Posts Tagged ‘rakuten’

Pulse Rate: ikyu.com

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Ikyu

While not exactly offering bargain basement prices, travel discounts can be found at Ikyu.com

In general there is a hesitancy in Japan to discount prices for goods and services. The price for a six pack of beer, for example, is same price as six individual beers. Landlords are wary to reduce rents even to fill up rooms that may be empty for a long period of time, and hotels rarely give price breaks – as reported by Yen For Living, even a drastic reduction in highway tolls did not increase overnight stays for travelers. The Internet, however, has at least helped consumers pinpoint the companies that have lowered their prices, which in turn has helped stimulate competition.

Recently the website 一休.COM (www.ikyu.com) made it to the No. 4 spot of  Goo keywords, perhaps because it was being inundated by visitors trying to take advantage of the site’s 10-year anniversary specials and other summer specials during the current summer vacation. While the site does provide discounted hotels, it’s not exactly targeted at budget travelers – some of the rooms go for as much as ¥33,000/night for two people. There is an English site to take advantage of (which even includes a frequently updated blog about Japan), but unfortunately it doesn’t appear to have the site’s full line of rooms, so using the Japanese side is recommended.

Budget travelers can look to Rakuten Travel for a larger selection of cheaper digs. Rakuten is also equipped with an English site, but if you can navigate the Japanese, you can take advantage of the full-featured search engine to narrow down housing by station, maximum price and distance from station. By searching strategically, you can find rooms at fantastic value. For example, a semi-double at City Hotel Hiroki at Kamata Station (a station that offers a decent amount of edible, drinkable and shop-able entertainment and isn’t far from central Tokyo on the Keihin-Tohoku Line) runs ¥5,400/night for two people this upcoming weekend. (If your name happens to be Hiroki, you can take advantage of the special discount rate of ¥5,000/night!)

Other websites are bringing down the price of goods. Kakaku.com has long offered significant discounts on a variety of different merchandise. For those looking to stay out of the sun while shopping for groceries, the bulk liquor store Kakuyasu has an impressive online presence that offers free delivery 365 days a year to Tokyo, Kanagawa and Osaka on any order, even if it’s as little as a single can of beer. Their prices are nothing to scoff at either – the Suntory Premium Malts costs a mere ¥220/can for a 24-pack, and Asahi Super Dry is ¥193/can. Although the bulk of the products are alcohol-related, there is a decent selection of snacks and basic foodstuffs. You can get your salsa and tortilla chip fix and, if you’ve got the moral and intestinal fortitude for it, try some whale curry.

Rakuten raises the stakes

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Not content with being Japan’s No. 1 online shopping mall, Rakuten have announced plans to up their game even more by offering same-day shipping to their 50 million strong customer base. This move comes as a challenge to rivals Amazon, who already offer a similar service called oisogi bin (speedy delivery) to customers in the Kanto and Kansai region.

Rakuten, Japan's No. 1 shopping site, is upping its game

Rakuten, Japan’s No. 1 shopping site, is upping its game

According to Asiajin, up till now Rakuten’s business model has been a B2B2C (business to business to customer) model, but the new warehouses, due to be set up across the country, will streamline their operating systems, allowing Rakuten to make sure that goods are sent on the same day they are ordered.

The first warehouse is planned to be constructed in Chiba (presumably to serve Tokyo) this autumn, but Rakuten doesn’t only plan to offer this service to metropolitan areas, a further five other centers will follow over the next three years, which will also be able to service rural customers. The service may also push down delivery costs as items bought from separate Rakuten stores could easily be parcelled together.

As Rakuten tighten its grip on the domestic market, the Internet giant is also stretching its tentacles out overseas. In 2008, Rakuten set up Rakuten Ichiba Taiwan, a Taiwan-based Internet shopping site, and began an English-language version of its service that ships overseas and offers a slimmed-down range of Rakuten goods. But their biggest overseas project will launch in the latter half of this year. According to TechCrunch, China’s largest search engine, Baidu, signed a contract earlier this year with Rakuten to set up an online mall in China that is expected to quickly outstrip the competition. The Chinese version of Rakuten will initially mirror the B2B2C model of present-day Rakuten and will sell goods from popular foreign and Chinese brands as well as from smaller suppliers.

At present it seems like nothing can stop Rakuten’s inexorable rise.

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