Did you know that Japan is #4 in eCommerce sales globally (behind China, the US and UK)?
The major Japanese eCommerce platforms in Japan are Amazon, Rakuten and Yahoo! Japan Shopping (yes, Yahoo is still a big name in Japan).
Japanese consumers are more open to foreign brands, businesses and platforms than ever before; becoming more like their western counterparts placing a higher value on financial savings.
The demand for next-day and same-day delivery services have also increased, in Japan, the customer always comes first whether that’s seasonal packaging or delivery within 24 hours.
While consumers have favored Japanese platforms in the past, according to a recent JETRO report Amazon overtook Rakuten in market share. Amazon Japan is easy to use, offering a quick 15 minute registration with Seller Central being supported in 7 languages including English.
Amazon offers a fulfillment service, removing concerns over arranging a Japanese delivery provider, they also offer a range of payment options to customers and an option for sellers to be paid in their local currency through the Amazon Currency Converter for Sellers.
Rakuten is an incredibly popular shopping platform in Japan, being used by 70.2% of online consumers. The platform ranks second in market share. In order to compete with Amazon, Rakuten has launched a variety of new strategies including a grocery service and partnership with Bic Camera, another key player in the eCommerce market.
Rakuten, while to western eyes not as visually appealing as Amazon, focuses on customer shopping experience and is rewarded by the Japanese consumer through brand recognition, loyalty and trust.
Rakuten’s selling platform is not as accessible to foreign companies, but one can learn the do’s and don’ts of this eCommerce giant with some support.
In a more positive move for western sellers, Rakuten changed their company language to English a couple of years ago, making it more accessible and competitive.
Yahoo! Japan Shopping
Yahoo! Japan remains a relatively popular media company, however, the shopping platform has fallen to 3rd place in the eCommerce market. In an attempt to curb this decrease in market share, Yahoo! Japan undertook a new strategy moving the business model from fee-based to ad-based revenue.
To improve their relationship with customers, the company decided to offer loyalty perks through a boosted point system, including partnerships with one of Japans leading mobile networks SoftBank. Yahoo! Japan Shopping sellers pay no initial fee, system usage fee, or loyalty fee, the only payment sellers make (1-2% of sales) are to T-Point, a Japanese loyalty card.
According to a METI report, clothing made up 11.5% of the online consumer goods market.
The online-mall framework is most popular in Japan, where hundreds of brands are available in one place. Japanese online retailer Zozotown focuses on aesthetics; using celebrated brands, well-organized displays and editorial selection. It is important to note that aesthetics and garment presentation are very important to Japanese consumers.
The US has a more advanced online apparel market, so it should be easier to penetrate the Japanese market through innovative branding and presentation.
Free Market App Platforms
The report also placed emphasis on C2C markets, particularly the rapid growth of internet auction sites. Free market applications were worth 483.5 billion yen, which was an enormous increase over the past years.
This dramatic growth is likely to continue, looking to be one of Japan’s most lucrative markets.
Japan has recognized the value of internet auction websites, with METI mentioning American giant ‘eBay’ double in value over 10 years as proof of economic promise. Mercari, Japan’s first tech start-up unicorn and home-grown answer to eBay, filed to go public in 2018.
The flea-market style company was valued at over 218 billion yen in 2018 and focused efforts on mobile usage; a strategy reflected in the app reaching over 100 million downloads worldwide.
As a foreign seller, it is necessary to understand not only Japanese spending habits but also the methods favored by customers. Japan’s preferred method of payment is credit card, however, there are some less familiar methods that retailers offer to ensure customers feel comfortable making a purchase with your company.
Many unfamiliar payment methods revolve around Japan being a cash-based society.
Customers often prefer handing over cash than sending their digital money across the world.
Bank Transfer- remains a popular choice. As debit cards are not widely used in Japan, bank transfer is the most direct form of payment.
Cash-on-Delivery (COD) usually performed through Yamato or Sagawa shipping carriers, allows a customer to pay at the door when they receive their goods.
According to Amazon Japan, 43.8% of customers use COD when online shopping.
There is also the option of Convenience Store Payment. Within 6 days after ordering a product online, the customer brings a receipt number or QR code to a convenience store and is able to pay with cash. After payment, the products are sent to the customer, or can even be delivered to a convenience store for those with a busy schedule.
Key points for eCommerce in Japan
● Although brand name and quality have long been considered the most important features for Japanese consumers, global economic trends have led to a prioritization of goods with attractive balance of pricing and quality.
● Until recent years Japanese customers were biased in favor of Japanese platforms and products, but are now looking more for foreign companies to save money and to find unique products. In response, companies such as Rakuten and Amazon Japan are working to accommodate more foreign sellers.
● Consumers tend to use online-mall style platforms and are also attracted to C2C handmade markets.
● The physical presentation of the product should be excellent. Customers in Japan care about presentation and packaging.
● Though still home to (for western eyes) crowded & busy HTML style shopping websites, Japanese consumers are now more appreciating branding and presentation of an ecommerce platform with high-quality design and subtle aesthetics.
● With over 99% of the population speaking Japanese, in-depth translation and localization is absolutely necessary. Japanese shoppers need to trust the seller. Details about technical specifications, materials, ingredients, fabrics and measurements etc. that might not be important for the majority of western consumers are absolutely essential.
Do you want to know if your product is a good fit for the Japanese eCommerce market?
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Erich Ahorner helps people enter the Japanese market and grow their businesses. He is an expert at helping people with market entry using online and offline methods and trying to break down necessary steps to make things simple to understand.
If you're interested in growing your business or entering a new market to and increase sales then definitely reach out and request a free strategy session today.