9 Easy Steps to Sell Successfully on Amazon Japan

Mia Kovacevic / 7 min read

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!

Wait, are we talking about New York? Yes, and the U.S. as a whole. It’s often thought that if you can conquer the U.S. market, you are a success. 

But, it’s now time to rethink that approach. When starting your Amazon journey the whole process can seem like a race to the bottom. And it is getting more and more crowded: 1,029,528 new sellers have joined Amazon this year.

How to stand out in an over-saturated market when you feel like everyone is doing the exact same thing? Find another market. 

You’ll most likely achieve more success at a faster rate in a smaller market. There’s less competition, less investment, and less stress outside the U.S.

Here we’ll look at how to succeed in selling your products on Amazon Japan using these 9 strategies.

For more detailed info, check out our video on how to start selling on Amazon.jp:

 

1. Big Fish, Little Pond:

Sellers across any type of business want to conquer the U.S. market. The reason is obvious. The U.S. offers enormous opportunity to reach seemingly insatiable consumers (take a look at these stats). But, with that opportunity comes stiff competition.

By focusing on Amazon.jp, you’ll have the chance to be the big fish in the little pond.

Mastering success in smaller markets still offers a large piece of the pie, but with a lot less competition.  click to tweet

After the U.S., the three largest Amazon markets are Germany, Japan, and the UK.

In 2016, Japan had $10.8 billion in sales on Amazon and it’s certainly grown by leaps and bounds since then. It’s also the fastest growing Amazon marketplace globally.

While, it will never be as large as the U.S. market, establishing your brand now within the Japanese market will lead to long-term success.

2. Get Language Help from the Pros

Are you proficient in Japanese on a native-speaker level? We’ll assume your answer to this question is “No”. (If you responded with はい (Hai), feel free to skip to #3)

Get help from a team of professionals to navigate not only the language but the Japanese market. If you’re serious about Japan, you need a Japanese virtual assistant (VA). They will understand these nuances and can handle them for you.

You can outsource completely your listing translation and automation with a service like Optimize.

In addition, Upwork is a great place to find a VA. Look for someone who speaks English and who has experience working with Amazon.

You will also need a VA for customer support if you do not speak Japanese.

When it comes to the Japanese language and alphabet, it can be a challenge to figure out how to do a PPC campaign.

(See: How to launch your product using Amazon PPC)

Spaces between characters can enormously affect the search results and conversion rates for Amazon.co.jp. The space between characters and other nuances are something that you will either have to figure out or have someone else do for you.

If you decide to go it alone, make note of all the different variations and implementations of each keyword with different character spaces and then analyze what is working and what’s not in terms of views, conversion rates, etc.

In the search term reports, the PPC doesn’t have an API for Japan. So, if you’re using one of the PPC tools, it is slightly restrictive on what you can do for Japan.

Google Japan is better than Amazon in terms of handling the language, but Amazon is starting to keep up.

For example, Japan has three alphabets, but Amazon has made it possible to simply type in a keyword in one alphabet and they will do the rest without needing to input the words in all three languages.

Aside from that, you should be using the same techniques that you use in any other market to analyze whether or not a keyword is working. It’s not insurmountable. You can work it out. 

3. Avoid Stereotypes

It goes without saying that every country has its own culture, language, traditions, and habits.

Take some time to do a bit of research about Japan or any market where you plan to sell. Become familiar with your audience.

Be sure to avoid stereotypes and generalizations. Also, don’t make assumptions about markets, which we’ll explain below in No. 4.

4. Back-to-School Does Not Mean Japanese Pumpkin Lattes

Back-to-school in the U.S. is synonymous with the end of summer, the beginning of fall, and the launch of pumpkin-flavored everything.

It’s the season when everyone slips back into their work routine—even those who don’t have kids.

But did you know that back-to-school in Japan happens in April?

Cater your sales and messaging to families that’s seasonally appropriate when it comes to weather, habits, and traditions. Don’t assume that global consumers are on the same schedules as U.S. or European consumers.

Additionally, if you sell holiday-related products, carefully consider it for Japan. Japanese people take time off from work for three major occasions during the year.

There’s Golden Week in May, Obon in mid-August, and the New Year Holiday in January. If you are trying to sell vacation and holiday-themed items year-round, it may be a tough sell in this market.

Related: The Amazon FBA Seller's Calendar 

5. Big City, Small Spaces

It is estimated that one-fifth of the Japanese population lives in Tokyo. In general, Japanese people tend to settle around a small number of very large cities.

Much like the residents of New York City or London, this means people are living in small but expensive apartments. Keep in mind what their needs will be when shopping.

You can probably rule out selling gardening equipment. But, amazing storage solutions as well as practical and small gadgets to simplify life will garner more sales.

6. The Perfect Pair: Death & Taxes

In the U.S., there are some perfect pairs.

There’s Mac & Cheese, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Bert & Ernie, and Death & Taxes. While that last one isn’t perfect, it’s an inevitable pair that Americans are all too familiar with.

Taxes on Amazon can get complicated across U.S. states. In Japan, this process is much simpler. There’s an 8% consumption tax (scheduled to increase to 10% in October 2019).

As a Japanese entity, you don’t have to pay that consumption tax until you reach the threshold of 10 million yen, which is about $100,000.

Up to the half million mark in retail, you only have to pay 25% of the 8%, so you’re only paying about 2% in taxes.

You can void all consumption tax on your PPC campaigns. You will have a monthly fee on your Amazon account, but if you are a foreign entity you won’t have to pay tax.

7. Less Competition = Lower Costs

Less competition in the Japanese market means lower PPC costs. Even in a crowded niche, the most competitive keywords go for $1 (and that is high for Japan).

There are no $3, $4, $5 PPCs in Japan. In the U.S., you have to go for sub-sub-categories to have a chance of making it to the top of Amazon’s rankings.

In Japan, you can start with a broader category and still dominate. 

8. No Returns? Is that Possible?

The Japanese culture does not lend itself to the practice of returning products.

They’ll complain about a product in a review, but they won’t return it. The Japanese will return an item for a legitimate reason such as a broken product.

We all know that Americans and Europeans are very different in this regard. Both sets of consumers know they can return the product before they even place the order. Many consumers purchase a few options to make their decision from the comfort of their home.

They simply return the unwanted items. It’s a convenience for the consumer but it’s an expense and a hassle for the seller.

9. Promotions Materials STILL Work in This Market

We’ve established that there is less competition in the Japanese market. As a result, there’s less promotional materials pitched to Japanese consumers.

When they do receive something, they are more inclined to take action. They will respond to inserts included in packaging, emails, and Facebook ads.

Inserts are one of the least expensive and most effective ways to garner product reviews and future sales. Include inserts as soon as you get started selling in Japan.

Facebook ads are also still effective in Japan and they are less expensive than in other markets. Use them to your advantage.

Amazon has not banned product warranties in Japan as they have in the U.S.

A great idea is to offer a one-year warranty to anyone who leaves a product review on Amazon. We have determined that Japanese people REALLY read reviews.

They’ll read through every review and will even mention that they read every review in their own review. These consumers are very meticulous when choosing products.


These are simple and effective ways to reach the Japanese consumer and catapult your sales.

The Japanese market is full of untapped potential. If you are ready to start on a path to success, we can help you with your launch.

Book a free consultation call with our Amazon Account Success Manager and get your strategy for launching on Amazon.jp today.

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Picture of Mia Kovacevic

Mia Kovacevic

CEO
As a part of Remote Judo Team, Mia is traveling to a new country every three months, chasing summer and breathtaking sunsets, while sharing insights from different Amazon markets and stories of inspiring entrepreneurs she meets on the way.