Buy.com Merchant Evangelist Randy Smythe discussed the company's new upcoming fulfillment service, synergies with its parent company Rakuten - such as helping U.S. merchants sell to the Japanese market - and other things in the "Enabling Merchants to Succeed" session Saturday at the Monsoon Commerce Conference in Philadelphia.
Smythe said the new fulfillment service was expected to be launched later this year; "We hope before Q4." The company has five warehouses across the U.S., and Smythe said the program would be similar to Amazon.com's FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) program, and would include multi-channel shipping.
It is expected to result in two to three times higher sales and conversion for sellers, he said. Buy.com will also build in the "Loyalty Program," Rakuten's "Super Points," which is popular in Japan.
Buy.com was acquired in 2010 by Rakuten, said Smythe, the latter which has a $15 billion annual GMV. Rakuten was recently in the news for investing in Pinterest, as well as social networking company Aha Life, and ereader Kobo last year. In general, Rakuten has a philosophy of empowering independent merchants. "We don't make money if you don't make money," explained Smythe.
Rakuten Group may not be on everyone's lips in the US, but it's the third largest ecommerce company in the world, and encompasses many different companies and platforms, including a joint venture in China with Baidu, a Japanese marketplace, PriceMinister, and recent acquisition Play.com.
In Japan, Rakuten is actually the largest ecommerce company; 78% percent of all Japanese web users are Rakuten customers -- some 72 million people. The company also has 40,000 merchants, said Smythe, and "Japan's Preferred Loyalty Program," known as "Super Points." Rakuten even owns a baseball team and an online brokerage.
Buy.com has been around since 1997, and has over 5200 marketplace sellers, 22 million listings, and 18 million total customers. Smythe said the Buy.com marketplace started in 2007, but "really started getting traction n 2009." Buy.com also powers the "Best Buy" marketplace, which "is concentrating on their technical product right now," said Smythe.
Buy.com now wants to integrate its customers into all these different marketplaces. The company offers dedicated account managers (aka ECCS), said Smythe; Buy.com University, an annual merchant conference, and a "merchant-centric user experience." Smythe said sellers who engage with their ECCs "see a big lift" in their growth. The ECCs are there to help you reach your goals, said Smythe.
"We're a little bit different from the other two big guys," explained Smythe. "We decided that focusing on partnerships with our merchants was the way to go."
"Our goal is to help you grow your business," he added.
The company's annual merchant conference will be June 27, and will feature Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani.
Buy.com differentiates itself from other marketplaces because it lets merchants do whatever they want with their storefront, said Smythe. "Each of our merchants has a storefront, but some of them don't do much with it because they're not really engaged/"
Email and Marketing Tools
He said they also have tools for marketing: "We're really good at email." Their email tool is called "BuyMail," and merchants can use it to email their customers on a regular basis. Buy.com also offers video tools, and "Daily Deals," their big email push; which goes out to nearly five million customers. Buy.com's new home page has featured merchants; again stressing the idea you're not buying from the faceless Internet, you're buying from a person. "We have actual personal stories behind our merchants," said Smythe.
Buy.com merchants can also customize their shipping, including setting free shipping thresholds, such as if a customer orders over $50 worth of product.
Smythe says they'll be integrating the Rakuten "Super Points" loyalty program, which is basically a cash-back program; "you get 1% back on all these orders," he said, adding they've seen tremendous spikes with these promotions, and they'll be offering these points programs to merchants to use with their customers.
Getting Big in Japan
"If you want to get into Japan, but you don't understand the market very well, you don't know the legal issues; you don't want to hassle with all that? We can help you by you putting the product on Buy.com," said Smythe. Buy.com would then translate the products the merchant designates, and they will handle international shipping - merchants can ship to a California address. Within four days of getting to California, the item will be in Japan. The program has been in beta a year but they now have 180 sellers selling in Japan and over a million users, said Smythe.
"If we can do it for Rakuten, we can do it for PriceMinister, we can do it for Play.com, Ikeda in Brazil,...the whole idea is one platform allows you to sell all over the world."
EcommerceBytes is the media sponsor for Monsoon's MonCon Conference in Philadelphia this weekend where AuctionBytes Editor Julia Wilkinson is covering the event.