The Nation



Portals operator sees trade boom in mobile devices

Rakuten, the operator of the country's leading e-commerce portals, aims to double its business this year on the explosive growth in mobile devices, especially smartphones.

"Mobile commerce is our direction this year. We target first-time e-commerce buyers who normally go online via mobile phone. We will focus on doing marketing campaigns over the mobile platform. This year we set a bigger marketing budget to drive sales volumes from this target group. Our marketing budget is also supported by Rakuten's head office," Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, founder and managing director, said yesterday.

Thailand is now moving towards the mobile commerce era with people shopping more online via mobile devices, both smartphones and tablets, he said.

Mobile commerce has been the star business, ramping up from 27 per cent of its e-commerce sales last year to 50 per cent last quarter and heading for 60 per cent by year-end.

First-quarter e-commerce sales soared 800 per cent from the same quarter last year.

As smartphone penetration continues to increase, more and more people turn to their mobile devices to get information about products and prices before they buy.

Rakuten offers a seamless shopping experience. Consumers can visit, browse and purchase items on-the-go, making shopping even more convenient.

"Mobile shopping also gives Rakuten merchants more opportunities to promote their goods, as we work closely with our merchants to develop marketing campaigns designed to help them boost their m-commerce sales," he said.

The company plans to expand its e-commerce services to people throughout the country by working with its logistics partner. About 60 per cent of its revenue comes from the provinces, but average spending per transaction from upcountry buyers is less than Bangkok buyers. It will try to increase the average transaction outside Bangkok from the present Bt1,600.

It plans to boost members and buyers. It gets 200,000 visitors per day and about 1 per cent are buyers, while it has 2.5 million members. It aims to increase members to about 4.5 million this year.

"Members and non-members can shop at our e-marketplace but we focus on members' spending," he said.

Rakuten features 800,000 products from 2,500 merchants. It plans to have 5,000 merchants by year-end.

"If we include, our e-commerce plaza, we will have 3 million product items," he said.

The top five product categories at its portals are clothing and fashion, telecom, food and health, watches and jewellery, and cameras.

Last quarter, smartphones accounted for 73 per cent of its mobile sales while 27 per cent was from tablets. There is no tablet version of Rakuten, but it expects to have one soon, he added.

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