Rakuten’s $1 billion purchase of cashback publisher Ebates has created something of a media storm within our performance boundary.

On one hand, Ebates’ position as one of the leading rebate sites in the US would suggest that Rakuten now has quite the asset on its hands. On the other, several cashback sites have raised concerns over the company’s ownership of affiliate network LinkShare – through Rakuten Marketing – which itself hosts partnerships with rebate publishers such as Quidco and TopCashBack among others.

Following last week’s news of a completed purchase for Ebates, PerformanceIN caught up with Rakuten Marketing CEO Yaz Iida to discuss some of the deal’s wider implications.

We have talked to several members of the UK rebate sector who say Rakuten’s purchase of Ebates – given its ownership of an affiliate network – is akin to Britain’s own Affiliate Window purchasing Quidco. Would that be a fair comparison?

Yaz Iida: Actually, no it is not a fair comparison. This is not a LinkShare acquisition. The acquisition is being made by (and specifically for) our parent company, Rakuten, who is focused primarily on optimizing e-commerce.

Considering this, how do you intend on acting in the best interests of TopCashBack, Quidco and other rebate companies at the same time as boosting business at Ebates’ end? 

YI: We will continue to operate a separate businesses. No publisher, owned by our parent company or not, has full visibility of another publisher’s actions.

The estimated $1 billion price tag on Ebates has certainly taken some corners of the tech world by surprise. Do you think this proves the rising worth of cashback sites?

YI: While I can’t comment on other cashback sites, Ebates is a rapidly growing and profitable company with an extremely loyal customer base. It represents the next generation of e-commerce for the Rakuten Group and is an important piece of our American business strategy.

Your chairman, Hiroshi Mikitani, believes a partnership with Ebates could aid Rakuten’s global e-commerce strategy. How do you intend on differentiating from companies like Amazon and eBay?  

YI: Combining Ebates’ loyalty-driven marketplace model with Rakuten’s businesses, we can create a next generation e-commerce platform and foundation of our business strategy in the US, which is membership-based and loyalty-driven.

Together we’re creating an environment where consumers can buy anything with a built-in membership system. Consumer loyalty is rewarded with cashback and points that can be collected anywhere. This is a unique approach to online shopping in North America.