Recently, I wrote an article about entering the Japanese ecommerce market. Here are some more thoughts on the topic:
When addressing Japanese consumers with your e-commerce you should provide a healthy mixture of content and experience. So you might consider creating fantastic articles, video, and social elements. The last one is especially important in helping the Japanese consumer make a purchase.
Mobile penetration in the Japanese market is predicted to grow from the current 22% to 60% over the next two years. You should seriously consider your mobile strategy for your Japanese market at the start.
The Japanese identify more favorably with higher profile brands. So it will be necessary for you to allocate money to build your brand. You might consider advertising on TV or hiring a local brand expert.
The Japanese love the idea of affiliate programs. So leverage this in order to get penetration into the Japanese market. Keep in mind, though, that 66% of all Japanese e-commerce happens on Rakuten, a Japanese digital storefront service (The Economist June 2010).
Collectivism, power distance (based on hierarchy as opposed to egalitarianism), avoiding uncertainty, achieving and ambition, and symbolic context and communication are but a few additional factors to consider when launching your e-commerce into the Japanese market. If you hope to reach the Japanese consumer you must sculpt your business to address these values.
Types of Consumers
There are basically 4 types of Japanese consumers online. You can determine which of these you want to target with your e-commerce, but you should focus on one of them.
Shop for Pleasure
This segment is typically made up of 30-39-year old males with a household income of $30,000-$60,000. They do not care about price either way and tend to shop mostly from online catalogs. They simply enjoy the shopping experience.
This segment admires particular brands and convenience. They are older shoppers of a higher education and higher household incomes. While they might compare from time to time, quality has a heavier importance for them than price.
This segment appreciates price above all else, though they also like products geared toward convenience and recreation. They are young women with low levels of education and low income. Usually, they do not know much about the Internet.
This segment only shops if absolutely necessary. They appreciate recreation, convenience, and brand. This group tends to be older males with education and are professionals. They also have a higher income.
The Final Word
Targeting Japanese consumers with your e-commerce requires tact and sensitivity. They have an ancient culture that carries many symbols and assumptions. The market demographics is composed of finely delineated groups of shoppers. So take the proper care and time, make the right investment, and fulfill their needs and desires and you will succeed.