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Published by:
University of St Gallen (2018)
20 pages
Data source:
Field research


Rakuten is an 'emotional' e-Commerce platform, 'like no other in terms of unlocking the heart of the consumer'. That differentiates it from giants like Amazon, Alibaba or Yahoo. Its core two-sided platform boasts a loyal customer following incentivized by an original points system, as well as a diverse merchant base enabled via an extensive support system. Moreover, Rakuten is ever expanding into new digital and other services such as fintech, music or travel as it builds an extensive ecosystem on the basis of data analytics. The dilemmas of the case are multifold. One sees whether 'data with soul' can win at the narrative markets for digital services, and thereafter convert to consumers. A second relates to whether the 'Rakuten of (all) things' will see its component business deliver synergistic value to these customers. Throughout the case the reader will reflect on unique approaches to e-Business, platforms, narrative development and customer management, as well as on the underlying role of Japanese values and culture.


e-Commerce; Japan; Internet; Platforms; Consumption; Big data; Internet of Things; Amazon; Alibaba; Distribution; Marketing; Digital services; Fintech; Emotions; Narratives.
USD 60 billion
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