Japanese Brand Design – 3 CRO Tips for Foreign Brands

Posted By Jim Kersey

If you’re focused on turning your hard-earned traffic into sales or qualified leads, there’s no doubt Japanese cultural differences make it necessary for you to adapt your brand strategy.

One way you can do this is to make strategic design choices for colour, style, layout and more, based on audience preferences and expectations. 

In this post, we explore our top 3 CRO and UX tips for foreign brands hoping to improve the performance of their websites in Japan.


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Make Design Choices Based On Your Audience

Designers reviewing Japanese brand design options for CRO

The biggest mistake foreign brands make when designing or adapting their websites for Japan is not understanding how local preferences and motivations should inform decisions when it comes to branding and visuals.

If you’re simply translating your text and not going through a full localization process (which includes your visuals), it’s going to be far less likely for your content (created for Western audiences) to resonate with Japanese shoppers.

Popular Japanese Brand Design Trends for Websites

A look at popular Japanese websites will give you some clues about the kind of styles and approaches used to cater to online shoppers. There’s a huge amount of variation across different product categories, but below are a few general characteristics that might stand out to you.

  • Generally less white space on pages than the average Western website
  • Content aims to inform the purchasing decision rather than simply create an emotional connection – providing plenty of technical data and information
  • Data, testimonials, and statistics are given more priority on landing pages to build trust with the user and bold statements that are unprovable are used sparingly e.g. “the best” or “perfect”
  • Cartoon, Manga or “cute” elements are frequently integrated, even for the most corporate or everyday brands and service providers
  • Multiple scripts are used, as well as both vertical and horizontal text lines (sometimes in custom typography) with a heavy sprinkling of English words
  • Smaller and more frequent graphics arranged in grids are commonly used rather than fewer high-resolution images (sometimes described as “cluttered” to those who aren’t familiar with this style)
  • Several contrasting colours and design elements are often used within small spaces

For more on this, take a look at our article: Japanese Web Design – Intriguing Trends and How to Cater to Users in Japan

Japanese Brand Design – Forever Quality Conscious

Using your design choices to convey your brand and products as “high quality” should be a priority when striving for online conversions as this is an important deal-breaker for many shoppers in Japan. Even if you’re not exactly selling premium or luxury items, people want to know that your product is durable.

Some have attributed this desire for high-quality goods to the lack of space and storage in average-sized homes in cities like Tokyo or Osaka (where the Japanese population lives and where people are more inclined to buy fewer but higher-quality goods overall (quality over quantity).

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Make Considerations for Age

Designer making Japanese brand design considerations for age demographics

Age is a huge factor when it comes to purchasing power and the likelihood to buy high-cost goods in Japan. However, many brands continue to prioritise younger age groups in their Japanese brand design for websites and online marketing – neglecting these much larger (in terms of market share) and higher value groups.

Age Market Share
18-24 11.4%
25-34 18.9%
35-44 23.6%
45-54 25.6%
55-64 20.5%

Source: Statista

Japanese millennials are generally less financially stable than their parents or grandparents as well as their counterparts in many Western nations. If your website lacks suitability for the middle-aged or seniors, you’re limiting yourself to a much smaller group of consumers who will naturally find it harder to pay for your products, leading to lower conversions.

Younger Japanese people are starting to favour the aesthetics of more Western-style web design such as minimalism and more aspirational-style content (partly as a result of higher exposure to global trends) but classic Japanese web design principles will still be incredibly effective when catering to older demographics.

Balance Informational with Aspirational

Customer enjoying Japanese brand design from Western brand

Utilising space efficiently is an important part of Japanese culture. And while you may be tempted to keep your website and product pages minimal, focusing on aspirational content that creates an initial connection with your customers, not including enough information and detail will seriously hurt your conversions.

The average shopper likes to absorb a good level of technical information when they’re making a purchasing decision and leaving out core facts or product details could leave doubt in someone’s mind when they’re deciding whether to take the chance on a Western brand. Key things to include on your product and service pages are:

  • Exhaustive explanations of exactly how products can be used, including descriptions of things you may assume people would know already
  • Comprehensive descriptions of materials, ingredients or technology components
  • Visual representations of all product variations (colours, sizes etc.)
  • Information about where products were manufactured

Even if you’re selling a straightforward product that you would assume everyone knows how to use, it’s still good practice to explain the basics on your website.

For instance, if you’re selling plates or kitchenware made from materials that are microwave safe, we would recommend that you clearly state that users can put these items in the microwave if they want, rather than just expecting them to make the connection themselves.

It might seem like overkill, but it’s better to say something that seems unnecessary than leave out information that someone might need before they’re comfortable making a purchase.

Learn More About Web and Advertising Design in Japan

Learn What Works

If you’re unsure about what kind of Japanese brand design and conversion rate optimization (CRO) changes you need to make to your website to improve its performance, we recommend taking some time to look at competitors in your space.

It’s normal that your points of reference when it comes to website UX and design are based on Western tastes and online behaviour, so it’s important to start developing familiarity with what brands are doing in Japan, whether it’s domestic companies or other foreign brands who have entered the market.

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