So what’s the future of e-commerce? According to Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani, the multi-billionaire founder and CEO of the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, it lies in making online stores more hospitable. In his new book, Marketplace 3.0; Rewriting the Rules of Borderless Business, Mikitani lays out his vision for the future of online retailing. As he told me, buying products online will be marked by a shift away from what he calls “standardization” toward a more customized experience.
This new “hospitality” model, Mikitani explains, is essential if e-commerce is to remain a disruptive force in the digital economy. In a sense, I suspect, Mikitani might be suggesting that e-commerce should become more Japanese, in its focus on politeness. Perhaps. But neither Mikitani nor Rakuten should be underestimated. With its $15 billion market cap, its acquisitions of Buy.com and the e-book creator Kobo, not to mention its $100 million investment in Pinterest, Rakuten has emerged as a genuine global player in the digital economy. Mickey Mikitani and his 10,000 employees at Rakuten really are rewriting the rules of borderless business. They might even be the real future of e-commerce.