E-Commerce giant and Japan’s Amazon rival, Rakuten, has announced plans to roll out its loyalty program - valued at $9 billion - into a new blockchain-based cryptocurrency called Rakuten Coin.
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where big players in the mobile space are announcing their latest developments - such as Samsung announcing the new Galaxy S9 smartphone - Rakuten CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani took the stage to announce Rakuten Coin. Mikitani calls Rakuten Coin a “vision for a borderless currency.”
Rakuten Coin will be built on a combination of blockchain technology and the company’s existing loyalty program dubbed Rakuten Super Points. Rakuten Coin will help Rakuten expand their loyalty services globally. Rakuten believes that if there are less exchange rate fees and other issues due to international customers buying with fiat, then they will be encouraged to do more business via their marketplaces. Rakuten also hopes that due to the recent buzz cryptocurrency has earned, that more users will be encouraged to use their loyalty programs in the first place.
In 2016, Rakuten purchased Bitnet, a Bitcoin wallet startup. It appears that investment in the startup and the underlying technology have led to this development and business plan for Rakuten.
A spokesperson for Rakuten said, speaking to TechCrunch, that there are many people who are interested in purchasing more items across regions - one of the problems Rakuten hopes to address with a borderless currency - stating that “People want special items that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Rakuten CEO also said that the company is “very different from Amazon,” however, rumors have been swirling that Amazon may also be following suit and getting into cryptocurrency, ever since the world’s largest online retailer registered the domains amazonethereum.com, amazoncryptocurrency.com, amazoncryptocurrencies.com.
The more these major players get into the cryptocurrency space, the more it is legitimized in the eye of both consumers and investors everywhere.