How to be a Successful Amazon Seller in Japan

Danbo the cardboard robot is an unofficial mascot of Amazon Japan. Photo credit: William Warby

Posted By Caylon Neely

E-commerce marketplaces like Amazon and Rakuten are some of the most lucrative places to sell online in Japan, giving sellers access to great benefits such as:

  • Access to Japan’s biggest e-commerce market share (Amazon and Rakuten)
  • A streamlined buying process for your customers
  • Secure purchase exchanges (especially important for cross-border shopping)

This article will explain why Amazon Japan is one of the easiest Japanese e-commerce sites to sell on, and give advice on how to make the best of your efforts there. To learn more about E-commerce in Japan, Please check out our previous article which will give you a more overall outlook on the industry.

Why Choose Amazon Japan?

gift-wrapping-for-japanese-e-commerce-buyers

Amazon has been active in Japan since 2000, making it an established and trusted name for e-commerce shoppers and sellers. Though Rakuten has beaten Amazon for the number one market share spot, Amazon is actually the most visited e-commerce site in Japan when measuring by unique visitors. Additionally, it has made itself an easy option for market entry to Japan via e-commerce for the following reasons:

THE MOST ENGLISH FRIENDLY E-COMMERCE SITE IN JAPAN

Compared to Rakuten and other Japanese e-commerce sites, Amazon seems to be the most English friendly of the group. They offer an English interface to create product listings and manage Amazon stores, making it an easy option for inbound cross-border sellers. Amazon’s English support system won’t solve all of your problems though. You’re still on your own to deal with localization issues such as copywriting and Amazon SEO optimization in Japanese.

FULFILLMENT SERVICES

Amazon Japan offers fulfillment services for stocking and shipping in Japan. They claim that just under 80% of the population, about 100 million people, can get same-day delivery and 95% can get next-day delivery.

Fulfillment also comes with Japanese customer service, handled through Amazon’s own call centers. This is arguably the most valuable asset that Amazon sellers can make use of in Japan. Having local, Japanese speaking, phone service will break down one of the biggest barriers to gaining trust from Japanese shoppers.

Additionally, Amazon fulfillment also provides gift wrapping for gifts related to Japanese traditions and events. This is very valuable for sellers, as gift giving is a large part of Japanese culture and different types of gifts require specific kinds of packaging. (See the image above for an example of what we’re talking about)

JAPANESE PAYMENT OPTIONS

Amazon can handle all of the most popular payment options available in Japan. This includes all major credit cards (including JCB) and more Japan-centric options such as COD and convenience store payments. Offering either of the latter options would be difficult to do from overseas, but Amazon makes it easy to allow localized payment options to shoppers in Japan.

FLEXIBLE ACCOUNT OPTIONS

Amazon sellers in Japan can choose from individual or professional accounts depending on their needs and sales volumes.

Individual accounts are free to set-up but are limited to 50 sales per month. Sellers are charged a commission and a referral fee for each sale. The commission rate is the same for all sales, but the referral fee varies depending on what kind of items are sold.

Professional accounts have a ¥4,900 monthly fee and are required if you sell more than 50 items per month. There are no commission fees but referral fees still must be paid on each item sold.

Both options still allow sellers access to English sales support and some marketing help from Amazon.

How to Successfully Sell on Amazon Japan

american and japanese product labels as an example for amazon sellers in japan

KNOW AMAZON SEO IN JAPANESE

Always remember that Amazon is a search engine just like Google. Using proper keywords and content is very important to rank high in Amazon product search results. To add to the challenge, the Japanese language often uses a confusing mix of loan words and traditional Japanese words when describing new products.

Take this example; ミルク (miruku)、牛乳 (gyunyu), Both mean milk in most cases, but ミルク is often associated with female fashion and cosmetic products where 牛乳 is almost exclusively used for actual milk and dairy products. Knowing the difference can save confusion among your customers and also allow you to market more precisely with words that you may not have considered without a grasp of the language. (See above: both products are moisturizers, but the Japanese product on the right is labeled as “Skin Milk.”)

For this reason, It is essential to have a local partner who speaks Japanese and can effectively connect shoppers to your product with the right keywords and product names. Of course, this concept is true for Amazon sellers in any country.

localize your products for the japanese market

This should be a given but it’s worth mentioning. We’re not just talking about your product name and your Amazon product description. Instructions, labels, and interfaces should all be translated to Japanese if they exist for your product.

This becomes even more important if you’re providing a product that competes with local Japanese companies. The biggest reason that Japanese shoppers buy from abroad is that they can’t find the same product from a Japanese supplier. If there is any domestic competition with your product, Japanese shoppers will have a tendency to prefer that product over something from abroad. You’ll be at a significant disadvantage if your materials aren’t all in Japanese, giving the buyer a reason to distrust the product.

CREATE LOCALIZED promotional materials for japan

Convert your graphics into Japanese, don’t just copy them over to your Amazon Japan store without localizing them. Also, if possible, try to get images with Japanese models to further drive the fact that your company is local and in-tune with Japanese shoppers. These are small details that commonly get overlooked, but a page without these elements can make a visitor quickly click away instead of reading about the product and making a purchase.

There are ways to incorporate foreign language material into your promotions though, and if done tastefully it can really help your brand make the most of its foreign roots. Check our previous articles to learn more about using English in Japanese Promotions. (Also see the image above. Nivea Skin Milk’s English name is a tasteful way to brand a product to Japanese shoppers using English that almost all Japanese people would understand.)

Get Local Help For Your Amazon Japan Store

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What to Consider Before Selling on Amazon in Japan

IT’S NOT A COMPLETE LOCALIZATION PACKAGE

Amazon helps sellers with setup and execution, but copywriting, imagery, and marketing are not a part of their package. In order to properly sell in Japan, sellers must consider that Japanese tastes and interests are different from every other country in the world. It is up to the seller to create product listings that are properly labeled, have compelling content, and use imagery or graphics that are catered to Japanese preferences.

BE SURE YOU CAN SELL YOUR PRODUCTS ON AMAZON IN JAPAN

Look up the laws on what kind of products can and can’t be sold in Japan, and check if there are any specific labeling requirements for products in your category. Additionally, Amazon Japan has its own rules on prohibited products. You might have to get help from someone who speaks Japanese to get the most accurate information, as materials related to such regulations aren’t always clearly translated into English.

AMAZON JAPAN ISN’T NUMBER ONE BUT IT MIGHT BE FOR YOUR PRODUCT

Although Rakuten consistently maintains top market share in Japan, some product categories sell better on Amazon than Rakuten and vice versa. You must do a proper analysis of each marketplace site and see which one your customers are using the most.

How To Get Started

MINIMUM BARRIERS OF ENTRY

As mentioned, you must check that your products comply with Japanese laws and Amazon Japan’s own product guidelines. For example, there are regulations in Japan for labeling electronic, food, and drug items that must be adhered to.

Phone and email service is also a requirement by Amazon Japan in order to sell to customers. As mentioned, Amazon fulfillment services can handle this.

Be sure to cover all technical and legal bases with research before you start to sell your products in Japan. It could be more costly and damaging to your brand if you enter Japan incorrectly and then have to backtrack due to legal or technical issues. Leading to our next point…

CREATE A PLAN BEFORE YOU INVEST

If you’ve read this article, you’re already on the right track for success. Don’t take market entry lightly, there are many things to consider in order to do it right. If you invest the time and money to sell on Amazon in Japan, you must properly account for cultural differences, language barriers, and other localization issues. Doing so will give you a much greater chance at growing from being an Amazon seller to having your own e-commerce powerhouse in Japan.

Please contact us if you’re interested in selling on Amazon in Japan. We’d be glad to give you some advice and help you plan your entry properly.

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