10 Years of Rakuten France

A decade of French and Japanese business excellence in the European e-commerce market.

Founded over a decade ago as PriceMinister.com, the French online marketplace vastly grew into the flagship of French e-commerce. “From the start, we partnered with local brands and promoted French culture, focusing on products such as books, video games, and CDs”, says Rakuten France CEO Fabien Versavau.

Japanese and French Business excellence

Japan’s e-commerce leader Rakuten and French PriceMinister joined forces in 2010 – starting a phase of excellence that continues until this day. And Versavau adds: „Japan and France share much in common. Both societies take great pride in quality and craftsmanship. They love fine food and fashion. They value authenticity and tradition – while embracing and improving modern technology.“

Rakuten France in Paris
Rakuten France in Paris

The growth of Rakuten France

Soon after the beginning of the partnership, Rakuten-PriceMinister started to expand: From an online site that connected buyers and sellers of cultural products, the marketplace has grown in France to a major player in the industry, employing 450 people in their office in the former department store “Au Réaumur” in central Paris.

Today Rakuten France offers a wide variety of services and integrates perfectly to Rakuten’s European ecosystem, offering Rakuten Kobo e-books, Rakuten Viber messaging, and Rakuten TV video on demand.

And the marketplace – at the core of business operations – continues to strive, hosting more than 8,000 retailers from all categories (high-tech, home, clothing, and more) and receives 17 million monthly visitors.

PriceMinister becomes Rakuten France

Since 2018, the brand name was united and Rakuten France was born. “10 years after becoming part of the Rakuten Group, more and more French people recognize the Japanese brand and now Rakuten is a definitive part of the French business landscape“, says Versavau.

Rakuten France is not only one of the leading e-commerce platforms in France, but also Rakuten’s third-largest market, after the home country of Japan and the United States.

Versavau sees a lot of potential for the coming years: “France’s e-commerce market is robust, marked by dynamic competition and gigantic potential. In 2019, more than 40 million French bought EUR 100 billion worth of goods online from more than 200,000 vendors, up 14% from the year before. This growth was accelerating even before the pandemic hit.“

Rakuten France and partnerships

Rakuten France depends on partnerships. The core mission is empowerment, and therefore Rakuten France doesn’t sell its own products but rather supports its merchants to sell more. And the merchants vary from giant nationwide retail chains to mom and pop shops, as well as branded shops from France’s well-known brands.

Impact of the lockdown on Rakuten France

Rakuten’s core mission is to empower communities and society. When the coronavirus-pandemic emerged, Rakuten France responded in a variety of innovative ways to support physical store owners, retailers, and customers.

Support of physical stores

One of Rakuten France’s support activities was to empower retailers to digitize their distribution and marketing activities. Rakuten France offered responsive online training to meet the demands of retailers at speed. „Our E-Commerce Consultants simplified onboarding and supported new merchants in creating catalogs and configuring personalized stores, thanks to a free e-learning platform developed in only a few days’ time to help them swiftly generate their first online sales. We also offered subscriptions with no time commitments and low commission rates. The response has been overwhelming and positive: Since March, the number of applications for merchant accounts is up more than 40% year-on-year“, says Versavau.

The rise of brick-and-mortar stores

The click and collect solution that Rakuten France installed for many of their shop partners, enabled easier delivery for customers and essential sales for merchants. It allows customers to purchase items online and pick them up an hour later in-store. For marketplaces, this is a unique offer alternative to delivery in France.

According to Versavau, “since its launch in 2018 with 140 Boulanger stores, more than 5,000 stores have adopted this innovative formula. Some 72% of click and collect customers make an additional purchase in stores. Click and collect accounts now for 30% of Rakuten France’s revenues and this share keeps growing. This initiative was particularly highlighted during our second lockdown. Thanks to this option, we were able to allow merchants to introduce their stores to a new audience and maintain contact with regular customers.”

Sustainability on a rise: Circular economy is growing with C2C sector

Besides the merchants, Rakuten France also focuses on partnerships with private sellers. Half the sales at Rakuten France are second-hand used products, bringing more than half a billion euros to our members”, mentions Versavau.

Rakuten France CEO Fabien Versavau
Rakuten France CEO Fabien Versavau

The consumer-to-consumer (C2C) sector makes Rakuten France a key player in the French circular economy, supporting the environment. „We estimate that this secondhand marketplace saves 23 tons of C02 – or the equivalent of 16,000 flights from Paris to New York each year“, according to Versauvau.

Consumer satisfaction remains a key guiding principle. Our Club R loyalty program counts eight million French members, who benefit from points earning them at least 5% reductions. It charges no fees and does not require long-term subscriptions.

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