In a surprising announcement, Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten has now announced that it is seeking to launch its own cryptocurrency dubbed Rakuten Coin.
The announcement was officially made by company CEO and founder Hiroshi Mikitani during an address in Mobile World Congress at Barcelona on February 27th.
The firm, which bears a market capitalization of over $12.5 billion USD, plans to base Rakuten Coin on blockchain technology and tie the cryptocurrency into its Rakuten Super Points loyalty program.
In his speech, Mikitani described Rakuten Coin as a “borderless currency”, elaborating that “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”.
The move comes as part of larger bid to differentiate Rakuten from its online rivals such as Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba.
Launched some fifteen years ago, Rakuten’s Super Points system has seen a total issuance of over one trillion points – equal today to some $9.1 billion USD. The points, which are obtained every time a customer makes a purchase on the marketplace, can be used to discount future purchases or buy certain items on Rakuten’s storefront.
While the company hasn’t yet disclosed its launch timetable, the firm has disclosed that it aims to implement a blockchain-based loyalty program to attract and engage new customers as well as to entice new customers intrigued by cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain rewards programs
Rakuten previously purchased Bitcoin payment processing BitNet, and opened its Rakuten Blockchain Lab to explore applications for blockchain technology.
Rakuten’s initiative comes shortly after US-based Hooters franchisee Chanticleer Holdings launched its own blockchain-based rewards programs for regular customers, while Starbucks executive Howard Schultz recently disclosed that his firm would ‘probably’ move in the direction of leveraging blockchain technology to power an integrated payments solution.
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