Navigating Japanese E-commerce [Webinar]

May 24, 2012 by Elan Sherbill.

If you’ve been wondering how to tap into the Japanese digital e-commerce market, you’ve come to the right place. A few weeks ago, we posted our “Introduction to Navigating Japanese E-commerce” to prepare for the webinar by Yosuke Ito. This webinar, hosted by Chief Blogger Craig Vodnik helps e-commerce managers by reviewing the five keys to selling software online in Japan:

  • Language barriers
  • Web design and UX
  • Currency and payment methods
  • Testing different hardware environments
  • Customer support

You can play this YouTube version of the webinar to learn more about this fascinating subject. Some excellent questions were posed by attendees at the end of the webinar which we have transcribed below.

What percentage of online sales are for software products?

We did some research looking for that data. We found that in the US, according to data from Forrester, the software market itself, or rather the SaaS market in the US is 10% of the overall software market. To extrapolate to Japan, if you were to assume the overall percentage is a little less, let’s say 5%, you’re still looking at a $20 billion market for software in Japan.

 The good thing about the Japanese market is that once a trend is accepted, everyone follows it. So if we already see that SaaS is expected to grow over 2000% in the next ten years, even without specific numbers, we can see that the market is growing.

I’ve noticed that many Japanese companies include some boilerplate content on their websites: company information like market cap, date of incorporation, etc. Is this mandatory in the Japanese market?

It is not mandatory but it is a common way to size up a company, to measure a company’s success by how long it had existed and how many people work there. The longer a company has been around and the more people that work there indicate how reliable and successful that company is to a Japanese customer. This is the reason why you may see information like this on Japanese sites. What is most important to Japanese visitors is to see information that shows local addresses and whether support is given by native Japanese, as Japanese consumers prefer to deal with Japanese companies.

American customers almost never use bank transfers to pay for things online, whereas in Germany about 40% of orders are paid with bank transfers. Do Japanese customers prefer wire transfers as an online payment method?

In the past, bank transfers were a very common way to remit payment and in online business, credit cards were not that popular. However, as time has progressed, fears of mass fraud have not occurred so that the use of credit cards has grown a lot in online shopping. It’s also important to understand that Japanese consumers have a lot of protection when it comes to credit card fraud, so they are more willing to provide that information online. Still, Japan is considered a cash oriented culture and the use of Konbini as a payment method is popular.

Is there a big difference between western user interfaces for software and Japanese UI for software?

Since most software is not native to Japan, the look and feel of western software is familiar to Japanese users. Still, the language elements, especially the written ones, need to be changed for a Japanese audience.

How well is software received if the program is localized but documentation is not localized?

It’s important to understand that Japanese consumers read product manuals thoroughly; it’s the first thing they do when they buy a product. If the manual is in English, this presents a big issue. So even if the website is localized, but the product documentation is not, a Japanese consumer may be turned off.

Are there any special differences in the enterprise and consumer markets?

B2B online sales are not popular. Due to the requirement of purchase orders, companies are reluctant to use corporate credit cards to purchase software online.

Do Japanese consumers prefer instructions through printed or video media?

There is a generation gap here. For some reason, the older generation is more comfortable reading written instructions, while the younger generation prefers instructional videos.

Tell us below in the comment section about your interest in selling software in Japan.

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