Selling On Online Stores in Japan – How to Build Trust

Posted By Jim Kersey

Ecommerce sellers operating in Japan rarely succeed without finding ways to build trust quickly with their customers. Considering how to establish your brand’s credibility fast and start growing long-term relationships with your new audience is crucial if you want to succeed in an increasingly competitive market — with even more challenges for non-domestic brands.

We explore how ecommerce sellers can build trust when operating in Japan, with advice that applies to those designing their very own online store in Japan for direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales or merchants selling through one of the nation’s popular ecommerce platforms such as Amazon or Rakuten.

Table of Contents

  • Collect As Many Trust Building Points As Possible
  • Focus On Design and Visuals to Make a Good First Impression
  • Show Empathy for Customer Needs and Concerns
  • Make Contacting You Easy
  • Create a Loyalty Program
  • Identify Trust Gaps with Analytics

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Collect As Many Trust Building Points As Possible

An instinctive distrust of brands and websites that seem unfamiliar is something that occurs globally. However, in a market with a very high aversion to risk and uncertainty as well as a widespread preference for domestic products over foreign ones, the need to prioritize trust-building activities when selling on an online store in Japan is even more crucial.

Uncertainty Avoidance 92
Power Distance 54
Individualism 46
Masculinity 95
Long Term Orientation 88
Indulgence 42

Source: Hofstede Insights Country Comparisons

If your business isn’t a household name, one of the biggest challenges you have to overcome is the visitor’s fear of buying from a foreign brand they’ve never heard of. A lack of proactivity in this area could mean a loss of sales now but also a lack of repeat purchases.

To achieve trust, brands must be completely transparent, authentic, and accommodating to the needs of their customers, whether this means pre-empting concerns and adapting web content to reassure potential customers of your reliability and quality, or being readily available through customer service touch points.

We’ve listed some important ways you can earn some easy trust building points with your customers.

Third-party reviews Japanese shoppers are less likely to leave negative reviews online, but this doesn’t mean they’re not avid researchers when it comes to checking a brand’s user reviews before purchasing. Third-party review services like Truspilot are an easy way to build your bank of customer reviews and gather important feedback from past shoppers.
FAQ pages An FAQ page is a useful addition to any online store in Japan and can be added to product pages on platforms like Amazon too. Compiling answers to common questions on important topics related to your product and business gives visitors a central place to learn more about you and address any doubts they have preventing them from finalizing their purchase. Just make sure these are written by someone fluent in Japanese and based entirely on the mindset of the local consumer. For instance, sizing guidance must be relevant to average sizes in Japan and not for your home market.
User-generated content Featuring content created by your past customers is the fastest way to show new prospects that you’re legitimate. Adding Japanese social media links to your site is a no brainer, but you can also consider adding featured highlights from your different channels directly on your product pages or home page, to show potential customers how people are interacting with your brand and products already. A snapshot of your Instagram grid might be a good feature on your home page, or you could consider adding user-generated photos to your actual product pages.
Customer feedback forms Showing people that you are willing to take on feedback can help make you appear more accommodating to Japanese shoppers. There is a great deal of post-purchase interaction that takes place in the Japanese ecommerce market, and showing people that you are prepared to keep the discussion going after you’ve sold your merchandise is important.
Add a human touch Adding the faces of your team can help to add a human touch to your brand. An easy way to do this is to create a meet the team page with descriptions of your staff – providing accountability and therefore reassurance to your customers.

HB Pro Tip: When you take the time to respond to customer complaints or praises, new customers are more likely to have a positive view of your business. Unanswered questions or feedback can make you seem absent and uninterested in what your customers are saying.

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Focus On Design and Visuals to Make a Good First Impression

Japanese photo shoot for online store in Japan

As well as leading with images featuring Japanese models and environments, considered and “localized” design is crucial to making a good first impression through visuals.

This means featuring clear imagery from multiple angles and product descriptions that accurately match what is being shown in product photos, rather than exaggerated claims about how your product functions. Let browsers make an impression on their own, rather than try to convince with bold statements that are hard to back up.

Mobile phone usage in Japan is incredibly high, as well as mobile ecommerce, which also means ensuring that all your visuals need to be 100% optimized for all devices.

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Show Empathy for Local Customer Needs and Concerns

Understanding what your Japanese customers need and offering targeted help and guidance can turn uncertain browsers into customers who feel they have what they need to commit to a purchase.

It would be a mistake to assume that everyone will immediately know how your product works, what sets it apart from others and how it will function in their day-to-day lives.

You must try to visualize how a Japanese user will interact with your product and the concerns or thoughts they might have. For instance, cities like Tokyo and Osaka, where a huge amount of the national population resides, are known for lacking space. The average household will have much less storage space than the US household, for example, so potential customers may be much more concerned with how an appliance or piece of equipment can be easily dismantled or put away.

A short video of someone doing just this can immediately remove someone’s doubts as well as show them that you’ve taken the effort to understand their needs.

Some initial market research can give you an understanding of what your customers’ thought processes are, which can then form the basis of educational content that you publish on your online store.

Learn More About the Japanese Consumer

Make Contacting You Easy

Shopper browsing products on online store in Japan

Whether it’s a chatbot designed to answer common questions or an easy-to-find and straightforward contact page that clearly shows how to contact you, it’s important to make contacting you easy.

Always remember that Japanese shoppers may be hesitant to buy from you as a foreign brand if they feel they’re not going to get the necessary customer support they need post-purchase!

Always remember that Japanese shoppers may be hesitant to buy from you as a foreign brand if they feel they’re not going to get the necessary customer support they need post-purchase!

Platforms like Amazon and their FBA program can help with a certain level of customer service, but it may be necessary to establish your own system for handling inquiries, especially if you expect to receive a high volume of product-related and technical inquiries.

Create a Loyalty Program

Japanese shoppers love searching for products and deals that give them redeemable loyalty points, as evidenced by the huge popularity of current points schemes like T-Points from Tsutaya.

Adding a loyalty program also taps into the trust you are trying to build. By showing customers that you want to reward them and encourage them to keep on coming back, you’re signaling that you want your relationship to be long-term.

Identify Trust Gaps with Analytics

A user flow traces the path of your online visitors from the moment they arrive on your landing pages to the point of checkout. Mapping this process out and identifying areas where you can build trust and reduce hesitancy can have a huge impact on your conversions.

Without data, you’ll have no idea whether your user flow is actually working so using Google Analytics is an important part of this activity. Some of the most common ways to track user activity include:

  • Click tracking (recording which elements on a page users click)
  • Scroll tracking (recording where users scroll on a page and spend the most time)
  • Discovering which pages your customers exit from the most (at which point they leave your site)

HB Pro Tip: For even more information, you can consider requesting feedback from customers about their experience through rewarded surveys or viewing session recordings of users as they shop on your online store.

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Final Trust Building Tips

Establishing trust can take time, so don’t lose heart if you’re not seeing the kind of sales you’d hoped for when first launching your products in Japan. Paying attention to first impressions as well as serving the ongoing needs and concerns of your customers after they’ve shopped from you will have an important impact on your long-term relationship with your target audience.

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