Co-Founder and CEO, PriceMinister; and Managing Director, Rakuten Europe
PriceMinister.com has been an e-commerce pioneer, and is facing competition from international competitors. What major strategic steps have enabled you to maintain your leadership in the category?
We try to stay as close as we can to our customers. This is why we have implemented many questionnaires and feedback of all kinds regarding our website, to continuously measure user satisfaction and improve their experience.
One of our biggest strengths is our ability to evolve—a lot. For example, as soon as our PriceMembers give us ideas, we try to consider them and implement them right away. It is the same for ideas that come from our employees. Usually, great ideas are already within a company. You just need to learn to listen to them.
Finally, we differentiate ourselves from our competitors by being as local as possible, even if we belong to Rakuten—which is a Japanese Group—and I am the company’s European Managing Director. Consumers have their habits, and they differ from one country to another.
With PriceMinister owned by Rakuten, the #1 e-tailer in Japan, did this change your development strategy? Does it have an impact on the PriceMinister brand?
Rakuten has allowed us to accelerate our shift towards professional sellers. During the acquisition back in 2010, individual sellers represented two-thirds of our total volume, whereas the professional sellers, the merchants, comprised only one-third.
Thanks to Rakuten, this balance has now been reversed.
PriceMinister as a brand is still being developed, but we are considering the possibility of having it be a part of the Rakuten brand.
As a pure player, what are the advantages of being exclusively digital? Have you considered investing in a physical network?
Investing in a physical network represents high costs. It is hard to have competitive offers when you chose to be a physical retailer. Since e-commerce in general is very price-focused, it is more difficult for e-merchants to run a network of physical stores. Nonetheless, we often think about becoming physical, particularly considering the impact it could have on our brand. But every time we backed off because of the financial investment it would represent, and the ROI, which appears to be too low.
How do you deal with new consumer consumption trends (collaborative commerce, financial difficulties, smartphone shopping) in your commercial strategy?
We are listening very closely to these trends. This is the strength of the internet: to be able to listen, test, and produce constantly to be on the cutting edge. For example, our mobile platform is developing extremely fast, and it is only the beginning. During the Christmas selling period, it represented more than 50 percent of Rakuten’s business volume in Japan.
Which brand, in your opinion, represents an example worth following, whether inside or outside of the retail sector?
I don’t like role models. If you follow someone, it means you’re late.
ABOUT Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet
Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet is an Internet entrepreneur and CEO of French e-commerce pioneer Rakuten’s PriceMinister. He is also an Executive Officer at Rakuten, Inc., which acquired PriceMinister in 2010, and was recently appointed Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Rakuten Europe, where he is responsible for targeting further growth across the region.
Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet is a graduate of the famous HEC Paris business school, where he studied entrepreneurship. He launched his first company, Visualis SA (a consultancy for the distribution sector), while still studying at HEC, with a €10,000 student loan. After graduating from HEC, Kosciusko-Morizet moved to the United States and became a manager in the marketing department of Finance Capital One, an internet-based credit card company. Here he managed a team of 60 analysts, and specialised in the online credit and banking market.
It was here that Kosciusko-Morizet saw a gap in the market. While websites existed in the United States linking buyers and sellers online, there was no equivalent site in France. He resigned from Finance Capital One and returned to France two weeks later to work on what would become PriceMinister with Pierre Krings, Olivier Mathiot, Nathalie Maurin and Justin Ziegler. In 2001 Priceminister launched and has grown into one of the largest and most successful e-commerce companies in France, currently employing around 200 passionate and dedicated staff.
Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet is a former President of the ACSEL (Association of the Digital Economy), co-chair of the ASIC (Association of Internet Community Services) and Chairman of the Strategic Committee of ISAI, an investment fund specialising in internet entrepreneurs. In 2010 Kosciusko-Morizet published the Info Booklets, an autobiographical book which details the story of PriceMinister.