Rakuten and Qoo10 at a glance

Rakuten

What it is:Japanese e-commerce and Internet company Rakuten, founded in 1997, runs the largest e-commerce platform in Japan with more than 75 million shoppers. Its name is derived from the Japanese word for optimism.

It launched its Singapore site this month with more than 120 Japanese and local retailers and in excess of 40,000 products.

It aims to have 300 retailers on board by the end of the year.

Navigation: At first glance, the Rakuten Singapore homepage looks busy but it is not too difficult to navigate.

The categories are listed clearly and near the top, and the rest of the page is divided into most popular products, promotions, weekly specials, featured shops, Japanese products and new arrivals.

Under specific areas, you can filter goods by price range, stock (avoiding sold-out goods), sales, free shipping and number of reviews. However the shop directory is a little hard to find - at the bottom of the page - and searching by specific brand is difficult because many of the merchants are multi-label.

Unique selling point: More than half of the retailers are from Japan and some offer merchandise which are not otherwise available here.

Some merchants also offer free shipping from Japan with minimum purchase amounts.

Noted brands: Rakuten's retailers include Japanese watchmaker Casio and kenko.com, a large e-drugstore in Japan.

Fees/Delivery: Payment can be made only by Visa and Mastercard credit cards issued in Japan or Singapore, and goods shipped from Japan that exceed $350 may incur GST upon delivery.

Return policies and shipping time depend on individual merchants. Most seem to max out at about $10 to $20 for shipping and seven business days.

Good buy: Pierre Cardin new powder blush (peach), $25, from Doremi Pharmacy


Qoo10

What it is: Qoo10 is the local online marketplace run by South Korean e-tailer Giosis Group in a joint venture with eBay.

Originally an offshoot of Gmarket, South Korea's biggest online shopping site, Qoo10 offers goods from more than 2,000 retailers.

Navigation: Item categories are labelled clearly at the top of the Qoo10 homepage, but the rest of the page is very heavy on small visuals. That, combined with the lack of distinction between sections on the homepage, makes it a bit messy and hard to navigate.

Under more specific categories though, it is easier to find what you are looking for thanks to sub-categories. Recommended retail and sale prices are clearly displayed so you know how much you are saving; and shipping charges for that item are also clearly stated. Leaving your cursor over product reviews of an item brings up a temporary quick-view window containing previous shoppers' reviews and additional information, such as item pictures and seller status, without having to click back and forth.

Unique selling point: Savings seem to be the name of the game at Qoo10, with discounts galore. Almost every product shows an original and sale price, making shoppers feel like they are getting a good deal.

Shipping is also often free. It tells you exactly what quantity of the item is still available.

Noted brands: Qoo10 has a good selection of popular beauty and fashion brands, including SK-II, OPI, Coach, Longchamp, MCM and Kate Spade.

Fees/Delivery: Merchants accept a variety of payment methods, including credit cards, PayPal, E-Nets and direct cash deposits.

Qoo10 also partnered with UOB to offer cardholders interest-free instalment plans. Shipping and handling costs vary with each retailer but ranges from free to about $10.

Good deal: Z Bag Shopper Tote, $34.90 from Esintro Korea