Online marketplace takes off
When he was in Boston a couple of years ago, Takehiro Kakiyama went to a Kmart and marveled at all the items he had never seen before. It occurred to him that his family and friends back in Japan would like such things, too, but they had no means of buying them.
Then he thought that maybe the reverse would be true, also – that many people overseas would like to buy interesting or hard-to-get items in Japan and that the best way to do it would be to have a someone in Japan locate the item, upload it onto a site and then buy it online.
Thus, FlutterScape was born—the world’s first social experience marketplace that connects sellers and buyers not simply through traditional transaction, but through the universal language of adventure and narrative, according to the founders. The marketplace site debuted on Jan 29 as a division of e-commerce business company netprice.com. Kakiyama, 24, who is the director of FlutterScape, is still a student at Sophia University and will graduate in international business this spring.
Japan Today editor Chris Betros chats with him to find out more about FlutterScape.
How did you get started on the path to Flutterscape?
Two years ago, I joined netprice.com as an intern through a student business competition after submitting a different business plan. When I was in Boston, I saw so many things at Kmart I had never seen before. It occurred to me that locals are used to the items they see in shops but people living abroad aren’t and might like to have them. But they need someone to buy it for them. So I tried the business competition at netprice.com once again and submitted my plan for FlutterScape to that.
How was your idea received?
They loved my idea. It took the CEO only a few minutes to say yes. We launched it on Jan 29 and have had a very positive response so far. As far as I know, no one else is doing it.
But you are still a student. How do you manage?
I attend all my classes in the morning and work on FlutterScape in the afternoon and night. After I graduate next month, then I will be here full-time.
How does FlutterScape work?
You take photos of items in Japan that you think might be of interest to people abroad. Then you sign up for FlutterScape and upload your photos with a description and as much info as you can, such as where you found it, what you thought about it, specs, what your asking price is and estimated weight.
If somebody sees it on FlutterScape and wants to buy it, they log in or sign up and click on the “Oh I want one!” button and are directed to a payment window. After that, we send you an automatic notification congratulating you on making a sale.
What happens next?
You buy the product and send it to our outsourced logistic warehouse. Then we confirm the arrival of the package(s) and send it to the buyer. We receive 300 yen plus 9% to 15% of the price from the buyer and you get paid the amount that you initially priced the item at. It is absolutely free for sellers to sell.
How popular has it been since the Jan 29 launch?
In the first few weeks, we have attracted about 500 sellers, mostly foreign residents and bilingual Japanese. Most of the buyers are in the U.S.
How many products are on the site?
We currently have about 1,500 products listed on the site.
What items are most sought after?
“Jigazo Puzzles” (where you assemble 300 pieces to form someone’s face), pop culture items, antiques and collectibles, toys and hobbies. There are many hot items.
Has there been any trouble with illegal items?
None. Illegal items can be flagged and deleted if they are posted online. FlutterScape is community driven, so whenever inappropriate items are posted, they are flagged by users and reported to us. You can only buy items whose photos are uploaded on the site.
What makes FlutterScape so popular?
It is a social online community, so it is like asking a friend to buy something for you.
What is your marketing strategy?
We wish to attract more customers abroad and raise awareness of the site among potential sellers in Japan, as well. Currently, we advertise with banners online and we use social media, blogs. Customers come in and share their views on Twitter or Facebook and 12 other social media forums.
Do you run any special campaigns?
We run a monthly theme competition among our signed-up sellers. The theme is based on consumer demands and trends and helps the sellers to go and hunt for certain items. The winner is the one with the highest number of “Fave This” votes (which is determined by a red boxed indicator on the left upper corner of the product page). To be more precise, the seller of the item which earns the most “Fave This” votes at the end of the competition period wins the title of Connoisseur and receives a prize. In March, the theme is “Akiba-kei,” meaning items related to Akihabara. The Connoisseur will receive Sony’s latest digital cam product, the Bloggie.
What is your goal for this year?
To have 100,000 buyers and sellers and overall market transactions worth 100 million yen.
So far, sellers upload photos of items and hope to find a buyer. But can someone overseas make a request for a certain item?
We are working on that. Prospective buyers will be able to make a request and say what their budget is. Based on that, sellers in Japan can try and find the desired item and post it online.
What is a typical day for you after you finish your classes?
I am involved in marketing, accounting, strategy decisions, meeting with the CEO of netprice.com, clients, alpha bloggers and potential partners. It’s very exciting seeing this idea take off.
For more information, visit http://www.flutterscape.com