Base: The Japanese freemium e-commerce platform that’s following Shopify’s lead

Base: The Japanese freemium e-commerce platform that’s following Shopify’s lead

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See original story in Japanese.

Base is a Tokyo startup that provides an easy-to-implement e-commerce platform. It was born from Project Liverty, a tech savvy team led by serial entrepreneur Kazuma Ieiri. On Friday, the service added a new feature called BASE apps, allowing users to set up a shop under their own domain name. it also includes SEO (search engine optimization), and packaging material that merchants can use when shipping.

With the exception of credit card surcharges, the service is provided completely free, and that includes these new features. The company’s CEO Yuta Tsuruoka explains that they will gradually add new features week by week, such as logo design, the ability to offer limited time discounts to customers, and even photo shoots for merchandise.

Following Shopify’s successful ‘plug-in strategy’

Base was inspired by Shopify, the third-ranked e-commerce platform behind Amazon and eBay in terms of transaction volume (about $1 billion) in the US. In contrast to competitors, Shopify generates its revenue partially from plug-in usage. Essentially this means that when you add features or services to your e-shop, you will be requested to pay extra. Yuta adds:

In the US, many merchants who have their e-shops on multi-tenant e-commerce platforms have [not been doing well], and they are now moving to marketplace platforms. I really want this shift to come to Japan.

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The startup’s plug-ins motivate small merchants and even individuals to open shops online. They also provide outsourced logistics service for merchants, and plan to provide vendor-managed inventory services. You can order logo design or a website template from partnering crowdsourced services via the Base platform.

Among the available plug-ins, some allow goods producers to even offer to develop merchandise for you. See apps.thebase.in to learn more about what features they provide.

Monetizing the payment process

Does the Base platform fully drive its business only with these plug-ins? Yuta says the answer is no:

During the testing period, we’ve seen merchants were using our platform in many different ways. Some merchants were selling web services, digital content, or other non-tangible services on the platform. It shows us there’s e-commerce potential far beyond just merchandise distribution. That’s the key for making our business successful, I believe.

He aspires to make this into another Paypal, as opposed to the next Rakuten or Amazon. The Base platform aspires to handle not only merchandise logistics but also monetary transactions between merchants and shoppers which may generate a huge volume of commission.

The e-commerce platform has acquired more than 23,000 merchants in the four months since its launch, where a variety of items ranging from luxury furniture to show tickets are being sold. The average price per customer reaches around 3,500 yen (around $35).

In January, the startup fundraised 23 million yen ($230,000) from Partyfactory, East Ventures, and several angel investors. We’ll keep you updated about how their business further grows from here.