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December 28, 2023
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Umair Jutt
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Partner Spotlight

How to Sell on Amazon Japan and Grow with Global Selling: 7 Tips

How to Sell on Amazon Japan and Grow with Global Selling: 7 Tips

Table of Contents

Selling on Amazon Japan presents a compelling opportunity for businesses looking to tap into one of the largest ecommerce markets globally. Boasting a population of over 126 million people, Japan offers a substantial consumer base actively engaged in online shopping.

Amidst several ecomm platforms vying for the top spot, Amazon Japan dominates the scene, claiming a revenue of $12.8 billion in 2022. With a wide reach, the retail giant attracts 604 million monthly visits as of July 2023, followed by Rakuten (508.9M), TripMall (253.2M), Mercari (125.7M), and Yahoo (99.2M).

Amazon’s impressive traffic number signifies a valuable opportunity for international sellers, providing an effective channel to connect with local consumers, tap into the thriving ecommerce market, and potentially use it as a launchpad to expand further into Asia.

But while Japanese consumers display a penchant for purchasing diverse products from global sources, an inclination towards favoring local products and brands is evident, as reflected in the comparatively low rates of cross-border shopping in the country in comparison to other nations.

For foreign brands aspiring to gain a foothold in the Japanese market, establishing credibility requires diligent efforts to win the trust of local shoppers. A key strategy involves localization, requiring an adaptation or reconstruction of existing practices to resonate with the Japanese audience.

In this blog post, we’ll uncover the key strategies for reaching your target audience effectively.

1. Prepare to Sell on Amazon Japan

Market entry in local marketing refers to the strategic process of introducing your products into a new geographic area. It involves establishing a presence and operations in that specific region to engage with local consumers and compete with existing businesses.

Market entry strategies can vary depending on the characteristics of the target market, the nature of the products or services, and the business objectives. 

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you prepare to sell on Amazon Japan:

Market Research:

  • Conduct thorough market research to understand the demand for your products in Japan. More importantly, verify with Amazon or Japanese authorities that you can legally sell the product. You carry the responsibility to ensure that you and your products meet all applicable laws and Amazon’s policies regarding Category, Product and Content Restrictions.
  • Analyze competitor products and pricing to determine your competitive advantage. This typically involves performing a comprehensive evaluation of both the product landscape and pricing strategies within your industry. Begin by identifying and scrutinizing competitors, assessing the features and quality of their products, and identifying gaps or weaknesses. Analyze pricing strategies, considering both market trends and your own production costs.

Define a unique value proposition for your product, leveraging strengths and capitalizing on competitor weaknesses. Regularly monitor customer reviews, industry trends, and competitor moves, adapting your strategy dynamically. Ultimately, a successful approach entails a continuous cycle of assessment, adaptation, and innovation, ensuring that your product and pricing strategies align with customer expectations and market shifts, thereby securing a distinct and sustainable competitive edge.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance:

  • Understand and comply with local regulations, tax laws, and import/export requirements in Japan to avoid potential issues, such as seizure of goods, financial penalties, customs clearance delay, increased scrutiny from customs authorities, or trade barriers. 
  • Be aware that Japan safety and compliance requirements may differ from those in other Asian countries. For instance, selling a product in Japan may subject you to product testing costs, which varies by size and complexity of the product. You may also need to test individual parts of your item, which can mean additional fees.
  • Consider seeking legal advice, staying informed about updates to the regulations, and implementing internal processes to ensure accurate and timely customs declarations.

Language and Localization:

  • Ensure your product listings are in Japanese and accurately translated. Consider professional translation services if necessary.
  • Localize your product descriptions and marketing materials to appeal to Japanese consumers.

Create an Amazon Japan Seller Account:

Product Listings:

  • Crafting high-quality listings is paramount for success on Amazon Japan. Beyond captivating images and compelling descriptions, it's crucial to incorporate a set of relevant keywords to enhance search engine optimization (SEO) on the platform. Essential elements to include in all product listings on Amazon Japan encompass detailed explanations of product use, ensuring clarity even on aspects presumed to be common knowledge. Additionally, comprehensive descriptions of materials, ingredients, and technological components contribute to a thorough understanding. Visual representations depicting all product variations, such as colors and sizes, are indispensable, while disclosing the manufacturing origin of products further adds transparency and builds consumer trust.
  • Optimize your listings for relevant Japanese keywords to improve search visibility.

Pricing Strategy:

Fulfillment Method:

  • Decide whether to fulfill orders yourself or use Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service.
  • FBA can simplify logistics, as Amazon handles storage, packing, and shipping.

Customer Service and Support:

  • Provide excellent customer service with timely responses to inquiries and feedback.
  • Consider offering customer support in Japanese to enhance the customer experience.

Payment Methods:

  • Familiarize yourself with Japanese payment methods and ensure your account is set up to receive payments in the local currency.

Promotions and Advertising:

  • Consider running promotions or advertising campaigns to increase visibility and attract customers.
  • Utilize Amazon Advertising tools to target your audience effectively.

Shipping and Logistics:

  • Optimize your shipping strategy to provide reasonable delivery times to local customers. Swift deliveries, including same-day and next-day services, are prevalent in Japan. It is crucial to comprehend the intricacies of shipping and order fulfillment in the country, encompassing associated costs, delivery times, and specific requirements. Japanese customers typically anticipate delivery providers to make redelivery attempts if they miss the initial delivery, potentially leading to heightened costs for sellers opting for Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) over FBA. However, the impact of this concern may be alleviated by Amazon Japan’s proposed introduction of a drop-off service alternative and expanded logistics network.
  • Communicate clearly about shipping costs and delivery expectations.

Build Reviews and Ratings:

  • Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews, as positive feedback can boost your product's credibility.
  • Address customer concerns promptly to maintain a positive seller reputation.

Monitor and Optimize:

  • Regularly monitor your sales, customer feedback, and performance metrics.
  • Continuously optimize your product listings and marketing strategies based on data and market trends.

By thoroughly preparing and adapting your strategy to the unique aspects of the Japanese market, you can increase your chances of success when selling on Amazon.co.jp. Keep in mind that ongoing monitoring and adaptation is crucial for sustained success on the platform.

2. Localize Content and Messaging

In Amazon global selling, language plays the role of the leading melody, while cultural comprehension sets the beating rhythm. Crafting content and messaging that resonates with Japanese audiences requires a masterful mix of linguistic modification and cultural immersion. It goes far beyond mere translation; it's about effectively conveying meaning. The true test lies not only in accurately representing information, but in capturing the very soul of Japanese consumers through a deep understanding of their culture.

When writing copy, it is essential to integrate culturally relevant references, symbols, and imagery while avoiding any references that may be misunderstood or carry negative connotations in the local culture. This involves adjusting the tone of messaging to align with Japanese communication styles, employing polite language and honorifics to reflect the cultural emphasis on respect. Visual design should be adapted to appeal to Japanese aesthetics, considering color symbolism, design principles, and local preferences.

In content creation, it is crucial to develop materials that specifically address the needs and preferences of the Japanese market, highlighting how your product aligns with local values and lifestyle. The localization process extends to websites, apps, and user interfaces, ensuring a seamless experience by adapting navigation and instructions to be clear and culturally appropriate.

Customizing marketing messages involves tailoring them to align with Japanese cultural values, emphasizing aspects such as quality, tradition, and social responsibility. Consideration of local partnerships, collaborations with influencers, and collaboration with Japanese experts adds authenticity to your messaging. Furthermore, providing customer support in Japanese, with staff trained to understand and respond to cultural expectations, and offering communication channels preferred by the local audience contribute to a holistic and culturally sensitive approach to engaging with the Japanese market.

3. Incorporate Japanese Hospitality into your Business

As an Amazon business, the path to success involves breaking away from generic methods and focusing on tailoring your brand to align with Japan's cultural values. 

This means incorporating the spirit of omotenashi—Japanese hospitality—into your business and recognizing that true success is not just measured by sales, but by the lasting connections you make. 

Omotenashi transcends mere customer service excellence; it embodies an authentic mindset of sincere care and thoughtful consideration, crafting an unforgettable and tailored experience for each customer.

To infuse omotenashi into your brand, prioritize a customer-centric approach with meticulous attention to detail to build loyalty and trust. Create a warm and inviting atmosphere by training your staff to be polite and anticipate customer needs proactively by offering personalized experiences and communicating transparently.

Embrace a culture of continuous improvement, incorporating feedback to enhance offerings. It’s also vital to be culturally sensitive, promoting harmony and balance in brand elements. 

By embodying these principles, your brand can cultivate a genuine, customer-focused ethos reminiscent of the hospitality deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

4. Leverage Japanese Holidays and Events

Gift-giving is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, especially for special occasions. This makes incorporating local holidays and events into your marketing strategy a highly effective tool. By matching your promotions with these occasions, you not only connect with the cultural traditions, but also boost your brand's attractiveness during these festive periods:

  • January 1 - New Year
  • Second Monday of January - Coming of Age (Seijin no hi)
  • February 3 - Beginning of spring (setsubun)
  • February 11 - National Foundation Day
  • February 14 - Valentine’s Day
  • February 23 - Emperor’s Birthday
  • Around March 20 - Spring Equinox Day 
  • April 29 - Showa Day (the birthday of former Emperor Showa)
  • May 3 - Constitution Day 
  • May 4 - Greenery Day
  • May 5 - Children’s Day
  • Third Monday of July - Ocean Day
  • August 11 - Mountain Day
  • Third Monday of September - Autumn Equinox Day
  • Second Monday of October - Health and Sports Day
  • November 3 - Culture Day
  • November 23 - Labor Thanksgiving Day
  • December 24 to 25 - Christmas
  • December 31 - New Year’s Eve

5. Understand Local Trends

Japanese consumers are famously renowned for their constantly evolving tastes and preferences, making the market a complex and ever-shifting landscape. Therefore, keeping a finger on the pulse of these changes is not only a smart business strategy, but an absolute must.

For instance, the latest report from Digital Marketing for Asia shows that sustainability, omni-channel shopping, and ID payments like Amazon Pay are currently the three major fastest emerging ecomm trends in Japan. 

Navigating the currents of local trends involves more than just observing from the sidelines. It requires an active engagement with the market, an immersion into the cultural zeitgeist that shapes consumer behavior. By keeping these trends in mind when creating new or improving your offerings, your brand becomes not just a product but a reflection of the contemporary pulse of Japanese commerce. The ability to anticipate and resonate with local trends positions your business as not just responsive but integral to the ongoing narrative of consumer preferences in Japan.

As an entrepreneur in the Japanese market, your success hinges on your adaptability. The landscape is dotted with trends that rise and fall, and your capacity to navigate this dynamic terrain ensures your brand's relevance.

By understanding local trends, you don't merely follow the market; you become a participant in shaping its trajectory, contributing to the vibrant tapestry of consumer preferences in Japan.

Related: Emotional Appeal: The Secret Strategy of Ecommerce Seller Success

6. Harness the Power of SEO

Harnessing the Power of SEO

Having a strong grasp on SEO is like having the key to unlocking consumer visibility. This is because Japanese shoppers heavily rely on search engines to find and learn about products, making SEO a crucial tool for any brand looking to make its mark online.

To succeed in Amazon Japan SEO, it's not enough to simply sprinkle in some keywords in your ads or listings. You must have a thorough understanding of the local search landscape, including the intricacies of language and the specific search queries that resonate with Japanese consumers.

For instance, when doing keyword research for an online ad campaign or listing, you could start with using key terms in English and then use a translator (Google Translate or a professional translator) to get their Japanese equivalents. Choose the most popular keywords and search them on Amazon Japan to see if the results are similar to your products. The matched results should tell you that you’re on the right track. 

Additionally, to effectively resonate with Japanese consumers, consider crafting new product descriptions that meet their motivations and preferences. The creation of images and videos should prominently feature Japanese models and settings, as opposed to Western counterparts. This targeted localization approach aims to bridge cultural gaps and build a connection with the local audience, thereby fostering trust and brand loyalty in the Japanese market.

By utilizing SEO effectively, your brand can not only improve its visibility, but also gain credibility with Japanese consumers. A strong presence on search engines demonstrates your brand's significance and trustworthiness. It's not just about being visible; it's about connecting with the specific needs and desires of the Japanese market.

Related: From Clicks to Conversions: The Ultimate Guide to Amazon Creative Listing Optimization

7. Demonstrate Cultural Sensitivity and Etiquette

Cultural Sensitivity

Demonstrating cultural sensitivity is a cornerstone of successful marketing in Japan. Understanding and adhering to Japanese shopping culture and etiquette, including gift-giving traditions and respectful interactions, not only avoids cultural missteps but also showcases your commitment to building meaningful connections. 

To effectively bridge the cultural gap, it is crucial for sellers to comprehend the expectations of Japanese customers when selecting an imported product. Understanding these expectations enables sellers to cater to the preferences and requirements unique to the Japanese market, fostering better connections and enhancing the appeal of international products in the eyes of Japanese consumers.

Lower Prices Online

In the US, approximately 70% of products maintain consistent pricing between online platforms and physical retail stores, with only 22% being more affordable online. 

Conversely, in Japan, 45% of products can be obtained at a lower price online compared to in-store purchases. This variance is influenced by distinctive factors inherent to the Japanese market.

Japanese cities exhibit high population density, resulting in closely situated physical stores. This geographical proximity offers consumers convenience, eliminating the need to await shipping. Consequently, online retailers in Japan often adopt competitive pricing strategies to entice consumers to opt for the convenience of online shopping.

Additionally, Japanese consumers demonstrate a higher inclination toward utilizing price comparison tools compared to their American counterparts. This trend compels Japanese products to be competitively priced in the online sphere. While Japanese consumers prioritize aspects such as product quality, features, and overall value over low prices, they are accustomed to the affordability of online purchases, whether from local or international brands. Recognizing this dynamic enables companies to strategically price their products for the Japanese market.

Fast and Diverse Shipping Options

Japan may be geographically small, but it boasts an efficient retail landscape where many vendors can offer same-day or next-day deliveries.

Japanese consumers are accustomed to swift shipping, yet evidence suggests they are willing to wait for international deliveries if products meet their expectations. The significance of expedited shipping is heightened when customers hold a favorable view of a brand and enjoy positive online shopping experiences. However, beyond speed, the key priority for Japanese consumers is flexibility in shipping options. Customizing delivery dates and times is a common expectation, regardless of the shopping source.

To cater to these preferences, sellers targeting the Japanese market must ensure a diverse range of flexible shipping choices. This allows customers to personalize when their products will arrive, facilitating convenience in receiving deliveries or obtaining items promptly when needed. Fortunately, sellers can manage this regardless of shipping location, whether utilizing domestic warehouses in Japan or global facilities stateside.

Ecommerce platforms like Amazon simplify the process by providing a variety of built-in shipping options. Offering such a high level of customizability not only meets customer expectations but also reinforces a commitment to delivering products at the utmost convenience for the customer.

Transparency and Genuine User Reviews

In 2020, findings from the Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that Japan ranked 7th lowest among 26 countries in terms of trust in businesses. This underscores the fact that Japanese consumers approach marketing messages with a discerning eye and may harbor skepticism in their purchasing decisions.

While this presents a challenge, it's not insurmountable. To gain the trust of Japanese consumers, sellers must demonstrate a commitment to the transparency expected by this discerning audience, particularly when dealing with international brands. An effective strategy involves leveraging trusted marketplaces.

In Japan, a growing trend is the emphasis placed by consumers on user reviews over expert opinions. Building trust for your brand involves ensuring that customer reviews are easily accessible and accurately translated so that Japanese shoppers can make informed decisions based on peer feedback.

Highlighting ranking lists of products can further enhance trust by showcasing popular choices among consumers. Given Japan's collective orientation, customers are keen on knowing what their peers have purchased and their opinions on those products.

Pro tip: Programs like ManageByStats serve as valuable tools for conducting competitor analysis and online research, providing insights into consumer preferences and product availability. This tool offers a comprehensive understanding of market dynamics, helping you uncover what customers desire and what options are currently accessible.

Related: Optimizing Amazon Listings with Customer Feedback

Low Return Rates

Remarkably, return rates in Japan are significantly lower compared to the US, standing at just 3% as opposed to potential rates of up to 30% in America. Despite this, many Japanese brands lack transparency regarding return processes, a key area where American brands typically excel. To address this disparity, it's important for sellers to provide clear and easily accessible information on product returns, aligning with the expectations of the Japanese consumer base.

Related: Tips to Improve Customer Experience and Reduce Returns

Conquer Japan’s Ecommerce Frontier

Selling on Amazon Japan presents a lucrative opportunity, given its vast ecommerce market and Amazon's dominant position with a revenue of $12.8 billion in 2022. However, success requires strategic preparation and adherence to Japanese market dynamics.

To successfully sell on Amazon Japan, seamlessly integrate these seven local marketing strategies into your approach. Not only will these help you to adeptly navigate the intricacies of the Japanese market but also cultivate a connection that transcends mere transactions.

  • Begin with thorough market research and legal compliance, ensuring your products align with local regulations. Language and localization are crucial, requiring Japanese-translated content and culturally relevant messaging.
  • Create an Amazon Japan Seller Account, optimize product listings, and implement a competitive pricing strategy. Consider fulfillment options, provide excellent customer service, and adapt to Japanese payment methods.
  • Embrace cultural sensitivity by incorporating Japanese hospitality into your business, prioritizing customer-centricity and attention to detail. Leverage Japanese holidays and events for promotions, aligning with local traditions.
  • Stay updated on local trends, demonstrating adaptability in product offerings.
  • Utilize SEO to enhance visibility, understanding local search queries and preferences.
  • Demonstrate cultural etiquette to build meaningful connections, and leverage the low return rates in Japan by providing transparent information on return processes. By understanding and adapting to the unique aspects of the Japanese market, you can increase your chances of success on Amazon.co.jp.

And as you delve into the dynamic world of Japanese ecommerce, ProJapan stands as your reliable ally, offering valuable insights and strategies to elevate your brand. Our comprehensive e-book, "All You Need to Know to Sell on Amazon Japan" (valued at $99), serves as a guide through the nuances of localized marketing. It's not just about transactions; it's about building lasting connections with your Japanese audience. 

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