I've listed a few things that many companies tend to overlook when expanding their eCommerce business into the Japan market - I hope this helps guide you to the right direction!
Localise not translate
Please take note that translations is not merely enough. Japanese audiences are quick to know if there are any grammatical errors or structural inconsistencies in sentences - make sure the content makes sense from a Japanese native standard, and understand the content/context flow (UI/UX) in terms of how locals consume information.
You'll need at least 1 Japanese person who would be dedicated to this task. Someone who would know and understand the Japanese culture, Keigo (polite form) and be able to respond within JST. As the infamous phase says, in Japan, 'Customer is King' - it's safe to assume that your audience will have high level expectations.
Logistics + Shipping
Japan has a very sophisticated shipping method. 1) Customers can choose when they would like their order to be delivered. 2) Customers are used to receiving their order within 1 week if not sooner. 3) Customers can have their packages re-delivered at a chosen time. This means that, if the order is going to take longer than a few days, you would want to state exactly that - ie, if your order is going to take 10 days to be delivered on average, then you would want to state that the package will be delivered in 2 weeks, to manage expectations. If you're going to have a warehouse in Japan and manage your inventory locally, you wouldn't have to worry about 1) and 3), as typically Yamato or Sagawa will handle the shipping directly from the warehouse, and the customers will be able have their package re-delivered.
Reviews are not new, but one thing that is different is reviews are written with nicknames and not the actual name (ie. Japan123 wrote: This product is great!). Having said, reviews are important part of building trust (more on this later) so if your eCommerce store has the bandwidth to incorporate a review tool, I suggest you plug it in! And be sure to let customers post reviews without having to reveal their real name.
Japan's payment industry is highly developed - aka, there are many payment options. Some that you would definitely want your store to have are;
- Credit Card
- Convenience Store Payment
- Atobarai (Buy now pay later)
- Daibiki (Cash on delivery)
If you have the bandwidth to explore additional payment options,
- Carrier Billing
- Apple Pay, Google Pay
- Rakuten Pay
- And more....
The good news is there are varieties of Payment Gateways that handle all of the above so all you need to do is to simply integrate your eCommerce store with your chosen Payment Gateway. This way you won't have to feel too overwhelmed with all the payment options and getting a contract with each of them.
This is the centre of all the points mentioned above. Building trust will determine your success in Japan. Take note that building trust in Japan takes time, so if you don't see growth for some time, don't be too alarmed because most likely the audience is warming up to your brand and your products. Be sure to spend some cash on marketing, familiarise your brand to your audience, utilise influencers to post about your products and turn their trusted audience to your customers, run ads on social and utilise UGC.
Japanese customers are loyal (= high retention), so once they decide that your product is great, they will stick to your product. But if your consumers decide that 1) your product wasn't consistent with the product description 2) packaging was broken 3) customer service was unhelpful etc it's very likely that customers won't reach out to your team to reconcile - it will either go straight to negative reviews or they will leave your product and never return. It is indeed impossible to meet everyone's standards and expectations but the important lesson here is to make sure that you're ticking the boxes of what is expected.
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