CNet Japan Startup Award nominees: Mobile C2C flea market apps – Fril and Mercari



This is part one of our CNET Japan Startup Awards nominee rundown. The rest can be found here.

Several C2C flea market apps have been popping up in Japan recently, including Mainichi Frima, Stulio, and CNet Japan Startup Award nominees Fril and Mercari [1]. Unlike traditional desktop-focused C2C platforms such as Yahoo Auctions, these newer marketplaces are adopting a mobile-first approach.

Both Fril and Mercari have a mobile-only strategy. Sellers can complete the entire selling process seamlessly on the app – from photographing their item using their smartphone camera, to posting the listing, to receiving notifications when their item has been sold.

A listing can be created in just a few minutes, and is free to create. Both apps charge a 10% commission upon purchase, and a fixed-rate transaction fee. Payment is handled by their system.

By providing a payment infrastructure, Fril and Mercari grant buyers the convenience of paying through convenience stores, ATM transactions, or credit cards. Selling is also simplified into the easy processes of listing, shipping, and receiving payment. Compared to traditional platforms, the user experience is easier and comparatively frictionless.

The differences


Despite similarities in functionality, Fril and Mercari diverge in a few ways as well. Fril (pictured right) is primarily targeted towards females in their teens and 20s, and specifically focuses on ladies’ fashion. Mercari (pictured below), on the other hand, offers a range of product categories from ladies’ and men’s fashion to electronic appliances.

Fril’s more specific target allows it to adopt a stronger visual style, with a very girly color palette. It also provides functions that work well with its fashion focus – such as searching by brand names, shop page customization, and following other users.

Mercari, instead of focusing on fashion, differentiates itself with a strong emphasis on buyer and seller security. It uses an escrow payment system, where the payment is held by Mercari and is not transferred to the seller until both parties have reviewed each other.

China’s largest e-commerce platform, Taobao, uses a similar system, and that has been effective in offsetting the issue of low trust in a C2C transaction.

The competition

CyberAgent’s Mainichi Frima and Singapore-based Carousell are two flea market platform apps that are also mobile-only. A common feature of Mainichi Frima, Carousell, and Fril is the “follow” function. Mainichi Frima also allows users to create customized shop pages.

Where Fril and Mercari stand out, however, is that they handle the entire payment process. Both Mainichi Frima and Carousell leave it up to the buyers and sellers to figure out payments themselves. Carousell encourages face-to-face exchanges with a location function that allows buyers to search by the seller’s proximity.

The advantage of Mainichi Frima and Carousell’s model is that they allow for robust negotiations between buyers and sellers. In this sense, they provide a more accurate online representation of the offline flea market experience. However, if users are looking for a simple, frictionless experience, they will find Fril and Mercari much easier to use.


  1. The CNet Japan Startup Awards are coming up on December 10th.  ↩