Forget about Facebook for the time being. When it comes to aspirations of world domination on the Web, the company to watch is Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. The largest and most successful e-commerce company in Japan announced its acquisition of California-based Buy.com last week, along with its goal “to become the number one e-commerce and Internet company in the world,” according to CEO Hiroshi Mikitani.
With a unique approach to e-commerce, a partnership with Chinese search giant Baidu, and now a growing presence in the U.S., Rakuten is a company of note for Web watchers. In addition to its $250 million agreement to purchase Buy.com, Rakuten’s U.S. interests also include affiliate marketing network Linkshare, which it bought in 2005.
Rakuten’s e-commerce model has a distinctly Japanese flavor, which it plans to inject into Buy.com while retaining most or all of its U.S. employees. The approach is one that fuses shopping with entertainment and emphasizes a more featured role from merchants than we see in other parts of the world.
“If we can convert it into what we do here in Japan, then it is going to be a lot more powerful,” Mikitani said. “We believe that we have a very different business model from Amazon and eBay. We empower the merchants.”
Make sure that Rakuten is on your radar if it's not already.