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  • Kristie Wong

    Kristie Wong

    Marketing Specialist

    Contributor. Currently based in Tokyo. A third culture kid from Australia, Hong Kong and San Francisco. Lover of social technology and pop culture, and always excited for a good brand story.

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  • Oct 29, 2014


Selling in Japan: Driving Japanese E-Commerce Traffic and Revenue (Part 1)

This article is a continuation of the “Selling in Japan” series. In the previous article, we talked about how to get started in e-commerce in Japan and the different platforms you could use to sell. But once you’ve set up your online store, then what?

This part of the series is based on our eponymous webinar by btrax CEO Brandon Katayama Hill and e-commerce consultant Ayaka Matsui. It will be split into three parts and published in the following installments:

1) How to attract users and gain traffic

2) How to convert traffic into sales

3) How to retain your customers

This article will address the first topic: How to attract users and gain traffic. We will cover some of the most common and effective methods used by Japanese e-commerce merchants to attract users to their stores.

How to Attract Users and Gain Traffic

1. Set Featured Product to Attract Audience

One common method to acquire traffic, whether online or offline, is to set a featured product that displays prominently in the store to help attract eyeballs. This method is often seen employed in physical stores – where interesting items selling for very low prices are displayed at the front of the store to entice potential customers to walk in.

We also see this method used in online stores, whether it’s advertising sale items at the forefront of the store page or on other ad platforms. This helps induce users to click on the ad to browse the rest of the store.


When you start your store for the first time, chances are not many people know about your store, so your first step is to let them know your store exists by attracting their attention. A good way to do this is to select a suitable product to discount heavily to drive traffic.

A 50-80% off discount plus free shipping is standard for brands executing this strategy. You probably won’t make a profit from this–in fact, you might even lose money, but the loss can be considered a marketing expense for attracting new customers.

2. Create Promotional Banner for External Sites

Creating promotional banners for your store is the next step to driving traffic. These banners should be displayed on external sites to help advertise your store.

Promotional banners in Japan have a very different look and feel compared to what customers are used to in the U.S. The design is generally very flashy with lots of bright colors and text.


3. Run Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is very common in Japan. Once you set up your store, you can sign up for one of the affiliate marketing companies such as or Value Commerce, and they will place your links on affiliate websites so you can gain referral traffic. You pay to the affiliate marketing company for placing your links only when someone clicks onto your site.


4. Run Banner Ads on E-commerce Marketplaces

The three main ways to sell online in Japan are:

a) Through an e-commerce marketplace like Rakuten or Amazon Japan

b) Using a hosted e-commerce service like BASE and (U.S. equivalents are Shopify or Volusion).

c) Installing e-commerce software solutions like EC-CUBE, Commerce21, or Live Commerce (U.S. equivalents are Magento and osCommerce).

If you choose to run your store through the first option, that is, to base your store on e-commerce marketplaces like Rakuten, then you can run banner ads and marketing campaigns on the front page of the marketplace website. You can expect some traffic using this method as the marketplace itself already has substantial traffic.


5. Setup a Blog

Reading blog articles on a daily basis is commonplace in Japan and blogging is one of the most popular ways to promote a brand or a product – be it running or own blog or getting your product featured on an influencer’s blog.

Thus, one of the most important things to do is to setup a blog for your store to talk about featured products or announce new arrivals. This will enable you to leverage the strong blogging community in Japan.


6. Leverage Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram

For your social strategy, Japan is Twitter’s second largest market and one in six Japanese people are active on Facebook, so setting up profiles there will help with branding and attracting traffic to your online store.


For more complex products that may be harder to explain with static images, Youtube is a great platform to use and is quite standard among merchants as well.


Instagram is also widely used for e-commerce in Japan and is a good way to gain traffic if your product as a strong aesthetic.


7. Run Magazine Ads

When it comes to offline marketing in Japan, magazine ads are very effective for online stores if you have the right budget, especially when it comes to branded or fashion products and consumer goods. There are many different types of magazines that satisfy a variety of niches in Japan, so targeting can be easy if you pick the right magazine within your niche.


You can see our full slidedeck on this topic on slideshare and also watch our webinar below.

If you have any questions on this topic or would like more information, you can email us at and we will respond accordingly.

To get updates on upcoming webinars, subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo by: Swang168


About btrax

btrax is an Innovation Design company specializing in UX and Service Design to create innovative products and services on a global scale.

We drive results through our dynamic team of experts based in San Francisco and Tokyo, with backgrounds in design, technology, and marketing.


  • Products and Service Development
  • Brand Development and Growth Strategy
  • Innovation Workshops
Learn more about btrax or contact us at to see how we can help your business.

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