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It’s no surprise that Japan is a prime target for overseas sellers. A staggering 86% of the population is online according to the CIA Factbook, which is on par with the market in the US. More importantly, almost 80% of the country’s population (100 million) shop online according to a late 2015 report by online data measurer comScore, besting the US market’s online shopper rates of around 70% last year.
The country also happens to be a relatively easy place to set up shop and reach a large audience online, especially since Japan’s shoppers use just a handful of large online marketplaces. In fact, Japanese marketplace giant Rakuten alone hosted 27% of all e-commerce sales in the country last year as reported by WSJ, while Amazon Japan and Yahoo! Japan Shopping split another nearly 20% of the market. The less time you have to spend checking your sales across different storefronts, the more time you have to spend growing your business.
Of course, just because the country’s fundamentals are good doesn’t mean all overseas sellers will see success. Here are a few ways you can make the biggest inroads among Japanese shoppers.
1. Know the culture.
Almost all of the 125 million people living in Japan speak Japanese exclusively according to the CIA Factbook, with one scholarly source pegging the exact figure at 99% of the population. In other words, you’d be well served to have good translators who also understand the Japanese cultural and consumer trends working on your product listings and online sites.
To offer service that’s a cut above, you may also want to employ Japanese-speaking customer service staff as well. This tip may actually be enforced depending on where you sell — Amazon Japan requires sellers to have Japanese-speaking customer service staff to keep their ratings in good standing with Amazon.
2. Showcase the most popular items.
The four most popular types of products sold on Rakuten – Japan’s largest marketplace – are food and beverages, drugs, beauty care, and consumer electronics according to a report by marketing research firm McKinsey & Company. Shoppers favor relatively lower-priced items, too — according to late 2015 research by comScore, more than half of all shoppers bought goods and services that were priced less than ¥20,000 (around $195), on average.
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