When it comes to eCommerce, one of the most promising markets in East Asia is Japan.

The Japanese market is the third largest eCommerce market in the world. It has a mature and developed economy with a richly urban population, making it ideal for eCommerce growth.

They use a single language which makes it easier to focus on a one mindset while developing online stores. Also, Japan's land mass is relatively small as compared to other eCommerce markets, making delivery times faster and affordable.

The growth of online shopping in Japan

The E-GDP growth of Japan is stable and progressive with a good annual growth rate. Per Statista, the revenue in the Japanese eCommerce market for 2018 amounts to USD $81,693 million, with the predicted revenue growth for 2019 at 4.3%.

Many users are opting for online shopping in Japan every year, with 92.5 million new users by 2022. That is a very promising number, showing the steady growth per annum. 

eCommerce preferences in Japan

Most of the preferences for online shopping are similar to the rest of the world – fast and free delivery resonates well.

However, one striking difference that the Japanese market has from the rest of the world is their preference for cash on delivery. Japanese are wary of using credit cards for online payments due to privacy and data protection issues and fear of fraud. 

If you're really serious about entering the Japanese market, it may be beneficial for you to work with a courier that offers a cash on delivery service so you can offer this as an option for your eCommerce store.

Understanding Japanese customs and culture

Japanese tastes skew towards things that are very simple and humble – it's advised to stay away from styles that are gaudy or flashy. 

Most of the population speak and read Japanese, so it's advisable to get your eCommerce site translated and have Japanese speaking customer service representatives in case any issues arise. 

Popular eCommerce platforms in Japan

If you're interested in promoting your products on a marketplace platform, consider joining the following: 

  • Amazon Japan

  • Rakuten

  • Apple

  • Yahoo! Japan shopping

  • Base

  • Origami

  • Sumally


Payment methods

The most commonly used payment method is credit or debit card, which amounts to around 66% of the eCommerce transactions made. Next are "konbinis", or convenience store payments. Some online stores offer receipts that can be taken to a convenience store, where the cashier there can collect a cash payment for the total.

Lastly, payments on mobile (or e-wallet) is the least used option, though it is starting to become more popular with younger shoppers as they are open to using technology in the payment space. 


Future eCommerce trends in Japan

In our opinion, the future belongs to M-commerce (mobile commerce). Mobile apps are starting to become popular when purchasing anything online. At the moment, almost 60% of the online transactions are done through mobile apps in Japan. 

Another shift in the Japanese market is the change in their spending habits. Before, the Japanese were willing to pay top dollar for American and European brands; however, they are also interested in good sales with extreme discounts and free delivery. 

What are the Japanese buying online?

Japanese consumers are open to buying almost anything online. Here are the top categories:

  • Fashion

  • Electronics and Media

  • Food and personal care

  • Furniture and appliances

  • Toys, hobbies and DIY supplies

Best times to shop online in Japan

Japan has a decent amount of public holidays, which means there are always good sales periods year-round. 

  • New Year's Day sales are popular. Big discounts are given, and the main attraction is Fukubukuro, or lucky bags. These are surprising items grouped together and sold at insanely low prices.

  • Winter clearance sales happen during February

  • Back to school sales happen from March 'til the first half of April

  • Golden week sales start from late April 'til early May

  • Summer sales are from July 'til August

  • Summer clearance sales happen in September

  • Halloween sales in October
  • Autumn sales start in November

  • Winter and year-end sales in December

Restricted items that you cannot ship to Japan

You will need a special license from the government to ship the following items:

  • Alcohol

  • Certain textiles

  • Chemical fertilizers

  • Chemicals in general

  • Compressed gases and containers

  • Cosmetics and other products that can be used on the human body

  • Cutlery and cookware

  • Dairy products

  • Drugs and medicines even vitamins, eye drops, and toothpaste

  • Meat

  • Medical equipment

  • Rice, wheat, and sugar

  • Tuna, whale, and seaweed

  • Toys for babies

  • Plants 


Conclusion

Japan is a robust and growing market for online shopping. As long as you're willing to put efforts into translating your website, having Japanese-speaking customer service agents, and other flexible payment options, you can ensure a smooth entry into this lucrative eCommerce market!

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