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Ecommerce set to entertain, says Rakuten chief executive as he invests in Pinterest

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Ecommerce is not just about making a transaction: at its best it’s also entertainment, says the chief executive of Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten.

“While some may see ecommerce as a straightforward vending machine-like experience,” said Hiroshi Mikitani, “we believe it is a living process where both retailers and consumers can communicate, discover and curate to make the experience more entertaining”

That’s why Rakuten, which claims a spot on the list of the top 10 world-leading internet companies, has just led investment worth $100m (£63.3m) in social shopping site Pinterest, alongside existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, and FirstMark Capital, as well as a number of angel investors.

The money will help Pinterest to expand globally, improving its service as it goes. In particular the site will expand into Japan and Rakuten’s 17 other markets around the world.

Ben Silbermann, co-founder and chief executive of Pinterest, said: “Our goal is to help people discover things they love, by connecting people through their shared interests. Bringing Rakuten on board gives us an amazing opportunity to move a step closer to this goal.”

As well as owning Rakuten Ichiba, Japan’s largest ecommerce site, the company also owns in the UK, in the US, and Priceminister in France. It also has sites in countries including Brazil, Germany and Russia.

Commenting on the investment, Seamus Whittingham, EMEA MD at ecommerce experts ChannelAdvisor said that in many ways Pinterest was more suited to ecommerce than more established social networks.

“This is a clear indication that Pinterest is heading into a path where they will monetize via e-commerce,” said Whittingham. “With Rakuten’s vast network of marketplaces, affiliate networks and other e-commerce assets, this is an interesting partner for Pinterest.

“The site is already more commercial than Facebook and Twitter. In fact, at least half of the content and activity on Pinterest is product-related with the conversations much more likely to consist of ‘I love this dress’ than the usual sports talk or ‘I love my cat’ chatter.”

Our view: Time was that Saturdays were all about shopping – and that was a leisure activity. You might imagine that the rise of online shopping would put paid to that – but in fact Pinterest is just one place that consumers are spending leisure time in talking about their purchases and prospective purchases. Etailers will be watching to see how this site develops thanks to this latest funding.

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