Amazon Trails Japanese Competitor Rakuten

Rakuten Pulls Back

Amazon isn’t giving up on Japan, despite trailing homegrown Japanese competitor Rakuten basically since it launched. The American eCommerce giant launched its books-only site in Japan in 2000 and has never quite gained an edge over Rakuten.

DI Marketing, an online marketing research firm, conducted a poll in April that found that 70.2 percent of digital buyers in Japan use Rakuten, versus 66.7 percent who use Amazon.

NTTCom Research and publisher Toyo Keizai found that Japanese shoppers visited Rakuten more regularly than Amazon and spent more money while they were there.

Only 7.9 percent of respondents shopped on Amazon at least once a week, and 27.8 percent visited just once every few months. The vast majority spent between $9 USD and $90 USD each visit, compared to much larger purchases made through Rakuten.

As eMarketer noted, the smaller ticket size is probably due to shoppers in the country turning to Amazon for smaller media items such as books, magazines, DVDs and video games. But perhaps even more significant is the dearth of Prime members. The Prime service generally results in members spending more money on Amazon, but in Japan, only 16.6 percent of Amazon users are Prime members.

The eCommerce giant said it will be investing in a fleet of 10,000 independent couriers to provide same-day delivery since its largest delivery service in the country, Yamato Transport, is shifting its focus away from same-day service.

Can offering same-day delivery make the difference for Amazon in Japan’s market? Or should the company perhaps be taking a hint from this move by its domestic partner, showing where Japanese customers’ priorities lie?