Today at MWC 2018 in Barcelona Japanese online retail behemoth Rakuten announced it's launching Rakuten Coin - its own native cryptocurrency. The initial purpose is Rakuten's loyalty program. Built on blockchain by means of its acquired blockchain startup Bitnet back in 2016, the company hopes to boost the interest on Rakuten Super Points loyalty program and encourage customers to spend those points across various Rakuten services and markets globally.
Naturally, because the initiative is blockchain backed, Rakuten tries to get rid of third party handlers and operators, thus cutting fees of purchases and delivery. With this in mind, Rakuten indirectly aims to drive more purchases as customers are encouraged to collect and spend loyalty points. Aside from retail business, Rakuten has its own MVNO mobile service that hopefully will turn into a full-fledged operator in the near future. This service is another potential use case of spending loyalty points.
Another minor goal of introducing company's own token is to attract more publicity to the blockchain world and cryptocurrency in particular. Especially in the perspective of Amazon yet to present anything viable on the table in terms of blockchain-related product. But recent event like domain purchase and partnership with Corda hints that Amazon is preparing something intriguing.
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.
Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani