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Rakuten launches English language site (sort of) December 18, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Internet, Japan.
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Rakuten, Japan’s largest on-line shopping mall, has launched an English language service.

Sort of.

The top page has been translated, but that’s it. Not very useful, really.

Rakuten has previously announced that it is setting its sights on overseas expansion, and I guess this is the first tiny step in that direction.

But is this the right way to go about it? English language users might stumble upon the English site, and will quickly see that the rest of the site is not translated. And they will likely never return. First impressions count, and I feel this particular piecemeal approach will be counterproductive.I’m sure they’re currently dealing with the backend fulfilment and logistics issues, and they probably wanted to show some visible signs that they are indeed planning to target non-Japanese audiences. A cynic might say this is an IR play.

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1. Ian - December 18, 2007

Did you look at their code? That is some ugly 10 year old code there! No wonder Japan is lagging in the software development business if one of its internet pioneers has its developers writing code like that. Charset x-euc-jp, eh? Oh, maybe they wanted it to display with ugly fonts ;)

I think you are correct, no effort was put into this other than changing the text. This is for investment managers not consumers.

2. Gaijin Biker - December 18, 2007

I’m sure they’re currently dealing with the backend fulfilment and logistics issues

Under the Ichiba “shopping mall” model, wouldn’t the individual merchants be responsible for fulfilling orders?

3. fukumimi - December 18, 2007

Ian,

Yes, welcome to the world of Japanese internet business, where technical competence counts for little. The shop front may be on the internet, but much else is stuck in the old economy era.

Gaijin Biker,

Yes and no. Whilst it is true that the individual merchants are responsible for order fulfilment, Rakuten gives merchants things like credit card transaction capability and through logistics partners it makes it easier for merchants to perform order fulfilment.

Without such support smaller merchants would find it difficult enough to make a case for having a presence on Rakuten, and the hurdles get even higher for overseas transactions.

Rakuten must be dreaming if they think the vast majority of their tenants can or are willing to handle international transactions themselves.

The Yahoo! Japan/Ebay link-up seems to have been much more thoroughly thought through.

4. Ken - December 19, 2007

I’m with Ian here…I saw font tags in that code! Those have been depreciated for some time now.

I don’t get the point in rolling out a top page only, and one that looks terrible, at that. If the service doesn’t work 100% and isn’t seamless for the English user, it’s just going to give them a bad name…for now, anyway.

Perhaps it’s more about pushing the image of being ‘international’ – kind of like Uniqlo opening a shop in Soho and saying they’ve broken into the US market, when the vast majority of Americans will never be anywhere near that shop. Feel-good tactics for at-home impressions.

5. lhf - December 19, 2007
6. fukumimi - December 19, 2007

lhf,

how is that even remotely related to the topic of this post?

Anyway, I think Machimura shouldn’t be wasting time joking about such issues when there are lots of serious issues at hand.

7. Michael M - December 19, 2007

The travel section is mostly in English which I will use. But that is all. Amazon.co.jp started by adding English to their shopping cart and checkout workflow, which made it easier (and more comfortable) for me. This would be a better first step for Rakuten to open up sales to non Japanese readers in Japan.

However I had already used Amazon checkout in Japanese (and Rakuten) using a dictionary. I wonder how big the market is for domestic shipping sales in English? Amazon probably had a clear idea by looking at how many English language books they were shipping.

I have found it hard to ship goods internationally from English speaking countries to Japan, or use a Japanese credit card to pay. If Rakuten supports localized (English, Chinese, etc) checkout, and international credit card and shipping support they may find some customers.

8. Durf - December 21, 2007

I for one am glad to finally have the chance to “Enjoy a full of benefits and conveniences!”

Seriously, who did that translation? Babelfish?

9. fukumimi - December 21, 2007

Durf,

I was going to go there and point out the mistakes, but I’ve gotten flak from people in the past accusing me of being the spelling and grammar gestapo. Apparently some people just think I’m just doing it to show off my English language skills. Give me a bloody break…. If that was the only thing I could show off, I’d be in real trouble, methinks.

10. Gen Kanai - December 21, 2007

I had hoped that Livedoor would fix their awful English on their ‘localized’ Fastladder RSS reader.

http://fastladder.com/

“We’ll support your quick readings.”

Clearly they haven’t.

If this is the state of affairs of the localization, there’s no confidence that the software or service is any better.

11. kokuryu - January 9, 2008

No wonder Japan is lagging in the software development business

Japan doesn’t have a software development business.

12. Wacharaporn - December 22, 2008

Hi Fukumimi
I cannot speak Japanese but wanna buy a bag in Rakuten ichiba website.. I almost give up my search for that bag. Pls could you be my only hope advising how to buy that bag online. Can they send me the item to my country? Kindly advise please.
Thanks a lot.
Kate ^_^’

13. Andrew Shuttleworth - March 22, 2009

Not sure when this went up, but it looks like Rakuten has a more extensive localization (sticking to pretty much the same quality standards as the original) here: http://event.rakuten.co.jp/borderless/index_en.html

14. fukumimi - March 22, 2009

only took them couple of years, then.

15. Talleke - March 28, 2009

Look past all the flaws in the code and horrible design and see that they are trying to reach out to the rest of the world outside Japan.
I personally thought it was a good enough job for me to understand what the item was and take me through the ordering process without going nuts with my Japanese dictionary.

I’m a happy customer and they got their sales, isn’t that the whole idea?

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