Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce platform, will transition its $9 billion rewards program to a blockchain-based system using a native coin called “Rakuten Coin”.
Rakuten’s CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani made the announcement on stage at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, TechCrunch reported.
Rakuten Coin will replace the platform’s current “Super Points” program, which is widely regarded as one of the most robust loyalty programs in the e-commerce ecosystem, with roughly $9.1 billion in points rewarded over the program’s 15-year span.
Mikitani described the Rakuten Coin as a “borderless currency”, adding that it will be implemented across all of the company’s subsidiaries, including Ebates, PriceMinister, and Viber. No launch for the service was specified as of yet.
“Basically, our concept is to recreate the network of retailers and merchants,” Mikitani said. “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.”
It remains unclear whether the Rakuten Coin will be developed on the company’s own blockchain or on top of an already existing protocol, such as the ones underlying Bitcoin, Ether, NEM, or NEO.
In 2016, Rakuten acquired the assets of Bitnet, a bitcoin wallet startup it had invested in, and opened the Rakuten Blockchain Lab, a research organization focused on developing blockchain applications suited for the e-commerce sector.
The largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales, Rakuten began accepting bitcoin payments in 2015.
Featured image: Rakuten Coin announcement at MCW18/ Fermin Bueno