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B Dash Camp Panel: Discussing developments in big data

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This is a part of our coverage of B Dash Camp Fukuoka 2013. On day two of B Dash Camp 2013 in Fukuoka, there was a panel discussion on recent developments in the field of big data. Participating in the talk was Takashi Kusano, the CEO and president of BrainPad Inc.; Masaya Mori, the executive officer at Rakuten Inc., and Ryuichi Nishida of B Dash Ventures Inc. The moderator Nishida began by wondering about the term big data, and what it means exactly. Kusano noted that in the past, they would just refer to it as data mining. But these days, he figures that it’s data that you can’t process with traditional tools. At his company, BrainPad, they help companies who can’t process such data on their own. He explains that many companies store unstructured data, which is of low value, but of a huge volume. And for most companies, it’s hard to extract meaning from that. And typically, unless the management can see how important it is, then it’s difficult for them to dedicate a special department for this purpose. Mori explained the unique situation facing Rakuten these days, where they have a business that spans across many sectors,…

big-data

This is a part of our coverage of B Dash Camp Fukuoka 2013.

On day two of B Dash Camp 2013 in Fukuoka, there was a panel discussion on recent developments in the field of big data. Participating in the talk was Takashi Kusano, the CEO and president of BrainPad Inc.; Masaya Mori, the executive officer at Rakuten Inc., and Ryuichi Nishida of B Dash Ventures Inc.

The moderator Nishida began by wondering about the term big data, and what it means exactly. Kusano noted that in the past, they would just refer to it as data mining. But these days, he figures that it’s data that you can’t process with traditional tools. At his company, BrainPad, they help companies who can’t process such data on their own.

He explains that many companies store unstructured data, which is of low value, but of a huge volume. And for most companies, it’s hard to extract meaning from that. And typically, unless the management can see how important it is, then it’s difficult for them to dedicate a special department for this purpose.

Mori explained the unique situation facing Rakuten these days, where they have a business that spans across many sectors, such as travel, finance, retail – so they have much data to deal with to say the least. He notes that they analyze (process?) 300 gigabyes daily, and their big data department alone has 160 people – a total that he notes is still not high enough. The findings from this data is not just used for things like recommendation, but it’s also used in areas like online ads and other products.

The moderator Nishida asked Mori about how active they are in hiring skilled data hires. Mori explained:

We have many data scientists and we actively hire for that position. We have about 60 right now in various departments. What we are doing now is accumulating and analyzing data, beyond what marketers would conventionally do, using it in the are of machine learning to try to get our algorithm to improve itself.

Meet 4 of Japan’s hottest online fashion malls

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According to a recent study, the fashion and interior e-commerce market in Japan was about 636 billion yen (about $6.79 billion) in 2012, a 121.5% increase on last year. Many domestic apparel brands join fashion online malls instead of developing and running e-commerce sites on their own. And as a result we’re seeing lots of buzz around these fashion online malls. While it’s likely that brands will have their own e-commerce presences soon enough, the online fashion malls which are currently so popular also have intriguing plans for the future. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the major online fashion malls in Japan (in no particular order), as well as their upcoming plans. 1. Stylife ¶ Rakuten recently acquired Stylife for 1.1 billion yen (about $11,770,000), becoming the biggest shareholder in the company. This is a smart move by Rakuten as it eager to increase its reach into the fashion space. For a long time, what differentiated Stylife from other online fashion malls was its print catalogue, Look!s, that integrated with the online mall, although the company ceased publication of the print version in March of 2012. It is now available online as a web magazine. 2….

According to a recent study, the fashion and interior e-commerce market in Japan was about 636 billion yen (about $6.79 billion) in 2012, a 121.5% increase on last year. Many domestic apparel brands join fashion online malls instead of developing and running e-commerce sites on their own. And as a result we’re seeing lots of buzz around these fashion online malls. While it’s likely that brands will have their own e-commerce presences soon enough, the online fashion malls which are currently so popular also have intriguing plans for the future.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the major online fashion malls in Japan (in no particular order), as well as their upcoming plans.

1. Stylife

Rakuten recently acquired Stylife for 1.1 billion yen (about $11,770,000), becoming the biggest shareholder in the company. This is a smart move by Rakuten as it eager to increase its reach into the fashion space.

For a long time, what differentiated Stylife from other online fashion malls was its print catalogue, Look!s, that integrated with the online mall, although the company ceased publication of the print version in March of 2012. It is now available online as a web magazine.

stylife

2. Magaseek

Just a month or so ago, mobile carrier NTT Docomo snatched up online fashion mall Magaseek, acquiring more than 41.67% of the company’s stock. Magaseek targets female mobile users in their 20s, and its previous owner was general trading company Itochu which still owns 25% of its shares. Similar to Rakuten, NTT Docomo’s plan is to solidify its competitiveness in fashion commerce by cooperating with Itochu, the largest general trade company in the textiles industry.

magaseek

3. FashionWalker

FashionWalker is another online mall which has aspirations of expanding its business to the Asian market, most notably to Korea and Taiwan. To that end, back in November of 2012 it launched an fashion e-commerce service for Korea. Its parent company is ‘World’.

FashionWalker is more content-focused compared to other online malls, creating dedicated sections for fashion stylists to introduce their latest look-books, under the category of ‘Shibuya Style Village‘.

fashion-walker

4. Zozotown

Another fashion online mall that’s accelerating its business in the Asia region is Zozotown (operated by Start Today) which was founded way back in 2004. In addition to zozotown.jp which serves the Japanese market, the company also runs zozotown.com where items can be delivered to 82 countries. In addition to the global online mall, Zozotown will launch ZozoConnect on Feburary 28 where it will introduce international brands — especially brands from Asia — to the world. At the time of launch, the site will focus on five Korean brands, including Bratson.

zozotown-f


This is part of our ‘Japanese internet in-depth’ series (RSS). Stay tuned for more features that aim to explain what makes the internet unique in Japan.

Rakuten to take 32.5% stake of fashion commerce site Stylife for $5.37M

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Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten (JSD:4755) announced today it would acquire Stylife (JDS:3037), one of Japan’s largest fashion e-commerce sites. Stylife is currently listed on the JASDAQ market, a stock exchange for emerging companies, but will be delisted because Rakuten will take 32.5% of the fashion site’s stakes. Two of Stylife’s largest shareholders Burnedest Japan (female clothing) and Parco (a fashion department store) have approved of the acquisition, and will give the shares over to Rakuten. Stylife was founded in May of 2000 as a subsidiary of Japan’s trading coporation Sojitsu [1]. It has been engaged in fierce competition against many rivals such as Zozotown, Fashion Walker, and Magaseek for some time now. Zozontown is leading the pack so far, although Fashion Walker was acquired by Japan’s largest clothing company World Co., Ltd in 2011. NTT DoCoMo recently announced it would subsidize Magaseek in order to expand the telco’s e-commerce revenue stream. It used to be Nichimen when Stylife was launched.  ↩

rakuten_stylife_logo

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten (JSD:4755) announced today it would acquire Stylife (JDS:3037), one of Japan’s largest fashion e-commerce sites. Stylife is currently listed on the JASDAQ market, a stock exchange for emerging companies, but will be delisted because Rakuten will take 32.5% of the fashion site’s stakes. Two of Stylife’s largest shareholders Burnedest Japan (female clothing) and Parco (a fashion department store) have approved of the acquisition, and will give the shares over to Rakuten.

Stylife was founded in May of 2000 as a subsidiary of Japan’s trading coporation Sojitsu [1]. It has been engaged in fierce competition against many rivals such as Zozotown, Fashion Walker, and Magaseek for some time now.

stylife_screenshot

Zozontown is leading the pack so far, although Fashion Walker was acquired by Japan’s largest clothing company World Co., Ltd in 2011. NTT DoCoMo recently announced it would subsidize Magaseek in order to expand the telco’s e-commerce revenue stream.


  1. It used to be Nichimen when Stylife was launched.  ↩

In Japan, there is no escaping Rakuten’s reach

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Rakuten-Ichiba, Japan’s biggest online mall, celebrated its 15th anniversary last May. Rakuten (JSD:4755) originally launched back in May of 1997, with just thirteen online stores. It took them seven years and five months to reach 10,000 stores. Now, the total number of stores exceeds 38,000 and the total items sold is over 95.6 million. Rakuten has managed to reach over half of the total population of Japan, reaching about 75 million registered users out of the 130 million who live in the country. According to Rakuten’s 15th year anniversary announcement, until 2003 what sold on Rakuten were items that could only be bought online. In 2004, more consumers were buying food and gourmet items. It wasn’t until around 2008 when people began to buy fashion and apparel online 1. And in 2010, offerings expanded further as consumers began to buy everyday necessities such as water and rice online. Rakuten has essentially overseen the entire history of online shopping in Japan. It is more difficult to find what’s not available on Rakuten than to find what is available. From electronics, to toys, to beauty products – almost anything can be found on Rakuten. The main categories in order of popularity are…

rakuten-logo

Rakuten-Ichiba, Japan’s biggest online mall, celebrated its 15th anniversary last May. Rakuten (JSD:4755) originally launched back in May of 1997, with just thirteen online stores. It took them seven years and five months to reach 10,000 stores. Now, the total number of stores exceeds 38,000 and the total items sold is over 95.6 million.

Rakuten has managed to reach over half of the total population of Japan, reaching about 75 million registered users out of the 130 million who live in the country. According to Rakuten’s 15th year anniversary announcement, until 2003 what sold on Rakuten were items that could only be bought online. In 2004, more consumers were buying food and gourmet items. It wasn’t until around 2008 when people began to buy fashion and apparel online 1. And in 2010, offerings expanded further as consumers began to buy everyday necessities such as water and rice online.

Rakuten has essentially overseen the entire history of online shopping in Japan.

It is more difficult to find what’s not available on Rakuten than to find what is available. From electronics, to toys, to beauty products – almost anything can be found on Rakuten. The main categories in order of popularity are food, women’s fashion, daily necessities/stationary, furniture, and men’s fashion.

According to a mobile usage survey conducted by Ceres Inc., 84.2% of respondents have engaged in online shopping. But where are they shopping? It turns out Rakuten is the most popular destination, favored by 68.5% of respondents. Amazon and Yahoo Shopping followed, with 58.0% and 38.6% respectively 2. One of the most remarkable things about Rakuten’s user base is the survey says it appears to be favored by older segments of the population, as you can see below:

Ages Percentage
10-19 34.9
20-29 65.6
30-39 72.1
40-49 72.1
50-59 77.2

In contrast, Amazon is preferred by younger users. The fact that Japan’s population is growing older and older is amazingly working in Rakuten’s favor.

As far as Rakuten’s website design goes, I am not their biggest fan. It shows far too much information at once and is much in need of an overhaul. But similar to Craigslist, people appear to have adjusted to the confusing and cluttered design – and it might even be a risk to change that now. But the design issue is not stopping more and more stores from joining Rakuten’s mall. And they still have lots of room to grow, since the online rate of the retail industry in Japan is only 2.8% 3. The rest are still small stores selling offline.

When you search for an item to buy, whether on Google or Yahoo, Rakuten items always show up on the first page of the search result. Popular blogs using Rakuten’s affiliate service make it difficult to escape, as their sidebar widgets remind you of products you may have been recently browsing on Rakuten. The company sends out millions of newsletters by store or by item category.

Here in Japan Rakuten dominates e-commerce, and if you frequent the Japanese web, there is practically no escape from its reach. As they expand abroad, it will be interesting to see how far that reach can extend!


This is part of our ‘Japanese internet in-depth’ series (RSS). Stay tuned for more features that aim to explain what makes the internet unique in Japan.


  1. A competing fashion e-commerce service called Zozotown launched in December of 2004, they were a bit ahead of their time, although with the right vision, successfully turned itself into the biggest online fashion mall.
  2. Another recent survey of elderly consumers found that 90% of respondents use Rakuten, followed by Amazon at 55.2%, and Yahoo Shopping at 27.0%.
  3. Report published by Ministry of Economy.