Expanding into the Japanese eCommerce market could be a great opportunity for your brand. But first, you need to know what Japanese shoppers expect from their online experience.
For such a small nation, eCommerce in Japan is huge. In fact, it’s the world’s third largest eCommerce market. Japan has a stable economy and a high demand for authentic, quality products. Simply put, the Japanese eCommerce market is an attractive prospect for online retailers.
While Japanese shoppers prefer brands to have a physical store, it’s not essential – as long as you can fulfill their expectations in the following five areas.
1. MOBILE FIRST
As is the trend in many Asian markets, mobile is very popular. Conversion rates on mobile sites are high at 10%, and mCommerce accounts for 60% of all online purchases. So any successful eCommerce strategy should include mobile readiness.
Big eCommerce sites in Japan like Amazon, Rakuten, and Zozotown have all benefited from “mobile first” shopping behaviors by launching mobile app versions of their platforms.
2. GREAT SERVICE
Fast delivery is a given for the Japanese online shopping experience. Amazon, for example, offers same-day delivery to 80% of Japanese users and next-day delivery to 91.5%. Online shoppers in Japan expect to choose their own delivery dates and times for most purchases. So providing functionality to support a good range of delivery options is an important feature of Japanese-localized eCommerce websites and apps.
For many years, Japan has enjoyed a low rate of returns, and many brands in Japan aren’t transparent about their returns process. A potential opportunity to stand out from competitors and establish trust in your brand is by making it easy for customers to find out how to return purchases.
While credit and debit card transactions make up 66% of online payments in Japan, cash on delivery is also an established method of payment, particularly at convenience stores (called konbini). This method is particularly popular among young people who don’t yet have bank accounts, so offering this option could be a great way to engage a younger demographic.
3. BUYER CONFIDENCE
Japanese shoppers are careful buyers and look for assurance from fellow consumers before committing to a purchase. You can build trust in Japan by translating user reviews on your site. Users are often valued more highly than experts as a source of product information and brand credibility.
It’s also common for Japanese restaurants and shops to list and rank their most popular dishes and products. These lists let customers know what others have chosen, tying in with Japan’s collectivist culture of peer acceptance and belonging.
4. FOREIGN BRANDS
Possibly related to the point above, Japanese shoppers can be reluctant to buy foreign products. And although this attitude has softened in recent years, just 32% of Japanese shoppers say they have bought from a foreign website.
This could be because Japan leads the world in its mistrust of institutions and consumers value peer review. To earn and build on Japanese consumer trust, you’ll need to think beyond translation, build a strong brand image via a localized marketing strategy, and provide a quality customer experience.
5. LOYALTY PROGRAMS
Japanese shoppers love to earn loyalty rewards, with 47% choosing to buy from a website because of its rewards system. Localizing your rewards programs for Japanese consumers could be an effective way to engage local buyers and encourage repeat purchases.
For example, Japan’s largest eCommerce platform, Rakuten, has a robust points system that links to user credit cards, incentivizing their already loyal customer base to use the platform.
It doesn’t stop there. Often referred to as “The Amazon of Japan,” Rakuten has over 105 million users in Japan alone. That’s more than 80% of the population, making it a great platform to reach your Japanese audience.
Rakuten CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani, has described the platform as “… a real aggregation of unique shops” because Rakuten allows each brand to have a distinct image. Every seller has their own landing page, which comes with highly customizable HTML functionality and takes shoppers directly to their store.
Rakuten’s setup gives brands the chance to encourage return buyers, highlight sales, and encourage add-on purchases. Because of this, competition on the platform is high, so effectively localizing your brand experience and optimizing your content for search is a must. International brands like North Face, Abercrombie, and Burberry are popular on the platform. Japanese consumer perception is that if you can’t get what you want elsewhere, Rakuten will have it.
When considering how to sell online in Japan, it’s important to keep in mind that Japanese shoppers have high expectations for authentic, trusted brands and excellent customer experience. Leveraging established eCommerce platforms, such as Rakuten, alongside a localized digital marketing strategy, can be a great way to keep your individual brand identity. It will also provide the type of trusted and familiar eCommerce experience that will maximize engagement with your Japanese market.
Which Japanese social media platforms are right for your brand? >>
Marketing to Japanese consumers: a how-to guide >>
Japanese SEO: get it right and get noticed >>