Rakuten New Design for Global Extension

The #1 Japanese e-commerce giant, Rakuten, went global this summer by building an international, multi-lingual Rakuten e-commerce site. They also acquired PriceMinister.com in France, Buy.com in the US and inked a $50M e-commerce joint venture with Baidu, the leading search engine in China. Rakuten’s presence in Japan is similar to that of Amazon in the US and Alibaba in China. Going global is the right direction to continue to grow its business after dominating its home turf. It’s very interesting to compare Rakuten’s Japanese site and its global site.

Japanese site:

Global marketing examples

Global Site:

Global marketing examples

As you can see, the Japanese site is packed with text, products and flash. Every single space is filled up. The global site is less dense, with more visuals and bigger fonts. Melinda Flores, director of content strategy at VSA, shared her insights on why the Japanese experience is substantially different than the global site.

  • Character comfort: it’s actually easier to read Japanese characters regardless of font size and type. In addition, there are not many font styles for Japanese characters.
  • Mobile adaption: Japanese are used to reading dense texts on smaller screens. They adapted to mobile e-commerce earlier than any other countries
  • Desire to understand details: Japanese would like to understand product specs, shipping information, return policy and disclaimers. They like to see everything on one page, not split across multiple pages or places.
  • Programming language: While HTML 5, Java, PHP and other languages are popular for web programming in English, most Japanese sites were not written with robust languages.

The design of your website will dictate how your content will be displayed. Text heavy, glitzy images and packed-on sales banner ads are common on Japanese sites, yet Rakuten’s global site focuses on showcasing key product one page at a time.

Global marketing examples

multi-lingual leads

Rakuten’s Japanese site reminds me of Alibaba’s Chinese sites. Both are packed with banner ads, supplier and product information and colorful and busy product images. It works for their customers. They expect it. When we scale content across regions, it’s important to keep an open-mind, understand cultural nuances and adjust our design and content accordingly.

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