Amazon’s Japanese rival Rakuten plans to launch its own cryptocurrency, Rakuten Coin built on blockchain technology and the company’s existing loyalty program, Rakuten Super Points.
The announcement comes two years after Rakuten bought a bitcoin wallet startup Bitnet back in 2016 for blockchain assistance.
The news was announced by Rakuten CEO and founder Hiroshi Mikitani on Thursday during his speech at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona. He described the Rakuten Coin as “borderless currency” underlining its use for “recreating” the merchant-customer relationship.
@hmikitani_e presented new offerings this morning in #MWC18 keynote. @Viber community : a new chat space for 1Billion people !! & RakutenCOIN to empower people get the best from Cryptocurrency and Rakuten Super Points !! A signature moment !! @RakutenToday @aquafadas pic.twitter.com/Wa4PjO5cln
— Olivier Alluis (@OlivierAlluis) 27 February 2018
“Basically, our concept is to recreate the network of retailers and merchants. We do not want to disconnect [them from their customers] but function as a catalyst. That is our philosophy, how to empower society not just provide more convenience,” said Mikitani.
No specific launch date has yet been released by the company.
Rakuten’s move comes in the time when companies are trying to figure out their cryptocurrency strategies in order to aid into the current hype surrounding decentralized financial systems.
Cryptocurrencies have a broad range of applications from being used as a new payment currency to offering a new funding platform. However, in case of Rakuten, crypto will be used for two main uses.
First, the company wants to attract more global transactions by cutting out exchange fees and other issues if the customers buy in fiat. Second, using the current crypto frenzy, the company can recruit new loyalty members by offering a blockchain-based loyalty program.
Even before launching the Rakuten Coin, the e-commerce giant has billions of users worldwide. Rakuten reported revenue of $8.8 billion for 2017.
The Rakuten Super Points loyalty system was launched about 15 years ago and has since awarded 1 trillion Super points equivalent to $9.1 billion to Rakuten’s customers. And now the blockchain-based loyalty program will give users more ways of applying for the Super points.
A company spokesperson said that there is already an influx of customers that are interested in buying items across regions because they want “special items that you can’t get anywhere else.”
About 44,000 merchants sell their goods on Rakuten in Japan only. The company also has holdings in other countries like PriceMinister in France (which is going to rebrand as Rakuten) and Ebates in U.S. The Rakuten Coin will be added to all of the company’s businesses whether they offer loyalty programs or not.
Mikitani, using the MWC platform, highlighted some of the developments his company had been through. He said that the company plans to become Japan’s fourth mobile operator and aims to expand social features on Viber, a messaging app acquired by Rakuten.