Rakuten Buy.com might sell everything under the sun, but the e-commerce site does not want to be seen as the next Amazon–far from it. The company rejects Amazon and traditional e-commerce sites’ “vending machine” approach to doing business. Buy.com instead encourages its customers to “buy from people, not the internet.”

“We don’t throw a cloak over the merchant but instead introduce you to shop owner,” Rakuten Buy.com CMO/COO Bernard Luthi recently told Content Ping in an interview. “We want you to discover who that merchant is.”

This guide will help explain Rakuten Buy.com’s “merchant-centric” approach to e-commerce.

Rakuten Buy.com emphasizes a merchant-centric approach to e-commerce.
“Buy from people, not the Internet.”

1. Virtual shopping mall

Japanese internet giant Rakuten purchased Buy.com in 2010 for $250 million. In the past two years, Rakuten has begun transforming Buy.com into an online marketplace that emulates a real-life shopping mall, where stores operate autonomously.

“We don’t compete with our merchants, we give them the tools to market and sell,” Luthi explains. “Our entire objective is to create a profitable revenue stream for them. Merchants respond very favorably to that.”

2. Target audience

In 1997 Buy.com began by selling computers and electronics at just below cost, making up the difference in advertising, warranty sales, product leasing, and other services. Now, the site partners with several thousand merchants and offering 14 million products across most major categories.

“I think we’re doing a pretty good job of providing something for everyone,” Luthi said. “Our customers tend to come from metropolitan areas and are comfortable shopping online. They’re not necessarily in a hurry and enjoy the process of discovering products.”

3. Seller focused

With the exception of consumer electronics, Rakuten Buy.com does not stock products itself, but instead provides a platform for merchants to sell directly to the consumer. This means you won’t find large manufacturers selling directly on the site.

“Buy.com is offering manufacturers something unique because it’s putting consumers in touch with the merchants who are advocates for the brand,” Luthi said. “At the end of the day, people that sell my product are my most important asset. I think many manufacturers see that.”

4. Modular product pages

The great degree of freedom given to merchants sometimes lends itself to low-quality product pages. Since manufacturers don’t sell directly on Rakuten Buy.com, they rely on merchants to develop good product pages for the site. And that doesn’t always happen.

Yet Buy.com has standardized where various elements appear on the page. And they’ve taken a modular approach that allows them to customize the pages based on category.

5. Mobile Strategy

Mobile currently makes up 10-15% of Rakuten Buy.com’s traffic, but Luthi says he sees that number increasing significantly in the upcoming years.

It’s an incredible channel that we are putting a lot of resources into,” Luthi explains.

For more about the company’s history, check out Rakuten Buy.com: A Merchant-Centric Approach to E-commerce. You can also read the full interview at Rakuten Buy.com’s Bernard Luthi: “We Empower Merchants”.