E-payments are continuing to infiltrate the Japanese retail market. E-commerce giant Rakuten said Tuesday that its credit card division Rakuten Card Co. has just started offering its customers the option to make mobile payments via Apple’s mobile electronic payment service designed for the iPhone and Apple Watch.
By using Apple Pay with their Rakuten cards, customers can continue to receive the same rewards and benefits they get by making regular puchases on their credit cards, the Japanese copmany said. Loyalty points are very important with Japanese customers and Rakuten’s offerings in that department have helped give it an edge over rival Amazon Japan.
Japan is relatively late to the e-payment game compared to places like China– perhaps because e-commerce was also slow to take hold in the country. This spring, startup Origami, which was founded in 2013 as a mobile e-commerce platform, launched its own e-payment system at an event at the Apple Store on Tokyo’s Omotesando Avenue location. Brands like Burberry, Urban Research, Hankyu department stores, MOMA Design Store and Bang & Olufsen signed on for Origami Pay.
While the company has less of an international profile than China’s Alibaba and JD.com, Rakuten has made a string of acquisitions recently and been making inroads in the fashion and retail space. It has snapped up C2C fashion marketplace app Fril and virtual fit technology company Fits.me. Meanwhile, Ebates, a cash-back shopping site owned by Rakuten, has bought Calif.-based Shopular, which specializes in mobile shopping alerts.
Rakuten, Origami and other e-commerce players are fighting for market share as Japanese consumers cut back on spending. Japanese retail sales fell 2.1 percent in August in year-on-year terms, marking their six straight month of contraction, according to data from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Retailers, including Uniqlo and Isetan Mitsukoshi, also reported sliding comps for September. Uniqlo’s same-store sales slid 3.4 percent while Isetan’s sales fell 4.7 percent for the month.