Thursday, September 02, 2010

Strange New Marketplace World

This has been an interesting year in the online marketplace space. We've had a flurry of acquisitions, increased investment, global expansion and even eBay seems to have settled into some form of stability.

All of this activity is good for online sellers and should give you all some hope that better things are ahead -- more viable places to sell means more opportunity to make a buck or two.

At, we've had a very interesting year so far:
  • Our marketplace continues to be a huge growth story. We are having a phenomenal years by all measurements.
  • In June, we were acquired by, the third largest ecommerce company in the world, and together with our sister companies and we plan to be a dominant force in global ecommerce.
  • We are expanding our marketplace to include sellers of all sizes. We still want to make sure you are a business, but we will open our doors to online sellers of all shapes and sizes before Q4. - This is a HUGE change for us. Now both large and small sellers will have access to's 5 million unique monthly visitors and unique customer demographic of wealthy, highly educated but value conscience consumers.
  • We will "empower sellers"! - Check out the header on this blog; "empower sellers and get out of the way" is my mantra and I am finally going to be a part of a company where that is the goal.
This blog is all about my 15% (perspective) on ecommerce and I'm proud to work for a company that is making waves on the Internet and has global ambitions.

In the September issue of Internet Retailer Magazine you can get the inside scoop on our plans with the cover story called "Making their move". The man to the left, on the cover of the magazine, is our fearless CEO Neel Grover and together with Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani they are "Making their move"

There is a new model at - courtesy of Internet Retailer Magazine

"At, the new mantra since the acquisition by Rakuten has become: We help our marketplace merchants. is modeling itself after Rakuten Ichiba, a massive Japanese marketplace operated by Rakuten that recorded $1.92 billion in revenue in the first half of 2010. Rakuten Ichiba gives retailers the freedom to design their web stores and not just pick from design templates, to offer rewards points on Rakuten purchases, and to use the customer's e-mail addresses for follow-up marketing, which is not the case on Amazon.

"On Amazon or eBay you feel like you're just listing your products on their marketplace," says Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten's founder, chairman and CEO. "We share the customer with our merchants."

While Rakuten does not have the scale of a Wal-Mart or Amazon, it's a growing international force in online marketplaces. Mikitani followed up his purchase of by acquiring France's largest online marketplace, PriceMinister, and has closed deals to extend Rakuten's reach in China, Thailand and Taiwan. One indication of its global ambitions: All internal Rakuten meetings are conducted in English.

As its U.S. outpost, will follow the Rakuten philosophy of promoting marketplace merchants. "We'll give sellers more flexibility on the site," says Neel Grover, CEO and president of "You'll see more of the merchant's brand on the site. Sellers will have more brand recognition throughout the site." (bold is mine)
The Marketplace is a game changer and as Neel says in the quote above, "we will give sellers more flexibility on the site" We will make these moves in stages, starting with opening up our marketplace to more product categories and a great range of sellers from sole proprietors to IR 500 merchants.

Opening up the marketplace

"In another change,, which has featured items from mostly larger merchants in the past, will open up its marketplace to more small and midsized merchants later this year, following the Rakuten Ichiba model.

"Rakuten is all about empowering merchants—regardless of their size," says Grover. "In Japan Rakuten's marketplace has large sellers like Wal-Mart and small sellers who sell products like quail eggs. They empower everyone, and that makes a great ecosystem. Since May, we've examined the way their business works and it has led us to reevaluate our current model of focusing on large sellers."
Another game changing move is distributing the marketplace to other online retailers through a white-label program.

" also recently announced another strategic shift: The retailer plans to white label its marketplace, enabling other web retailers to sell all or some of marketplace's more than 7.5 million SKUs on their own sites late this year or early next year.

Two large bricks-and-mortar retailers plan to add the marketplace offering to their sites, says Grover. Retailers tapping into the selection on's marketplace will be able to control the look and feel of the marketplace, all the way to checkout, which will occur on the retailer's site, not at and the retailer hosting the marketplace will both receive an undisclosed commission from each purchase from the marketplace retailer actually selling the merchandise.

"For a retailer with a lot of traffic that wants to sell things other than its current offerings, this can empower the retailers to offer consumers the full marketplace experience without having to do the five years of tech work that we've already put in," says Grover.

In strengthening its marketplace offering, Grover says he hopes to entice more sellers and buyers to look to "The marketplace is a really important part of our business and it has been an important part for the past five years," says Grover. "Going forward it will be a bigger and bigger part of our business."
Granted, I work at the place so I'm going to be a little more excited about all of the changes coming down the pike and my title is "Merchant Evangelist" so I'm prone to blowing things out of proportion, but can't you see the opportunity here? As I said earlier, we aren't going to roll out all of these changes at once and it may take some time to make the change-over complete but with Rakuten behind us and "empowering sellers" part of our mission, the future looks bright.

More to come as we roll out announcements ...

Just my 15%


Henrietta said...

I am very happy for you my friend, it seems you have found your niche.

Many small sellers who were destroyed by the slanting of eBay's once level playing field thought that would eventually hand eBay their lunch.

Although it may not be an openly declared policy at Rakuten, it would appear that eBay's eclipse and eventual relegation to the backwaters of eCommerce is a distinct possibility.


Anonymous said...

We are already running into problems with the move to Linkshare. We have numerous retail portal sites. We are product focused, not banner focused. We always liked the nice table-based nested long product descriptions combined with real product images offered through CJ. WIth the move to Linkshare, no longer offers this great approach. Now, if someone wants to feature a flat-panel TV for instance, they get a sentence or two description and a generic image separately. There is not 'buy' button anymore. My time is valuable and I don't have time to do all the extra formatting and product description writing. Not happy with this move. had been our favorite....not any more.

ms.pat said...

Randy - you said small sellers.....of every day widgets???? Any room for an arts category? On Ebay some top artists are still selling in the thousands per painting and they are looking to get out from under the Ebay hammer.

Randy Smythe said...

Hey Henrietta,

We have a long way to go before we become a viable option for every online sellers but we are certainly moving in that direction.

We will be doing this in stages, but we soon will be adding all kinds of non-traditional categories.

Randy Smythe said...

Ms. Pat,

Yep! We will be adding an Art category as well as collectibles and even antiques. We won't be doing any auctions and we honestly don't know how long it will take for our customers to take to the new categories but we are going to give it a shot.

When we roll out the new categories I will be sure to blog about it.

ms.pat said...

EUREKA! If they don't hide us and give us some advertising space on the site (unlike Overstock) we'll be there with bells on.

Randy Smythe said...


The product will be in search, but it may take some time for our customers to look for it. Hopefully not too long.

Randy Smythe said...


The affiliate program is not my area but I'll pass on your comments. We just made the move back to Linkshare so I'm sure we are still working through how best to handle things. We are hoing for good things from the Linkshare partnership.

internet merchant accounts said...

Market place is already in Internet. We need to increase our typical capability to work on marketing strategy in online marketing. Always see to it that you secure your account for the money that flows into your site.

News said...

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