TOKYO – While the explosion in e-commerce has made buying and selling goods online remarkably relatively easy in recent years, it has also created a dilemma: how to register a product with more than one retailer without repeating the process manually each time.
Planners at Japanese website Lisuto have taken a page out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, betting essentially that there will be “one site to rule them all.”
Lisuto is a business unit within eLADY Ltd., an e-commerce and technology concern headquartered in Tokyo. The company’s story begins with Japan-born president and CEO Nir Platek, who left for Israel at age 10 and returned 20 years later to set up an online luxury goods company in 1999. After establishing a reputation in anti-counterfeit knowhow, the company later broke out on its own, focusing on cross-border sales about five years ago.
The Lisuto’s technology allows vendors to create product listings in their own language and automatically list them in any marketplace and in virtually any language.
“The global marketplace is in reality, a collection of closed ‘islands,’” says Mr. Platek, “In Japan there is Rakuten, in China there is Taobao, in the U.S. there is eBay, and so on, but each of them is very language-dependent; listings are done in free text, making it very hard to sell to a wider pool of potential buyers. Once a buyer lists on Lisuto, he or she can literally sell all over the world to millions of new customers.”
Patented machine learning algorithms make the system work; they recognize the products and product features in the data and turn them into a highly structured product feed. The platform also features a ‘catalogue creator’ function for customers wishing to list a large number of items.
Lisuto automatically alerts sellers when their product is sold and updates the inventory across all relevant platforms. In return for its services, the firm charges a 1% fee upon completed sale of an item.
Mr. Platek provided a demonstration by manipulating the Lisuto system via laptop computer. He inputs a theoretical used Gucci handbag, including attributes such as color, condition, weight and asking price. After a few mouse clicks the item is ready to send to the robo-translator for instant listing on any number of available reseller sites in Japan and China, the U.K. and the U.S. The process is impressive, as it takes less than a minute to complete.
The firm is currently busy adding categories and merchant connections, and hopes to soon develop a cell phone-friendly app at its Israel-based design facility. Mr. Platek says an eventual stock listing for Lisuto could be a possibility for the privately-held company if everything comes together as well as hoped.
In any case, Lisuto may be well-positioned to benefit from a global trend line that shows e-commerce growing from $1.3 trillion in 2014 to $2.5 trillion by the end of 2018, according to a report from researcher eMarketer.
The data show what marketing gurus have known for some time: that while China and the U.S. are currently the leading players in the global e-commerce market (accounting for more than 55% of all internet retail sales in 2014), China’s growth is set to widen the gap. The country will likely report more than $1 trillion in retail e-commerce sales — 40% of all worldwide sales – by 2017.
The U.S. will likely maintain its position as the No. 2 online retail market in 2018 ($500 billion), followed by the U.K. ($124 billion). Japan ranks third with expected sales of $106 billion, eMarketer says.
“It’s all about creating more efficient commerce – and, admittedly, a little about the money,” chuckles Mr. Platek. “The global marketplace is already a trillion dollar arena; if we can get a small percentage of sales in each of the key regions, we think we can be successful.”