Today, buying stocks online has become the new norm. With more and more sites developing to house sellers, products and affiliate programs, online marketing is the place to be.

But when buying online, especially from an overseas company, you want to be sure they are trustworthy. Rakuten has been around for a while now, but since its expansion, the company has received some bad reviews.

When doing a quick search for Rakuten, warning signs to stay away from the site grab your attention.

So today we'll put some focus on the company, what they do and who they are. We will also take a look at some of the negative reviews, in order to paint a complete picture.


What Is Rakuten?

Rakuten is a Japanese e-commerce platform based in Tokyo. It has evolved to be one of the most significant online marketplaces in Japan and has since expanded across the globe.


Who Is Hiroshi Mikitani?

Hiroshi Mikitani rakuten marketing

Hiroshi Mikitani is the founder of Rakuten. He brought the idea to life in 1997 after looking into the potential for an online shopping mall.

His idea was an internet platform, connecting people from the far ends of the country and building a space where buyers and sellers could connect.

Starting out, Rakuten had about 13 online shops. It grew reasonably fast and today, they host more than 42,000 online markets.

The official language for the company was originally Japanese. However, Mikitani found this to be a lousy business strategy. So, he later switched to English, while many argued this was a bold move.

The reform began in 2010, when—at the time—only 10 percent of the Japanese workforce could speak English. Nevertheless, Mikitani was not entirely in the wrong.

Studies have shown that overseas companies do better if they have a “language strategy.”

Even though it was a daring move, it might have worked out for the better. Especially seeing that, not long after, Rakuten took over several companies worldwide, including Ebates, Kobo and Viber.


What Do They Do?

Rakuten is, in many ways, Japan's answer to America’s Amazon. It hosts millions of users and thousands of online shops on one site.

Shopkeepers pay rent to the company, which also takes a small sum in commission every time someone purchases an item.

You are able to find almost anything on the site. From clothing to car accessories, snacks and saké—everything you could need is in one place. Only a few clicks and searches will find what you’re looking for.

Rakuten is relatively successful in Japan, where it also operates one of the country's largest online banks and credit card companies. This is mostly due to a reward system, Rakuten Super Points, where customers can gain credit and points.

In 2015, the company made it possible for their consumers to obtain an integrated credit card, which combines with the points system. So every time a customer purchases an item, points run directly to the card.

This has made it relatively more accessible as the prior system required consumers to use two different cards.


What Are Rakuten Super Points?

rakuten marketing

Rakuten Super Points are the credited points you receive when you purchase an item. For example, if you spent $500.00 on a new phone, you'll gain 500 points in return—the equivalent to about $5.00.

You can later use these points to pay for your next purchase.

To get these points, you must be an account member of Rakuten and there is an expiration date of one year. In prior versions, customers had to redeem these points which could take more than two weeks. If consumers didn't use them, they would quickly expire.

However, before buying into this whole reward system, make sure you understand its terms. A number of customers complained about spending money on items without receiving the points, but these people often weren’t aware or informed properly of the terms.


Rakuten Best-Price Guarantee

Rakuten's best-price guarantee is basically a price-adjustment policy. If a product bought is later reduced in price elsewhere, it allows the customer to receive a partial refund.

That is if it's reported within a specific timeframe and as long as it comes from a qualified seller. A qualified seller is basically one that stands as direct competition to Rakuten, such as Target or Amazon.

These companies offer the same products at competitive prices. To qualify for the best-price guarantee, the item you bought must be in stock and distributed by that same company, i.e., not a third-party seller.

This, of course, doesn't mean that the unqualified sellers are scammers. But let’s say those shoes you bought from a third-party seller suddenly drop in price before you receive them—you won't qualify for a refund.

As the website states, Rakuten does try to match the best prices out there. But in such a vast market, with so many sellers broadcasting their products over various sites, it's not always possible.

Usually, it’s no more than a few dollars difference. But this might be annoying if you just spent extra on a product, only to discover it was much cheaper on another site from the same seller. Again, be aware of the terms.

If you want a refund, then you as the consumer, have to remain alert to the prices on the other sites selling the same product. This can be very time-consuming.

However, there are a couple of sites, one of which is Moolah, that can do the tracking for you. When you become a member, you can list the items you bought and it will keep watch over several competitive websites.

If anyone lists a lower price or reduces it within the specific timeframe, they'll alert you and refund your money. That is if you qualify and have bought the product from the right merchant.


Rakuten Affiliate Program

Like numerous other online market platforms, Rakuten also enlists the help of affiliates. An affiliate is the liaison between the seller and buyer. In the world of online shopping, the affiliate plays a significant role in advertising products, while receiving a small commission.

If you've ever been tight on money, you might have even already tried this yourself.

Many sites recruit thousands of affiliates. It's not necessarily something which requires specific qualifications. And many people do, in fact, earn extra pocket money doing it.

Rakuten currently has one of the leading affiliate networks, according to mthink. With the help of this network, sellers are able to reach out to more markets worldwide than before. Rakuten even prides itself on aiding more than 100 million global orders.

Rakuten also tries to utilize the effects of ‘influencers’, or someone who has power to inspire more people. In today's modern world, influencers have become the new celebrities.

Being all over social media platforms, such as Instagram, companies often pay these influencers to advertise their products. It's generally a very successful way of reaching possible customers.

An influencer, as opposed to a celebrity, typically has a specific niche to his or her brand. This, in turn, helps the seller concentrate advertising to a particular group of consumers. So once again, this is a very ingenious business move.


The Pros and Cons of Rakuten

Every online shopping site has its pros and cons. We've all seen those posts on Facebook where people share their stories of rip-off encounters. In other words, scams do slip through sometimes.

Of course, this also comes down to common sense on the consumer’s behalf. But we've all had that fear of wasting our money on a scammer's site.

Rakuten does come with numerous pros. With that being said, it also has a fair share of negatives—like poor customer service and low-quality products among them.

Since Rakuten has such a vast selection of sellers, many of which sell and advertise the same products, it's not always easy to deliver on quality.

Let’s dive into some specifics.


Customer Service

When taking a glance at Rakuten's website, you’ll see they do pride themselves on their customer service. They have what they call a “worry-free guarantee," by which they stress the importance of return policies and refunds.

They do urge unhappy buyers to reach out and let their customer service know if something is wrong and to help find a solution. But when reading reviews, it becomes evident that many consumers are very unhappy with this service.

Many reviews say that Rakuten's customer service stopped responding after too many inquiries.

Rakuten's worry-free guarantee states that since their site is such a broad marketplace, return and refund policies are often varied. To translate, it means that you as a buyer should read into the specific merchant's policy.


Products

As mentioned above, Rakuten advertises a large amount of products, so it may come as no surprise that merchandise reviews are a bit varied. Rakuten does encourage its buyers to leave a review, whether good or bad, on the product's page.

This—of course—helps the potential consumers out there.

Still, many complain of receiving broken products. This could have taken place in transit. But some claim that the package it came in seemed to arrive undamaged.

It's typically a bit of a risk purchasing something from a site like Rakuten. Not necessarily because the company is bad, but rather due to inefficiencies when it comes to accepting sellers for the website.

Rakuten tries to make sure every product on the platform is legitimate. But even in today's world of technology, it does happen that certain unqualified products slip through the grate. This is something we, as buyers, must be aware of and prepared for.


Sellers Platform

Sellers must apply to sell their products on Rakuten. This comes at a monthly fee. When reading reviews from sellers, it becomes clear that improvements are possibly needed there as well.

Some have said that the site was unusable and it was too complicated posting any of their products. Rakuten does somewhat explain this in the listing guidelines, stating a product must have a value that matches the requirements, for example.

Sellers must manipulate their settings so that they meet Rakuten's guidelines, in order to post a product.

Rakuten also requires merchants to place their product in the right category. Most of these will have to go through the ChannelAdvisor software approvals before getting through to listings.



How to Use Rakuten

How to Use Rakuten

Rakuten is relatively easy to use. Like other similar websites, you can browse through the various products and categories, find what you like and place an order.

To earn points and discounts, you should open an account with Rakuten. Additionally, when you create a Rakuten ID, you can use this to gain easy access to other sites under the company, such as Kobo.

It will also help you become an affiliate, if that's something you would like.

When you purchase an item, you can choose to pay through PayPal or by credit card. However, some have claimed that after using their credit card to pay on Rakuten, unknown activity occurred on their account.

This is one of the greatest fears most of us online shoppers have while venturing through the internet's many shops with our cards in hand.


Is It Worth It?

Many buyers are able to find products at lower prices than on other sites. But in saying this, many of the poor product reviews are coming from people who purchased technological devices.

Maybe that's an area where Rakuten needs to make some improvements.

Not to mention the countless number of complaints about their customer service. If you have the patience, then go for it. Just remember to read the terms and policies of the different sellers, to be sure of your rights as a consumer.


Summing It Up

Rakuten has undoubtedly become a marketing pioneer—starting out not long after some of the other giants. Making smart decisions such as a language plan and expanding overseas seems to have benefited the company greatly.

However, there needs to be some improvement, to make sure most of the buyers are leaving happy.

Hopefully, this short review of Rakuten has given you a greater understanding of the company and helped you to decide whether it's worth spending money on.