Why Sell on Amazon Japan? Pros, Cons, and Tips for Western Brands

Posted By Milosz Bugajski

If you’ve looked into entering the Japanese ecommerce market for more than five minutes, you’ll know there are quite a few different platforms available for sellers. And in addition to a few names you might not be so familiar with, such as Rakuten or ZozoTown, you’ll find one that is: Amazon.

But before going with Amazon Japan as an easy platform of choice, it’s worth considering what actually makes it such a great option for Western brands. We explore the major reasons why you should sell on Amazon Japan, as well as a few for why you potentially shouldn’t.

Learn How Amazon Compares with Other Japan Ecommerce Platforms

Millions of Potential Customers

One of the hardest things about setting up in Japan for the first time is trying to find customers. For some businesses, this process of identifying and capturing specific markets in the right sector can take years, especially in a country with such high customer loyalty levels making it difficult for new entries into the market.

When you sell on Amazon in Japan, you don’t have to worry about building your own pool of customers from scratch. Thousands of people are already actively shopping and buying on Amazon each day, and if you can implement the right product descriptions and marketing approach within the platform, you have a good chance of tapping into this potential.

  • 126M people live in Japan, which is about twice that of the UK and almost 60% more than Germany
  • Japan is Amazon’s 3rd largest marketplace and growing rapidly
  • Amazon.co.jp comes in fifth place in the country’s national traffic rank with a total traffic of 576.94M, in the last six months

You Don’t Need to Build Your Own Website

One of the first concerns businesses entering Japan for the first time have is how to go about building web presence and creating a website that not only reflects their brand, but also caters to the local market.

If you’ve ever built your own website before, you’ll know it can take a great deal of time to get right, and much longer than you think to regularly maintain and promote through an integrated SEO and PPC marketing strategy (things which are necessary if you want to drive serious traffic to your website).

This process, as you might have guessed, will be more taxing when you’re operating in Japan. Going beyond just translations of your website copy, the whole experience will need to be localized and optimized for your new market, which includes adapting visuals, landing pages, and even your promotional copy and headlines to better connect with Japanese users. When you’re selling on Amazon, you don’t need to worry about building your own website or many of the complicated things that come with it.

Having said this, developing a strong multi-lingual e-commerce website optimized for conversions in the Japanese market will give you more control and flexibility when it comes to branding, sales funnels, and overall promotional potential, so it’s worth considering this option if you’re thinking about operating in Japan for many years to come.

Also, remember that to sell on Amazon Japan, you’ll need to pay a fee. The Professional selling plan is available for under 5,000 JPY monthly (approximately 47 USD), plus referral fees, which vary by category. And if you’re using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), this will require an additional cost for handling the packing, delivery, and customer service for your products.
Contact Us More More Advice on Building Brand Presence in Japan.

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Leverage Amazon FBA for Immediate Sales

Courier delivering package for merchants who sell on Amazon Japan

The true value of using Amazon Japan is its FBA service. Much like it’s an identical program in other markets, such as the US or the UK, the FBA scheme handles much of the heavy lifting of running an ecommerce business so you don’t have to.

Of course, this will come with an added cost, but many merchants believe this is worth it due to the inherently higher conversion potential of leveraging the scheme’s features, such as greater customer satisfaction rates and reliable fulfillment processes.

To put it simply, when someone orders and pays for one of your products through the Amazon Japan platform, Amazon will process the transaction for you and ship it out to the customer on your behalf. As well as matching orders with products from their warehouse, they’ll handle the packaging and make sure it arrives within a few days of the order being placed.

For Western brands who are new to Japan, this sidesteps many of the complicated logistical processes that are hard to set up for the first time, such as storing your products and dealing with couriers. This also means you get to spend more time focusing on the brand and business development aspects of your business, such as sourcing new inventory, analyzing your new market, and adapting your marketing messages to drive greater sales. In a basic sense, this is how Amazon’s FBA program works:

  1. Apply for merchant status and register your business
  2. Send your products to Amazon’s FBA warehouse
  3. Let Amazon categorize and store your products
  4. Wait for customers to buy your products
  5. Amazon ships your product out
  6. Amazon handles most of the customer service (more on this below!)
  7. You receive payment

Customer Service Support

Customer service is important to people’s choice of and loyalty to a brand. As well as becoming one of the most important brand differentiators, 61 percent of respondents surveyed in a Microsoft Research survey have switched brands due to poor customer service.

Amazon Japan doesn’t cover everything customer service related for you, but it does do a lot. When your customer receives your product, they will follow up to make sure the order has been delivered successfully through its tailored customer email deliveries. If any requests for returns or questions about the quality are received, they will also handle this.

What they don’t cover, however, is the direct feedback you receive on your product listings, which you’ll have to sort out yourself. You will be expected to have sufficient Japanese customer service support enough to respond and take action on these kinds of matters.

Customer service support to help merchants sell on Amazon Japan

Existing Logistics Pipelines

The Amazon FBA program is one of the most scalable business models out there. You’re not capped by the amount of inventory you can hold or deliver at any one time through your own logistics pipeline. If you’re receiving greater volumes of orders, it’s easy to increase your supply to the FBA warehouse and let Amazon employees handle the rest.

Through their arrangements with major shipping and delivery companies, Amazon Japan enjoys the kind of discounts that you could only dream of. And these benefits will pass on to you in a small way, through reduced shipping costs and greater reliability for customers.

Compete Against Big Brands

We’ve spoken before about how certain ecommerce platforms have leveled the playing field when it comes to competition between small and big brands. Amazon Japan is one of the best examples of this in action, with all types of products and companies directly competing against each other, largely based on the quality of their listings and their pricing.

While some businesses will tap into an existing brand presence in Japan, others will find their success purely through designing a robust business model around Amazon. We’re not saying it’s easy, but there’s a much lower barrier to entry when it comes to capturing segments of your desired market than through other mediums and channels.

Develop an Advantage

To be successful when competing against other brands selling on Amazon Japan, you’ll need to identify your disadvantages. If you’re going up against someone who sells a very similar product to yours, you need to know exactly how you will compare and where your weaknesses lie. Similarly, you should establish the areas where you can outcompete others in your space. Some questions to ask yourself when doing this are:

  • Is your brand distinctive from others who sell similar products? Are there ways for you to be unique or disruptive in the market?
  • Are you priced competitively against other brands who show up in the same search results?
  • Have you built up a formidable base of customer product reviews and testimonials for your great quality customer service
  • Are you leveraging your product descriptions, visuals, and advertising content effectively?

With some careful mapping of your competitive landscape, you should find a gap to start focusing on. For example, your bigger competitors might have invested more into their branding, but if you can beat them on price, you can still edge your way in.

Learn More About How to be a Successful Amazon Seller in Japan

Advertising Features and Tools

Amazon Japan offers merchants a number of advertising features and tools. Some will work to increase the loyalty of customers to the ecommerce platform itself, while others can have a more direct impact on your brand.

Products gift wrapped to sell on Amazon Japan

Ratings and Reviews

Amazon learnt long ago that people buy more when they’re able to see what others think about the product. And in Japan where consumers are much more likely to diligently check, review, and cross compare their products before committing to a purchase, having a robust ratings and review system within the Amazon Japan platform is a great resource. After all, several studies have shown that reviews are used by customers to determine the quality of businesses and their products.

HB Pro Tip: If your products have multiple size/color/style variations, it’s better to keep them under one parent listing, with multiple variations, rather than as separate items. This will help to aggregate and improve the ratings and reviews for your products.

Amazon Prime

Each ecommerce platform usually comes with its own customer loyalty program, and Amazon Prime is one of the best case studies for how this kind of initiative can work. With a strong and growing membership base, it continues to turn adhoc shoppers into loyal customers.

Gift Wrapping

Gift wrapping and presents delivered during specific holidays and seasons in Japan are huge! There are a number of Japanese traditions and events that will require households and individuals to buy presents for their friends and families. For example, “Ochugen” (midsummer gifts) and “Oseibo” (end-of-year gifts) are the two major times for giving gifts to people in Japan.

Having a way to offer different types of packaging for specific situations is a huge draw for Japanese online shoppers and could contribute to a sales spike around important gift-giving seasons.

What Else?

Sellers on Amazon Japan can also make the most of a flurry of platform-based advertising and promotional tools, such as:

  • Amazon Sponsored Products (ASP) – ads that appear like regular search results, with an image and product name. You only pay a fee when someone clicks on the ad.
  • Amazon Lightning Deals – discounts that apply to a small number of items for a limited period of time. These deals run until the promotion ends or all the stock is sold out.
  • Product Display Ads – ads appear on related product detail pages meaning you’re essentially advertising your product on your competitors’ pages.
  • Amazon Sponsored Brands – ads that appear in search results and feature your brand logo, a custom headline, and up to three of your products.

HB Pro Tip: We’ve found that the Amazon Algorithm (A9) can be somewhat unpredictable and ranking organically in search results can take a considerable amount of time, as well as dedication to specific keyword targeting and increasing sales velocity. However, while you’re still cracking the code, Ads and Deals are an easy and quick way to reach your audience within the platform by targeting branded, non-branded and competitor-related keywords; whole product categories or specific product ASINs. As such, you’ll take out the initial guesswork when you’re trying to scale your operations on Amazon Japan.

Learn How to Support Your Ecommerce Efforts with a Winning Japanese PPC Campaign

A Reliable Experience

Customer happy with the shopping experience when you sell on Amazon Japan
One reason Amazon is so popular across the world is its reliable customer experience. As well as fast shipping, professional handling of customer’s complaints, and low prices, the overall process generally leaves Amazon shoppers satisfied with their online shopping experience.

As you would expect, Amazon employs a full team of UX professionals in everything from user research and interaction design to web development. Everything is aimed at creating a seamless customer experience to drive more conversions for its sellers. This includes recommendations, categories, navigation menus, and overall presentation.

Merchants can also enjoy a smooth experience as they handle their operations through their seller accounts. With a familiar English friendly interface that allows you to easily create products listings and manage your Amazon store, it’s an easy choice for those who already have experience on this platform, either as a buyer or a seller.

Essential Facts and FAQs

Is there English Support?

Yes. Amazon Japan has both English and Japanese seller support you can contact. However, having a local Japanese contact can help you navigate things faster as the English-speaking individuals are often working on multiple markets and may not be “onsite” to move things as quickly for you.

Is the Amazon interface in English?

Yes. You can easily toggle between a Japanese or English interface, meaning you and your Japanese sales team can operate the dashboard in the language that’s comfortable for you.

Do I need a Japanese Bank Account?

No. Unlike other Japan ecommerce platforms, you won’t need a local bank account to process payments.

Do I need Japanese business registration or a branch office?

No. You don’t need to set up and register a business in Japan in order to sell on Amazon Japan.

What about Japanese taxes?

You will only need to pay consumption tax and import duties when your goods arrive in Japan. However, you will have to pay more taxes when your sales surpass a certain threshold.

Do I need to build a localized Amazon Japan marketing strategy?

Yes, Japan is a homogenous culture (most don’t speak English) and has some unique expectations. We explain in more detail below!

Localize Your Amazon Marketing Strategy

Merchants preparing to sell on Amazon Japan
We’ve mentioned that Amazon Japan might be an easier first step to getting started with your Japanese ecommerce venture compared to other platforms like Rakuten, but this doesn’t necessarily make it perfect and there are still some very real commitments you will have to make to localizing your product content and marketing strategy. If this step is skipped, you’ll never reach your full potential when you sell on Amazon Japan.

Product descriptions, labels, instructions, size information, and page interfaces all need to be diligently translated to Japanese by experts. And this is even more crucial if you’re competing against Japanese companies who already have a good handle on the market. If your customers can find the same product from a local seller, there’s a high chance they’ll choose them over you if your content isn’t 100% localized for the Japanese market.

Also, similar to Google, Amazon is a search engine that pulls various results for you based on search terms and keywords entered. As such, using the right Japanese keywords and content is extremely important for ranking well in search results and ads. We recommend working with Japanese native speakers to implement your product description effectively to maximize on the potential the platform has to offer.

HB Pro Tip: Focus on optimizing titles and product descriptions for Amazon SEO, in addition to implementing compelling USPs targeted at Japanese audiences. In our own experience, we’ve found this can contribute to an increase in conversions of up to 45%.

For more information on how to localize your content and marketing efforts for Japan, check out our blog post: Localization and Sales on E-Commerce Websites in Japan.

Will My Product Sell on Amazon Japan?

Finally, Amazon Japan isn’t right for every product. While some brands will find huge success here, others may fail to achieve traction against Japanese competitors in their market. Much of this comes down to understanding your product, audience, competitors, and your ability to adapt your approach to the Japanese market.

Sometimes this simply comes down to presentation and changing the way you promote your product, or adjusting its unique value proposition. However, some important final questions to ask yourself before you start to sell on Amazon Japan are:

  • Is there a demand for my product on the platform?
  • Is there a profit to be made when I price my product competitively?
  • Do I need to adapt my product to better connect with Japanese consumers?

Ultimately, using Amazon Japan to enter the Japanese market is just one route to success. We recommend evaluating the potential benefits and requirements of each platform fully before you commit to any particular channel.

Contact Us for Help with Your Japan ECommerce Localization Strategy

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