In May, btrax CEO Brandon Hill spoke at Tech in Asia Conference in Singapore about kickstarting a business in Japan. We converted the six steps he spoke about into an expanded webinar, which you can watch in the video below.
Japanese consumers spend a lot of money on goods and services. Foreign brands doing well in Japan include GAP, Budweiser, COACH, American Eagle Outfitters, Blue Bottle Coffee, Levi’s, Tesla and Harley Davidson.
Blue Bottle Coffee entered the Japanese market early this year and was very well-received on social media and press. The line outside the coffee shop was hours long. Harley Davidson sells more motorcycles than any other brand in Japan, which is surprising considering how many Japanese motorcycle brands there are.
(Image: Inside of Blue Bottle Coffee Company’s first Japan store. Source)
In terms of US technology companies, a few popular ones in Japan include Evernote, Expedia, Square, Twitter, Airbnb, and LinkedIn.
An interesting statistic is that Evernote receives 40% of their overall revenue from the Japanese market, which actually keeps the company afloat. Overall, Japanese consumers react positively to foreign brands and are willing to spend money on products and services.
Unique to Japan: Products by cloud-based services like Evernote and Dropbox are actually sold physically in store. While some Japanese consumers will download software online, many have a preference for buying physical versions of software from stores. This is partly because Japanese people are used to paying for good quality products and are often surprised when services are available for free online.
One key feature of Japanese consumers in terms of e-commerce is that they tend to order more per order and return less.
Japanese consumers culturally have a much lower tendency to return goods after purchasing them. Combined with the high tendency to spend more per order, these features make Japan a good place to set up an online storefront.
Below is the process for kickstarting your business in Japan.
Step 1) Localize your product
Start by localizing your product – that is, finding out how you can adapt to meet market needs. This process includes market research, analysis and user testing. btrax provides localization services that covers all the steps.
Step 2) Find a marketing partner
It’s important to find a marketing partner that understands your company’s products and needs. They should know the target market very well and be able to communicate well with you. This could be btrax, or it could be a partner based in the US with Japan marketing services, or a company based in Japan that can communicate well with foreign companies.
Step 3) Create a landing page
Today, you don’t necessarily have to have a real store in Japan to sell your product. In many cases, the first step to attracting customers or clients is to create a localized website.
Step 4) Run online marketing
The next step to attracting customers is to run online marketing to get traffic on your website. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. As long as you can run effective campaigns using social media and email, you should be able to get a decent number of customers coming to your website. From there, you can sell your products or get inquiries regarding your services.
Step 5) Get coverage from local media
Another important factor to entering the Japanese market successfully is to get news coverage from local media. This includes online and offline media, such as news sites, blogs, magazines, newspapers and so on. Once you get coverage, gaining customer attention will become a lot easier because Japanese consumers are influenced heavily by media.
btrax provides services to help you attract Japanese media attention. In addition, our Japanese blog receives over 350,000 page views per month in Japan, so we have internal resources to help you as well.
Step 6) Hire local staff
The final step is to hire local staff. Still, we’re not talking about setting up a corporate entity or office. If you feel comfortable enough to invest more, hiring a single country manager is a way to expand your business in Japan. See this article to learn more about how to hire a country manager in Japan.
Things you can start doing today
Launching your business in a different country is a lot of work, and the steps we’ve outlined above – if you were to do all of them – take a lot of planning before you can even execute. However, here are some things you can do today – no need to wait for all the other pieces to fall into place.
1) Creating a landing page
The concept of creating a landing page is pretty simple. Of course, there should be some thought put into how to localize your page for Japanese consumers, but creating the page itself is very easy and you can get started today.
2) Setup social media accounts
Twitter, Facebook, a blog… you don’t have to worry too much about Japan-specific channels because Japanese consumers have adapted to American social media. Additionally, Japanese consumers love reading blog articles so having a blog will help attract customers.
3) Acquire media coverage
This is very important. Once you get that, the rest will follow. You can submit a Japanese press release to various press release agencies for free.
Part 2 of this article will cover the case studies of companies we’ve helped launch in Japan over the past decade. If you are interested in kickstarting your business in Japan and have any questions on what you should do next, feel free to contact us! We have offices in San Francisco and Tokyo.