Japan is the third largest economy entity in the world with a population of 127 million. Japan has a unique basic environment, which makes it a fertile ground for cross-border e-commerce. They have the habit of shopping online with an average online spending $1,164. The Japanese e-commerce market is expected to be worth more than $113 billion by 2022, according to data.
Japanese internet starts early and the number of Internet users ranks fifth in the world. The internet penetration is 94%. And to provide a clearer picture of Japanese e-commerce markets, internet usage can be divided into different age groups: 96% of 16-24 year old, 96% of 25-34 year old and 98% of 35-44 year old log on daily. The older generations also log on regularly with 45-54 year old with 94% and those over 55s showing 95% daily penetration rate.
● value product quality
Japanese consumers care a lot about product quality and also some details about products, including packaging, labels and even shopping credentials.
● high repurchase rate
Once Japanese consumers have approved a brand, they will have a great dependence on this brand, so the repurchase rate will be high.
● low return rate
Because the Japanese have high requirement of the quality as well as the display form and effect of products in the process of purchase. So once a product is selected, it is rarely returned.
● high retention rate
After purchasing the products, if they are satisfied with the goods, they will make a true evaluation of the products. This may be due to the rigorous work attitude of the Japanese.
● sales peak caused by bonus time
Every year in Japan, bonuses will be paid in July and December, the amount of which is no less than three months ‘salary, so July and December are the peak months of shopping. Amazon’s July store celebration, as well as the December holiday season — Christmas, black Friday and cyber Monday — coincide with this state of the market.
● best shopping time for Japanese consumers
Noon: 12:00-13:00, night:20:00-24:00 will be relatively concentrated. According to Japanese national condition, Japanese consumer rarely shop in working time, instead, they choose to shop after work commonly.
Hot sell category
● toys, hobbies and DIY products
Toys, hobbies and DIY categories are Japan’s most popular e-commerce categories. Most of the products listed by e-commerce sellers are mainly products related to animation and game characters, with popular subcategories including stationery, lucky charms and video games.
● furniture and appliances
The second most popular category in the Japan’s e-commerce market is furniture and home appliances, with home decor and kitchen products being the largest subcategory.
● food and personal care
While most consumers still shop for groceries, especially fresh food, at physical store, shopping for snacks and foreign delicacies online is common.This is mainly because of the convenience of online shopping, and some foreign products cannot be bought in Japan. In addition, the demand for health products from the United States and skin care products from France is particularly high in Japan.
● electronics and media products
While consumers prefer to try out electronics in stores before buying them, they also check product reviews and prices on e-commerce sites.
● fashion products
Clothing and fashion accessories are growing in Japan, as in other markets around the world. It is usually the most listing and subcategory category on e-commerce platforms.
One online purchasing trend that cannot be ignored is the rapid increase in “M-Commerce” – mobile ecommerce transactions. Nearly 60% of all online transactions take place on mobile platforms. Popular ecommerce platforms such as Amazon Japan, Rakuten, and Zozo have readily available applications to facilitate mobile commerce setup.
There are four different categories of e-commerce platforms in Japan where businesses can sell their products online: e-commerce marketplaces, apparel-specific marketplaces, free market apps, and handmade product platforms.
Under this category falls the most popular e-commerce platforms such as Amazon Japan, Rakuten and Lohaco (Yahoo! Shopping Japan) which accounts for almost 50% of e-commerce sales in Japan. Historically, Rakuten has been the clear leader, but in recent years Amazon Japan has increased its presence in the market by investing in its own network of distribution centers. It was announced last year that the Amazon Japan website will accept UnionPay cards to attract more customers from the overseas Chinese market. Rakuten remains competitive but Yahoo! Shopping Japan has lost market share allowing Amazon Japan to continue its steady growth.
2. Apparel–specific Marketplaces
Japan has several unique platforms dedicated to selling apparel products and sometimes jewelry. Within the apparel industry, the share for e-commerce sales totals to 10.93% in 2016 and this number has been steadily rising. Among the top online marketplaces for apparel are Zozotown and Uniqlo. Zozotown holds the top spot for apparel online stores in Japan with a market capitalization amounting to $9.1 billion.
3. Free Market Apps
In 2017, METI reports emphasized the rapid growth of net auction sites where free market applications’ worth amounted to 483.5 billion yen, an increase of 58.4% from 2016. This drastic climb is likely to continue, making free market apps one of Japan’s most lucrative markets. One of the top free market e-commerce platforms is Mercari, dubbed as Japan’s startup unicorn, which was valued to be over 109 billion yen in 2016.
4. Handmade Product Platforms
There are about 40 major platforms in the handmade marketplace in Japan. This market doubled in 2014 from 3.5 billion to 7.8 billion yen, which indicates a significant potential for further growth.
One of the leading e-commerce platforms for handmade products is Creema. Since its foundation in 2010, Creema now houses over 60,000 registered creators, listing over 2.4 million handmade items. The online handmade market has achieved incredible development in Japan, indicating consumers’ interest in affordable but unique and high-quality products.
Top 5 E-commerce platforms
Top 1 Rakuten
Rakuten Ichiba still sits as the most popular ecommerce platform in Japan with more than 227 million products. Almost all products are available on the platform. The Rakuten platform has a large number of product pictures, very discounted promotions and points programs to encourage consumers to buy more products.
Ecommerce isn’t all they do. With over 70 business ventures, they also have a stake in digital content, communications, FinTech, and so much more. They host Japan’s largest online bank as well as the number one credit card company in the country. They are no doubt a force to be reckoned with on the global scale, operating in 29 countries and raking in €7.5 billion in 2017.
Rakuten Anti-Counterfeiting Efforts: In 2007, Rakuten launched a program called the Rakuten “Quality Assurance” Shopping Service which cooperated with brands to ensure the authenticity of the products being listed on their platform. They work with over 1,100 brands in Japan to keep the counterfeiters at bay.
Top 2 Amazon Japan
Japan recently bumped up as the second-largest foreign market for Amazon, with Germany taking the runner-up position. Amazon Japan has seen immense growth in regional popularity over the last few years. Amazon Japan has the same interface as other amazon platforms, but in Japanese, English and simplified Chinese. Currently, amazon Japan has more than 200 million products on its website.
They’re also the most successful international retailer in the nation by becoming the first foreign firm to surpass 1 trillion Japanese yen, which translates to nearly 8 billion euro. They’ve invested a great amount in setting up a local distribution network in the country, simplifying the accessibility of their vendors to their online retailing. In 2017, they managed to amass more than €11 million in revenue.
Amazon Anti-Counterfeiting Efforts: Though they abide by only selling authentic goods, they also state on their website: “It is each seller’s and supplier’s responsibility to source, sell, and fulfill only authentic products.” If they find out an item breaches their standards, they will rectify it by removing and terminating the account.
Top 3 Yahoo Japan Shopping
Though Yahoo Japan’s eCommerce platform dipped by 5% in their revenue over 2017, they still took in a whopping €491 million in operating profit, placing them as one of the most popular online marketplaces in Japan.
Yahoo Japan Anti-counterfeiting Efforts: On their website, they state that they have implemented “control measures and system enhancements” to better protect their customers, as well as taking measures to preserve the IP rights of the rights holders. They’ve partnered with a number of third parties to actively combat counterfeit listings, but awareness should still be maintained.
Top 4 Kakaku.com
Unlike our previous three listings, the next eCommerce site on the list has a rather different approach to online shopping services. Kakaku is a Japanese price aggregator website and is touted as the “price comparison king.” Unlike a traditional online marketplace, Kakaku offers shoppers detailed price comparison’s so they can easily find the best deals. Once a shopper finds their preferred item, they are then redirected to the online store where they can directly by the item. Founded in 1997, it’s had a steady pace of growth throughout the previous two decades. Their revenue until March 2018 is listed at €371.5 million.
Kakaku Anti-Counterfeiting Efforts: Not much can be said of their anti-counterfeiting efforts, as there is no noted policy on their website. Keep in mind, they are still accountable for counterfeit listings because the trademark is used on their website in the course of trade.
Top 5 Zozotown
Focusing solely on apparel, Zozotown sneaks in at the number five spot on Japan’s most popular eCommerce platforms, with a market cap just under €8 billion. Founded in Tokyo in 2004, Zozotown has gone on to become Japan’s largest online fashion retailer, besting out close competitor Uniqlo.
Zozotown Anti-Counterfeiting Efforts: In perusing some message boards, it appears that some shoppers have encountered fakes on Zozotown before, but their website doesn’t appear to state anything about potential counterfeit concerns.
There are no prominent third-party payment platforms in Japan, where direct bank transfers and credit card payments are common. But consumers prefer to use cash and credit cards at shopping stores. On the other hand, mobile payments and electronic wallet payments are also on the rise. In addition to credit cards, they prefer to pay by cash on delivery when shopping online.
Japan is an island country and its distribution speed and quality are very stable. Except Okinawa and shikoku island, items can be signed in one or two days generally. Japan’s logistics industry is quite mature, with the highest level of refined logistics management in the world, and the entire popularization of regular distribution. With amazon FBA, Chinese sellers can offer Japanese consumers priority delivery that can reach at same-day and next-day.
It is known that Japan’s express companies are mainly three, yamato, sagawa emergency and Japan post. But for the customs are strict with the inspection of products, not professional or not in accordance with the requirements to declare goods, will often encounter inspection and withholding, resulting in a lot of costs and delays.
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