Eight Keywords for Delving Into Mercari: Our First 10 Years and the Potential and Future We Seek to Unleash / The Seventh Keyword: “Our Connection to Society”

February 2023 marked the tenth anniversary of Mercari, Inc. We now have a new Group mission of “Circulate all forms of value to unleash the potential in all people.”

Here at Mercan, we have kicked off a new series feature called “Eight Keywords for Delving Into Mercari: Our First 10 Years and the Potential and Future We Seek to Unleash,” where we shine the spotlight on the thoughts and dreams put into this new Group mission and what we intend to achieve in the future. We will hear from key people who will lead Mercari into its next era, and try to paint a picture of the present and future of the organization that is Mercari to help us imagine how we can contribute to the company in the coming ten years.

For the seventh article of this series, the keyword is “our connection to society.” For this keyword, we sat down with two members from the Recommerce Division: Akane Shiwa (@akane), Communication Specialist, and Hiroshi Amano (@Amarin), Stakeholders Alliance Specialist. In our conversation, Akane and Hiroshi spoke to us about how Mercari has built its connection with society so far and what kind of relationship it wants to build in pursuit of achieving a circular economy.

Featured in this article

  • Akane Shiwa

    After graduating from university in 2008, Akane joined an agency for models from overseas. There, she worked as a manager and was involved in shooting commercials, dramas, and movies. In 2014, she entered the PR industry by joining Vector, Inc., and later moved to Platinum, Inc. She spent two years at Platinum as a promoter in charge of TV programs ranging from news shows such as WBS to “infotainment” shows such as Mezamashi TV. Later, she took the role of an account manager for two and a half years, working directly with clients to offer PR consulting and sales services. In February 2018, Akane joined the Public Relations Team at Mercari, mainly handling the PR for the Mercari marketplace app. In November of the following year, she led the launch of Mercari Labs, and in October 2021, she took on an additional role as manager of the Souzoh PR Team. She has been in her current post since April 2023, when the Recommerce Division was established.

  • Hiroshi Amano

    Hiroshi is an advisor to the Management Strategy Office’s Policy Planning Division at Mercari. At the beginning of his career, in 2008, he joined the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). During his time at MIC, he worked on various projects including the expansion of the Japanese digital terrestrial TV broadcasting system in Latin America, reconstruction efforts in the areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and promotion of more widespread usage of 5G. Between 2016 and 2019, he was seconded to the Wakayama Prefectural Government Office, where he proposed and implemented a “workation” system—the first for a local government in Japan. In 2019, he played a major role in establishing Workation Alliance Japan. After leaving MIC, he joined Mercari in September 2021. Currently, Hiroshi is continuing to promote the workation workstyle, traveling around Japan and working remotely while discovering the charms that each local region has to offer. In November 2021, he became an advisor to the Japan Workcation Association. He has been in his current post since April 2023, when the Recommerce Division was established.

The importance of understanding your audience, whether it is general consumers, the government, or the media

——Mercari was founded under the mission of “Create value in a global marketplace where anyone can buy & sell.” In the process of expanding its business since its founding, how has the company gone about building a relationship with society?

@akane:Ever since its founding, Mercari has strived to contribute to society with the aim of creating a circular economy. However, I think we started thinking even harder about our role in society after being listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Mothers section in June 2018. It was from around that time that I started hearing people referring to Mercari as “a public entity of society” in both internal and external communications. Before that, Mercari was seen mainly as a trendy app that was popular among young people. We have been working on changing this perception, and getting more people to view our service as a piece of infrastructure that is essential to building a circular economy.

——So far, what kind of stakeholders have your teams been working with? Could we start with you, @Amarin, with regard to the Public Policy Team?

@Amarin:Our society and economy are constantly going through changes, and so in the field of public policy, we often run into situations where the existing rules have become obsolete, or maybe there aren’t any rules to deal with a new situation to begin with. In these situations, our team has worked with the government to create or update the rules as necessary. Let’s take our work related to law-making as an example: For the most part, laws are required to be followed by everyone, including companies and the general public. Given this significant and wide-reaching impact, when a law is being enacted, revised, or abolished, the decision must be backed up with objective data and facts. That’s where Mercari comes in. In collaborating with the government, we provide them with objective data concerning societal changes and needs to help them make valid decisions, such as whether or not an amendment may be necessary or appropriate.

Like in this example, we have been providing our stakeholders more than just our subjective opinions. Our team keeps track of our users’ needs in the form of objective data and facts, and provides this information to the government as evidence on what is actually going on in our society today. I see our team as a kind of bridge that links the government with Mercari and its users. By working with people in the government and gaining an understanding of how they think and work, I believe the Public Policy Team has helped facilitate discussions between the two sides.

However, it is also important to remember that the words “all people” in our new Group mission, “Circulate all forms of value to unleash the potential in all people,” also includes people who are not Mercari users. When talking about society, we must remind ourselves not to get tunnel vision. I have also made a conscious effort to keep a broad perspective and think about the people and corporations outside the Mercari ecosystem.

Hiroshi Amano (@Amarin)

——I totally agree. That’s something I try to keep in mind as well. What about the PR Team, @akane?

@akane:For the PR Team, I think we have worked with people in all corners of society, whether it is the media, investors, or consumers, which includes our users. Depending on what society is going through at any particular point in time, we have come up with new and relevant ways to put information about Mercari out into the world. For example, over the past few years, there has been an increasing interest in the topics covered by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and accordingly, we have carried out more communications from the perspective of creating a circular economy. However, with the recent rise in inflation, consumers have become more interested in products and brands that are relevant to their day-to-day lives.

Given these recent trends, we determined that it is more effective for Mercari to focus on the “Unleash the potential in all people” part of our new mission, while collaborating with media outlets directed at general consumers. In the current climate, this is the type of messaging that will better raise awareness and interest toward Mercari, rather than messaging that just touches on the circular economy. In this way, we have been tweaking our messaging based on the needs of that time and of the target audience, without changing the core message that Mercari wants to convey to the world.

Our team is also tasked with sharing information with people inside the company about the different needs present in society. When doing this, we make sure to keep in mind that “society” can mean different things, depending on our audience. It is important to constantly be aware of the person on the other end, and take into account the kind of work they do. By communicating information with these things in mind, we can make sure each one of Mercari Group’s businesses has a solid understanding of the values that need to be unleashed in society in their own context, and reflect those needs accurately into their products and services.

Turning the ideas for a circular economy into a reality

——You mentioned the needs that exist in society, but for the various stakeholders that each of you work with, what do you think their expectations are for Mercari?

@akane:One expectation is for Mercari to create a “model case,” so that our stakeholders can use Mercari’s services to solve issues they could not solve with existing methods or frameworks.

@Amarin:For instance, we kicked off a project with a local non-profit organization in Nanbu Town, Tottori Prefecture, where we list items from vacant houses on Mercari Shops. The sales are then used to renovate these vacant properties, so this initiative helps get rid of waste while making the houses more appealing.

Other than that, we have also made it possible for vegetables with slight imperfections that cannot be sold in the general market to be sold on Mercari Shops. The shop owners then use the sales to expand their field or introduce new food processing technologies. I think it is awesome that we were able to give new value to these vegetables that would have otherwise been thrown out. By offering farmers another platform to sell their goods and empowering them through our services, we can unleash more of the potential in these local regions.

@akane:I think another one of our roles is to make the concept of reuse feel more familiar and accessible to people, so that more people can make reuse a habit. There is more awareness when it comes to recycling, but people still associate reuse with old, secondhand goods. It is not something a lot of people think about in their daily lives just yet.

——Interesting. What kinds of initiatives do you have in mind to make reuse more accessible to people?

@akane:One example I can think of off the top of my head is the Sustainable Fashion Show we held in 2020 that featured clothing made from only reused materials. This event was held to coincide with “Green Friday,” an environmentally friendly alternative to Black Friday that has been gaining traction in recent years, especially in Europe. We wanted people to see with their own eyes that it is possible to enjoy fashion, even with reused materials. In the following year, we also opened up a pop-up store called “Sustain-a-Store” for a limited time in Omotesando. At this store, we sold products made from reused materials, including items listed on Mercari.

I also believe that in order to create a circular economy, it is necessary for primary distributors and secondary distributors to work together and complement one another. So, I would like to carry out more of this kind of messaging, especially to primary distributors such as manufacturers and brands. Right now, the business of selling new items and the reuse market are treated as separate things. However, I think primary distributors can also benefit from incorporating reused items into their businesses, since it will allow them to tap into potential customers who may have not been interested in their brand before. If we can deliver a successful example—a good model for these businesses to follow—I think we can transform these business practices for the better.

With that being said, it takes more than just words and ideas to change society. I want to put these ideas into action to really get us closer to achieving a circular economy, while involving our stakeholders in a way that feels natural and meaningful for both sides.

Akane Shiwa (@akane)

The three key points for achieving our Group mission

——To end, what areas would you like to focus on in your work going forward to achieve the first part of our new Group mission, “Circulate all forms of value”?

@akane:Overall, I have three things in mind. The first is building the mechanisms that people need to circulate items and other forms of value. The other day, I spoke with several politicians about the idea of putting barcodes on clothing, much like how they are used on books. If garment makers started putting barcodes on clothing, it would make it possible for users to pull information about the items they are listing on Mercari, and it would also just make it easier to put items out into the reuse market in general. Through initiatives like this one, I would like to help put the necessary rules and mechanisms in place to make it feel more natural and easy for consumers to partake in the circular economy.

The second is communicating Mercari’s sense of values. Our company has always had the goal of achieving a circular economy, but I don’t think many people actually associate Mercari with the circular economy—not even people in our same industry. Through my role in PR communications, I would like to make our sense of values better known, and communicate to people how by using Mercari, they can reduce their CO2 emissions and waste and make a positive impact on the environment. I think this messaging will allow us to build relationships with companies and people who share these same values, and it will open up more possibilities for us to collaborate with them on meaningful projects going forward.

And, the last thing is technology. It can require a lot of time and energy to take actions that are good for the environment. Through the use of technology, I would like to find ways to cut down on some of these costs. Through a Mercari survey, we actually discovered that this time and energy was becoming a blocker for many to act. There were many respondents who said that they are aware that reuse is good for the environment, but they have not been able to take action, because it is too troublesome or costs too much money. It’s something Mercari has always worked on, but through the use of cutting-edge technologies, I hope to keep lowering the hurdle for people to take these actions and participate in the circular economy.

@Amarin:Before we end, I want to reiterate that Mercari is just one company. We cannot change society on our own. In order to make progress toward our goal of achieving a circular economy, we will continue to work together with our stakeholders and society, including the federal and local governments, other companies, industry groups, and our Mercari users.

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