January 31, 2013, 4:53 PM

Rakuten rolls out a new name and new seller fees

Merchants selling in the marketplace now have to pay monthly fees.

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Rakuten Inc., as of today, has instituted a new fee structure for merchants selling through the Rakuten.com Shopping marketplace. The fee change coincides with the marketplace’s rebranding from Buy.com to Rakuten.com Shopping, which also became effective today.

Merchants now must pay a monthly fee to list and sell products through the marketplace. There are two fee levels: Professional costs $33 per month and Professional Plus costs $199 per month. Fees will be charged on a quarterly basis, in $99 or $597 increments, says Randy Smythe, senior director of marketplace. Merchants can list up to 50,000 product SKUs at the Professional level, or an unlimited amount at the Professional Plus level.

As before, merchants also will pay the marketplace operator a percentage of each sale as a commission to Rakuten.com Shopping. The percentage varies from 5.0% to 14.5% based on product category. A new element of the program enables merchants to get a rebate on a portion of the commissions paid. The rebate varies depending on the merchant’s sales levels.

The monthly fee structure brings Rakuten.com Shopping more in line with Rakuten’s Ichiba marketplace in Japan, where the monthly seller fee is about $250. Rakuten Inc. acquired e-retailer Buy.com in 2010 as Buy.com was ramping up its online marketplace that lets other retailers sell on Buy.com. Buy.com did not charge monthly seller fees but took a percentage commission on sales transactions. More than 5,500 merchants, including Wine.com Inc., Wayfair LLC and Tool King LLC, sell through Rakuten.com Shopping. More than 40,000 sell on Rakuten Ichiba. Wine.com is No. 248 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. Wayfair is No. 50 and Tool King is No. 347.

Rakuten.com Shopping is also launching a merchant data tool that lets sellers track sales, analyze their customer base on Rakuten.com Shopping and measure their performance against their stated goals. Smythe says the data tool also will help merchants identify opportunities that could help them boost sales, such as when running a bonus SuperPoints offer may be most advantageous. SuperPoints is a rewards-based loyalty program that Rakuten offers. Consumers accumulate points for their purchases that they can then redeem for money off future purchases or free shipping.

Professional-level merchants have limited access to BuyMail, the marketplace’s service that lets merchants send promotional e-mails to consumers who have bought from their Rakuten.com Shopping storefronts before. Professional Plus merchants have unlimited access to BuyMail. The BuyMail service is a key selling point for Rakuten in its effort to differentiate itself from other marketplace venues, such as Amazon.com, No. 1 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. Amazon does not let marketplace sellers market directly to consumers who’ve bought from their Amazon stores. Rakuten says its approach is to encourage merchants to establish relationships with consumers so consumers feel they are buying from people, not from the Internet.

Professional Plus members may soon have access to Rakuten Super Logistics, a network of five Rakuten-operated U.S. distribution facilities where merchants can store goods they are selling on Rakuten.com Shopping and have Super Logistics  pick, pack and ship orders on their behalf. The Super Logistics program in the United States is still in beta, or test, mode, with a limited number of merchants, Smythe says.    

In February at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference, Bernard Luthi, Rakuten.com Shopping’s chief marketing officer and chief operating officer, will share his insights into how Rakuten.com Shopping has been evolving its design to focus on marketplace merchants in an effort to engage better with consumers.

At this year’s Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, Rakuten CEO and chairman Hiroshi Mikitani will give a keynote address entitled “Spanning the Globe for E-commerce Opportunity.” 

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