While it is unlikely that we’ll see an ecommerce competitor as huge as Rakuten in the near future, there is still much room to grow in the online commerce sector, especially for small businesses. According to research by Japanese Ministry of Economy, the portion of of the country’s retail industry who are online is only 2.8%. That means that 97.2% of all retail businesses in Japan limit themselves to selling things offline. Of this 97.2%, the overwhelming majority are very small business run by only a few people with presumably limited internet skills.
Stores.jp is aimed at these small businesses, allowing them to create online stores in a matter of minutes. It’s the equivalent of services like Yokaboo or Flying Cart. The company behind Stores.jp, Bracket, also runs other services such as Shoes of Prey, an online custom shoes service (headquartered in Australia), and a C2C car sharing site called Cafore. Shoes of Prey promises satisfaction guaranteed, allowing users to return their custom designed shoes if they are not 100% happy with them. To sell off these returned shoes, the company tried using services like Stores.jp, but found them too confusing to use with too many features. So they decided to build a more simplified version, and that resulted in Stores.jp.
To use the site, no coding or HTML skills are required. To create your store, all you need is your email and password. After registration, just upload photos, names, and descriptions of your products and your online store is completed. When orders come in, you send out the product and the money will be paid to your designated bank account. Stores.jp follows a freemium model where up to five items per month can be sold with zero cost. For sellers with more items to sell, the monthly cost is 980 yen (about $10) with an additional payment system usage fee of 5%. For premium accounts, the site offers marketing and log analysis features as well.
Stores.jp was released in August of last year, and so far over 25,000 stores have been opened on the site. According to Bracket CEO Yusuke Mitsumoto, the total number of stores on Rakuten is 40,000. The number of items registered exceeds 70,000 and it currently has more than 500,000 monthly users.
But Stores.jp is not without competitors. Three months after its release, an almost identical site called Base was released and had over 7,000 stores within three weeks. In an effort to stay ahead of the competition, Stores.jp offers additional services including professional photography and the creation of store business cards. Both options are provided free, with photography available for maximum of twenty items.
Merchants on the site are mainly small businesses but there are also well-known chains like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and a famous magazine called Tokyo Calendar. These bigger companies use the site to create online shops dedicated for a particular campaign or content. For example, Tokyo Calendar opened a Japanese sake shop for its sake issue.
To find out more about how the Stores.jp works, check out the video below.