Rakuten backs scheme to rebrand the digital high street

Ecommerce marketplace Rakuten is backing a new scheme that aims to launch an online presence for 200 high streets as it looks to rebrand digital shopping to make it more about entertainment than purely making purchases.

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The Target200 initiative will enable towns to promote their wares online, as well as offer click-and-collect services and loyalty programmes. Rakuten will provide the e-commerce capabilities, as well as analytics and a team of ecommerce consultants to help retailers maximise online sales.

At an event in London today (31 October), Rakuten Play.com’s chief operating officer, David Rimmer, told Marketing Week that the initiative is aimed at bringing town centres and their products and retailers together as a brand. It will highlight what is unique about different shopping areas, as well as promoting local events and charities.

With customers increasingly multichannel, he believes it is important to rebrand the digital high street to make it more like a shopping mall where people can search and explore what is on offer, as well as share with friends across social media.

“We want online shopping to be about entertainment. It shouldn’t be vending machine retail, it should be like a bazaar where people can explore what is on offer,” he added.

Rakuten said it will make use of its 4m active customers, as well as fans on Facebook and Twitter, to support the initiative. It aims to reach “critical mass” within a matter of weeks at which point it will look include the scheme in its above the line campaigns.

The scheme is led by high street website platform MyHigh.St and the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA). There is no charge for signing up, but Target200 will take a 10 per cent cut of sales, although members of BIRA will only be charged 5 per cent.

Rimmer said it will give town centres and independent retailers the same ability to sell their goods online as big brands, providing a new sales channels and boosting growth. He believes independent and smaller retailers have previously been put off digital due to the costs of starting from scratch and a lack of technological know-how, with this scheme aiming to prove that digital provides an opportunity rather than being a threat.

“We want to extend the high street into a 24/7 experience,” he added.

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