Rakuten officially launched its marketplace Rakuten.co.uk in the UK on Wednesday. A spokesperson told EcommerceBytes the new marketplace currently features products from UK merchants, but Rakuten plans to bolster the international marketplace over the next 12 months by inviting merchants from across parts of Europe and Asia to start selling through the global platform. It will also offer customers a more local experience and more options, such as local payment methods and local language content.
The Japanese ecommerce firm has been on an acquisition spree since 2008, and has been rolling out a global branding campaign, renaming its international properties Rakuten and offering its Rakuten Super Points rewards program for shoppers on its marketplaces.
The company is headquartered in Tokyo, with over 11,000 employees and partner staff worldwide. Among the properties acquired in 2010 was U.S. marketplace Buy.com – later branded Rakuten.com – and France’s PriceMinister. The same year, Rakuten launched an “Englishnization” initiative to make English the company’s official language to help it accelerate the integration of group companies worldwide, at a time when only about 10% of the Japanese staff could function in English.
The following year, Rakuten acquired UK marketplace Play.com.
Rakuten’s spokesperson said the company will cease using the Play.com brand from early 2015, at which point visitors to Play.com would be forwarded automatically to the new Rakuten.co.uk marketplace.
Rakuten.co.uk includes a broad range of products across multiple categories including food and drink, health and beauty, and clothing and pet care. Customers will also be able to access digital services offered by Rakuten businesses, including Kobo and Wuaki, through a single account from December 2014.
To celebrate the launch, Rakuten.co.uk is running a “Rakuten Millionaire” sweepstakes through the end of November.
Rakuten Europe CEO Kenji Hirose said, “With the launch of Rakuten.co.uk we are making it easier for shoppers to discover what they want and empowering merchants to provide it. Over the next 12 months we will pioneer a new era of borderless retail and entertainment by integrating our ecommerce offering with our global ecosystem of Internet services, to make shopping more fun.”