Find out about the retailer's strategic priorities, commercial focus areas, channel and country presence.

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This in-depth guide to Japan explores the key trends in grocery retail and the growth strategies of the leading retailers in the country.

Get up to speed on all of the latest retailer results, the insight into what is driving growth and IGD's five big trends to watch in Asia in 2019.

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Rakuten and Seiyu will deliver products from the Seiyu LIVIN Yokosuka Store in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, to visitors in Sarushima via drones.

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Rakuten has published its results for the first quarter, with Group revenue up 15.9% to JPY280,294m (US$2.5bn) compared with the same period last year.

Internet Services revenue up 13.8%

Year-on-year revenue from Internet Services, Rakuten’s core business including ecommerce and travel booking services, increased 13.8% to JPY169,975m (US$1,5bn). Profit jumped 620.8% to JPY111,645m (US$1bn) following investment in U.S. ride-hailing company Lyft Inc.

Investments strengthening Rakuten’s ecosystem

Rakuten’s recent investments include Lyft, online scrapbook company Pinterest Inc and a stake in Dubai-based ride-hailing firm Careem,

Initiatives to grow transaction value

Rakuten has outlined several key focus areas to drive growth in gross transaction value and revenue:

  • Strengthening its customer base and winning new users
  • Promoting cross-use of services
  • Improving customer satisfaction
  • Establishing logistics hubs with a view to expanding the ecommerce platform
  • Enhancing services for smart devices
  • Promoting strategies for opening up the Rakuten ecosystem

The Japan External Trade Organisation is offering small to medium-sized domestic retailers free access to global ecommerce platforms to help them sell products in 18 markets abroad.

Supporting smaller retailers grow online

The initiative is expected to increase trade for local businesses, maximising the global popularity of Japanese products around the world. Twenty four ecommerce operators, including Rakuten, Alibaba,, Red (Xiaohongshu), Lazada (in Singapore) and Ocado have signed up to take part in the program starting this summer. Some of these platforms are expected to setup a dedicated section to sell Japanese products under the program later this year.

Driving Japanese exports

For some smaller businesses, the program could offer their first export opportunity. The initiative eliminates the fee that would normally be required for sellers to list their products on third-party marketplaces. Following successful application, sellers will be asked to provide items chosen by the platform operator, who will negotiate and complete purchases.


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Chinese ecommerce giant is partnering with Rakuten on delivery in Japan.'s drones will become a part of Rakuten's own unmanned delivery services.'s drones has been developing and operating drones in China for a few years. It has been expanding in other Asian countries, such as Indonesia, where completed its first government approved drone flight. Its unmanned delivery vehicles also include driverless trucks.

Rakuten strengthening last-mile delivery

Since 2016, Rakuten has been offering drone delivery in Japan. It said that working with will “accelerate the development and commercialization” of its autonomous last-mile delivery efforts.


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As part of their strategic relationship, Walmart and Rakuten have opened their first ecommerce store in Japan. We look at the model being used and implications for future expansion.

Products fulfilled from US inventory

Earlier this year, Walmart and Tokyo-based Rakuten, announced a strategic alliance designed to optimise each company’s strengths and assets to expand their reach to new consumer groups. The Walmart Rakuten Ichiba Store is featured within Rakuten Ichiba, the largest ecommerce store in Japan. The new store provides Japanese consumers with access to products sourced from Walmart’s US ranges. Categories featured include clothing, outdoor goods and toys, with around 1,200 items initially offered. Orders are fulfilled in the US and flown to consumers in Japan. The product price incorporates shipping, duties and taxes.

New online grocery service

A key element of the strategic partnership was the development of a new online grocery delivery service, Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper. This launched in October, offering a more convenient shopping experience that meets the changing needs of customers in Japan. In addition to offering deliveries from Walmart’s stores, the service has established a dedicated fulfillment centre to increase capacity. Both these new services help Walmart to expand its grocery footprint in Japan, a country where its stores numbers have been relatively static for several years.

Adding new eBooks capability to the ecosystem

In addition, Walmart and Rakuten Kobo Inc. have formed an exclusive retail alliance that enables Walmart to sell eBooks and audiobooks and Rakuten Kobo eReaders, in Walmart stores and online at As one of the country’s largest booksellers, a digital platform enhances its appeal, while also pitching it directly against Amazon and its Kindle e-reader.

A model for future international ecommerce expansion

Although Walmart has operated in Japan since 2002, the Walmart Rakuten Ichiba Store is a model which could be replicated in other countries where it does not have a physical presence. In Japan, Walmart benefits from an established customer base, but trades under the Seiyu brand. Physical stores are not essential to this model. Key elements are a strategic partnership with an ecommerce marketplace leader and a logistics infrastructure to support home delivery.

As orders are being fulfilled from the US, there is limited infrastructure development required in the new country of operation. With Walmart having high brand recognition globally and a reputation for price leadership, there is likely to be strong demand for its products. Walmart has established similar stores in China through its partnership with

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