Rakuten is an online marketplace for competing sellers. Instead of driving a race to the lowest price, Rakuten encourages sellers to create loyal customers through unforgettable hospitality and customer service.
Rakuten is a great outlet for sellers who value customer service and interaction, but to earn loyalty, you have to deliver rapid responses and be attentive to the buyers.
Similar to Amazon, Rakuten provides extensive and diverse categories to market your goods. Some categories include:
Automotive and parts
Bags and luggage
Beauty and personal care
Clothing, shoes and accessories
Food and beverage
Home and outdoor
Toys, toddler and baby
Rakuten covers nearly everything you’d expect from an online retailer, and sellers are welcome to sell in any category so long as their items are legal and approved by Rakuten.
How much does it cost to use Rakuten?
Rakuten has three separate fees:
Individual fee for each item sold: $0.99
Monthly account fee: $39 a month
Commissions determined by category:
Automotive and parts
Bags and luggage
Beauty and personal care
Clothing, shoes and accessories
Electronics > computers
Electronics > software and video games
Food and beverage
Home and outdoor
Home and outdoor > appliances
Home and outdoor > hobbies
Home and outdoor > hobbies > musical instruments
Sports and fitness
Toys, toddlers and baby
Let’s crunch the numbers
Bryce, the owner of Bryce’s Computers, sells computers and media through Rakuten. Bryce makes a domestic sale that includes a new computer, a video game and a Blu-ray disc, all with taxes and shipping included. Let’s look at the fees Bryce pays:
Total earned after commission
In total, Bryce loses $77.97 to fees on the total sale of $890 — approximately 11.5%. Bryce’s total net profit on this sale is $812.52.
Is selling on Rakuten worth it?
Selling on Rakuten can be worth it if you are a skilled seller who dedicates their time to selling online. If you are a new, occasional or hands-off seller, Rakuten may not be worth the time and fees it requires. Selling on Rakuten’s website can be worth it if you are:
Already selling on other websites. Selling on Rakuten could be the next step to grow your online business, especially if you’re forced to drop your prices on other online marketplaces to compete. When you have items in high demand, selling them through Rakuten can help build your loyal customer base.
Considering selling globally. Rakuten is one of the most popular online retailers in Japan, so it’s a great step to entering the international market. Japan refers to the suite of Rakuten products as “Rakuten World,” which includes one of the most popular credit cards in Japan, a massive online bank, a wireless network and even a streaming service.
Rakuten may not be for you if you are:
Brand new to selling online. Then launching on Rakuten may be difficult since you’ll be dependent on driving traffic yourself to your digital storefront.
Only selling as a side gig. Selling on Rakuten takes time and attention to build loyal customers. If you’re looking for a site to set and forget your items, Rakuten may not be for you.
Rakuten Super Points explained
Tapping into Rakuten’s existing loyal customer base could help boost your sales, especially if you understand how their points-based system rewards users.
As of December, 2019, Rakuten offers the following benefits for super point members:
Earn points on everything. 1% back every day for everything listed on Rakuten.
Special member days. Member events offer up to 20x back in points.
Bonus store events. Receive up to 15x back in points from select merchants.
Customized deals. Rakuten emails members with specific products and deals based on their shopping history, which would lead to customers returning to your store after making a purchase.
Users earn Rakuten Super Points every time they shop through Rakuten, and the points convert at a ratio of 100 = $0.01. As a Rakuten store owner you’ll have the chance to build your customer base through special store events and promotions.
How to start selling on Rakuten
Becoming a seller on Rakuten is fairly simple and straightforward.
Play the waiting game. Typically, Rakuten will get back to you within three to 10 business days with the next steps, helping you as needed to bring you on board.
Once you’re accepted as a seller, upload your catalog, begin designing your storefront and work on gaining traction in a new marketplace. There are four ways to upload your products:
RMS web tool
Third-party integrator with Rakuten partner options
Be prepared to start selling on Rakuten when you apply. You have three weeks from when you open your account to upload all necessary content to for your storefront to go live. If you miss that window, Rakuten may suspend your account, and you could be charged $199 to reopen the account.
Integrating Rakuten with your e-commerce store
To expand your customer reach, you could sign up for an e-commerce platform that integrates with third party marketplaces like Rakuten, Etsy, AliExpress or Amazon. Platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce can help you sell across multiple channels simultaneously.
How to price your items
Pricing your items on Rakuten is unique compared to other marketplaces. Take into account:
Return customers. You’re able to price items a bit higher when you get return customers due to your outstanding customer service. People shopping on Rakuten are looking for trustworthy merchants — not necessarily the lowest price.
Price synchronicity across channels. It’s Rakuten’s policy that you price your items the same across your sale platforms — including Rakuten. You can’t undercut your Rakuten storefront with lower prices on other sites.
Diverse fees. Take into account the monthly and sales fees, commission and shipping costs when determining the cost of your items.
Can anyone sell on Rakuten?
No. To sell on Rakuten, your company must have its own brand name and a unique manufacturer ID. Your products must also be labeled with one of the following barcodes: UPC, EAN, JAN or ISBN.
If you’re based in the US, you need to have a US-based bank account and credit card account. A W9 form is required, though a W-8 form is acceptable if you don’t have a US tax status. You must also have a customer service email address that operates during standard US business hours.
That said, Rakuten probably isn’t the best choice if you’re looking to sell a modest amount of product as a side hustle. Instead, it’s intended for businesses that are already established.
What type of payment does Rakuten accept?
Rakuten accepts the standard credit and debit options, including:
Rakuten Super Points
You can accept payment with one method, or a mix of Rakuten Super Points and a credit card. You can’t split a bill between two credit or debit cards.
Sellers are paid through direct deposit to their bank accounts weekly, minus any fees or subscriptions. Sellers can be outside of the United States and still sell within the US market as long as they meet certain criteria.
How to sell in the US market from abroad
Looking to sell good to the US? You must have all of the following:
US bank account or use one of the preferred international payment partners
US credit card
W-8BEN foreign tax form
Maintain a customer service email address answered during US business hours
US customer service phone number
Support a reasonable shipping time frame for US customers
How to get paid by international buyers
Unfortunately, Rakuten doesn’t allow international sales through its US website. However, in the same way that international sellers can enter the US market if they abide by the list of requirements above, US sellers can sell internationally if they abide by a similar list for the other country. US sellers should definitely take advantage of this to sell abroad in Japan, as Rakuten is far more active there.
Selling in Japan
Rakuten Japan has different SEO, website designs and product imagery styles than US markets. Designing your store with the intent to sell in the marketplace in Japan will typically include the following:
Extremely mobile-friendly content
Heavy use of imagery
Short English phrases for promotion
The bare minimum requirement to open a seller account in Japan is:
Have Rakuten confirm that your items are licensed to legally sell in Japan.
Make sure your products comply with Japanese laws and regulations.
Don’t sell products banned by Rakuten.
Hold a Japanese bank account, credit card, tax forms, email address and phone number as per the “How to sell in the US market from abroad” list.
To ship your items requires sellers to align with global shipping trends and offer a two-day shipping option to customers. Sellers must provide the following details in their storefront:
Return handling costs
Any other costs related to shipping
Sellers have a maximum of seven days to send Rakuten a shipping notice after an order is made or else Rakuten may cancel the order. Sellers on Rakuten should take the following into consideration when determining shipping costs:
Rakuten charges their commission fees based on the total amount for the sale, shipping included.
Rakuten encourages two-day shipping and pushes for sellers to cover the cost.
Sellers can use one of Rakuten’s partner companies for inventory management and shipping for a discount if they desire.
How can I market my Rakuten products?
On Rakuten, you have a variety of ways to market your items, many unique to this marketplace:
Create your storefront. Create a branded, digital storefront for your products. Once you build up loyal customers, your storefront may be where they go directly when looking for new items.
Create custom product pages. Highlight special items, showcase details and bring attention to hot items on your storefront.
Offer diverse shipping options. Rakuten allows you to list up to 20 different shipping options for customers, though offering free shipping is likely to get you more customers.
Work with Rakuten e-commerce consultants. Rakuten provides staff to review and provide feedback on your pages and listing. This can help increase sales and improve your product descriptions.
What to watch out for when selling with Rakuten
To be successful on Rakuten, avoid the following:
Lethargic customer support. During our research, we came across online complaints about Rakuten’s slow customer service department. Users don’t like dealing with unenthusiastic and unhelpful staff.
Storefront. Because you’ll own and operate your own storefront on Rakuten, you’re solely responsible for driving customers there through ads, well-designed keywords and interesting products.
Fees. Rakuten charges three fees: a $0.99 sales fee, a percentage sales commissions and a monthly subscription fee.
Rakuten’s loyalty program. Since customers earn points for shopping on Rakuten, they become loyal to specific storefronts. This is great when you have loyal customers and challenging when trying to break into the market.
Overall, Rakuten may be easier to sell on after you’ve established yourself on other marketplaces.
Compare e-commerce platforms
If you want to sell on more than just Overstock, an e-commerce platform can help you build your own store and sell through multiple channels.
Zak Killermann is a writer at Finder. He’s ghostwritten hundreds of articles on fintech, finding his love for publication at St. Cloud State University. Traveling internationally for nearly half his life — and getting burned once by an OTC money exchange — Zak's vowed not to settle for anything short of the mid-market rate again.
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