The biggest shopping event of Rakuten! Behind the scenes of Rakuten Super Sale

 Hello all, this is R-Hack team.  Today we will share some stories about “Behind the scene: Rakuten Super SALE”.  Hope you will enjoy!

About “Rakuten Super SALE” on Rakuten Ichiba

Rakuten Ichiba is one of the leading internet shopping malls in Japan where we have more than 200 million products with the consolidated revenues of 1 trillion+ JPY.  Rakuten Super SALE is the largest shopping event that is held on a quarterly basis on that big platform.  We have more than 20 times of users than usual visiting our site and enjoy shopping during the Rakuten Super SALE period.  Let’s look at “behind the scenes” of that huge event.


The goal for Rakuten Ichiba engineers during the Rakuten Super SALE is to ensure all customers can experience the shopping smoothly whilst however we have huge traffic on the platform.  They are always improving and challenging in their work, having the mission in their mind that our service should cope with one of the toughest traffic in our country as well as they are in charge of releasing the product they developed to the public.


Task Force to support Rakuten Super SALE

It is the “SS (super SALE) Task Force” who are the main team to assist Rakuten Super SALE.  The team consists of cross-functional groups including shopping cart function management, network and infrastructure specialists.  Ace members from respective areas are assigned to this SS Task Force.

Their responsibilities vary – from verification of the system structure, analysis of SALEs results in the past years, examining the impact of new function before its release, planning and implementation of the task force’s own improvement strategies and stress test to prepare for the release date etc, - so many activities are going on via PDCA cycle.  As a result, they have obtained cumulative knowledge of various scenarios for tuning know-hows and trouble-shooting for different phases of the system development and their system is now designed to be able to recover from the issues in early stages.  So we see their work is full of wisdom from our past experiences in operations of Rakuten Ichiba platform.


Required skills for the Task Force members are not only the technical skills but also they need to have speedy thinking, positive attitude for discussions, judgement skills and implementation ability – all of which would be enhanced by brushing up each other in the team.  Participation for this Task Force could be one of the good objectives for junior employees, for which the chances will be available on a quarterly basis; we hope they would develop their experiences and positiveness with aims to be eligible to join the team.


Improve the skills whilst considering the “business”.

It is essential for Rakuten Ichiba engineers to liaise with Customer Support division who has the touch point with other business units like Marketing or with customers, as our firm is business firm who deliver our services to the customers directly.  The liaison is also necessary for “Rakuten Super SALE” work so we discuss with Marketing/ Customer Support members as to what our SALEs target would be for each promotion period and implementation plans of campaigns.  Also we should have a consensus in advance as to in which order we could suspend the functions in case of system troubles.  Therefore, Task Force members need to have good communication skills as they have to coordinate various matters through cross-divisional communications to support the system.


Be all set for the first day

We all get nervous on the first day of “Rakuten Super SALE” even though we are thoroughly ready for it.  Usually the SALE starts from 8 p.m. on the first day and the selected members from each service team gather on a certain floor and connect with other Rakuten offices in Japan and non-Japan locations via video, in order to monitor the status for the first 2 hours.  Task Force members and executive officers sit down in front of multiple monitors that show the real-time metrics so that they can send their commands to all teams involved immediately, by analyzing the situation and judging what actions are required.

Courtesy gifts from CEO

Hiroshi Mikitani, our CEO often comes to the monitoring site to cheer us up on the day of “Rakuten Super SALE”, with ice creams for all members.  The ice creams taste especially great when we have them after getting over the first peak of the traffic on the platform, which all members are looking forward to.  We can be refreshed by the ice cream and focused on the monitoring activities afterwards.

◆It is not the end

The SALEs processes do not complete until the actual delivery of the products, so overcoming the peak time is not the end of our job.  There is another system on Rakuten Ichiba for shops to use for the logistics part of the processing after receiving orders.  Here is another point that we need to make sure the stable running of the system.  The heaviest loading in that system comes on the next day of the order so the team continues monitoring the status on the next day onwards.


Another Task Force will be formed and kicked off after the end of “Rakuten Super SALE” period, so that we will be ready for the next SALE in 3 months later.  The expected SALEs target increase every year therefore we need to look back our work for the past SALEs and discuss the strategies for the next step – at a higher level.


We understand there are many things we could improve for “Rakuten Super SALE” and will make our best efforts to have a great number of users coming to our site.  Our objective is to be more successful in our business by improving our work day by day and provide stable services for our customers on one of the largest platforms in Japan.


We are recruiting for some positions in Commerce Company including the engineers for Rakuten Ichiba and other e-commerce development jobs.  Please apply now if you are interested – thank you!