words coming up on the screen as the video advances: “The internet made shopping easy. But we made it fun! Rakuten.com Shopping is entertainment.” There are no products, people or voiceover in the commercial. And while there’s no mention of Rakuten’s rewards program, the red dots in the commercial evoke the program’s Super Points.

Luthi said Rakuten kicked off the TV and billboard ad campaign in mid-January and won’t be sharing results while the campaign remains underway.

The company also held its annual Rakuten Expo West in California last week where it announced winners of its annual Shop of the Year awards. Luthi said there were approximately 500 attendees. “We marked the one year anniversary of our rebranding and shared both our global and US strategies with the merchants.” In addition to guest speakers (Sarah Quinlan from MasterCard Advisors and search expert Vanessa Fox), merchants met one-on-one with their ECC account managers and Rakuten’s tech support teams, “and also had plenty of time to network with other merchants and exhibiting ecommerce vendors,” he said. Afternoon sessions consisted of seminars designed to help merchants grow their sales on the Rakuten.com Shopping Marketplace.

Each year, the Shop of the Year award recognizes Rakuten.com Shopping’s most successful merchants in twelve categories. The awards are based on sales volume, operational metrics and feedback ratings. The 2014 Rakuten.com SOY Award winners were:

Shop of the Year: Adorama Camera
Best New Merchant: Electronics: DealFisher
Best New Merchant: Non-Technology: USA Retail Store
Best in Electronics: Beach Camera
Best in Home & Outdoor: BestChoiceProducts
Best in Fashion, Health & Beauty: VapoBuy
Best in Hobbies & Specialty: Altatac
Best in Customer Satisfaction: Vacuum-Direct
Best in Marketing: US Micro Corp
Always Improve, Always Advance, ZeeMo Digital
Product of the Year: Electronics: DealFisher
Product of the Year: Non Technology: BestChoiceProducts

Luthi said, “As always, the day emphasized Rakuten’s focus on being a merchant-centric marketplace that encourages merchants to tell their stories, build their brands and nurture relationships with our customers by utilizing our fully customizable shops, marketing tools and account management team.”

Once the television ad testing is complete, Rakuten.com Shopping will make the video available on the web.

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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/.