Initiative

Leading Edge Health (LEH) is a Canadian nutritional supplement company that sources, tests and forumulates high-quality nutraceutical products around anti-aging, skincare, men’s and women’s supplements, and more.

In 2017, LEH begun working with WPIC Marketing + Technologies to assist with the brand’s China market entry- from strategy development to execution and optimization. Over more than two years, the brand performed strongly in the Chinese market. 

As a result, LEH decided that they wanted to expand their APAC presence by entering the Japanese market through the country’s leading e-commerce channels. Thanks to a consumer emphasis on health as well as strong economic growth, it was believed that Japan would be the right market for APAC expansion for LEH.

However, LEH had no experience in Japan, and the market (from the consumer preferences, to the online platforms, to the marketing ecosystem) was completely different from the PRC’s, which meant that market entry would need to be tackled from the ground up.

Business Problem

LEH decided to expand to Japan through Rakuten (the country’s most popular e-commerce platform, colloquially referred to as the “Amazon of Japan”), however, it would not necessarily be a simple market entry:

  • Both Japanese commercial law and Rakuten’s terms and conditions have strict policies for brands that want to sell supplements and nutraceutical products to Japanese consumers.
  • Due to nuances in the language, LEH needed to be careful that their product descriptions and advertising did not characterize what was being sold as “medicine”, a significant difference from “supplements” in Japan. Failing to do so would be a major violation of Japanese commercial law. As a result, machine translations and human translators with poor understanding of the country’s pharmaceutical sector’s laws would not suffice. 
  • Beyond translation, the Japanese supplement industry is heavily regulated, which meant that LEH and WPIC needed to achieve full compliance around: 
    • Products sold 
    • Ingredients used 
    • Manufacturing procedures
    • Language used to describe products
    • And more.
  • Aside from Japanese commercial law, the Rakuten Ichiba platform has its own policies, targeted at any organization that wants to sell supplements online. Beyond the government’s policies, the marketplace has rules around both how certain products are sold, and how they are described. The platform takes product descriptions seriously, as Rakuten staff manually inspect each and every shop before launch.

DETAILS

Solution

In order to launch the store, WPIC needed to hire native Japanese translators with a high level of understanding of Japan’s Act on Securing Quality, Efficacy and Safety of Products Including Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices, to ensure that each product name, description and relevant fine print was written correctly for the market.

WPIC then went on to build LEH’s Rakuten Ichiba online storefront according to the platform’s guidelines and parameters. The build was done especially carefully, following Rakuten’s policies to the letter, as the LEH brand is a foreign supplement company (with product is imported from overseas), and its product descriptions are, by their nature, filled with health claims. It was assumed that Rakuten’s management would scrutinize the store quite stringently.

Next, the shop manager for the LEH Rakuten Ichiba store was required to take an assessment, ensuring that the market’s leading representative of the brand knew both the platform and the products inside and out. This was done to ensure that the store performs at a high level and drives success, both for the brand and for Rakuten.

Last, the store was submitted for an opening assessment by Rakuten’s management team, with a manual check to ensure that each storefront is in full compliance with the platform’s policies.

Result

Since launching in Q4 of 2019, the LEH Rakuten Ichiba has seen significant demand from Japanese consumers and strong performance in the market. However, efforts do not stop there, as the LEH store is consistently being updated to ensure continued growth for the brand.

With participation in the frequent sales and promotions that the platform hosts across most product categories, LEH has become a consistent participant in the nutritional supplement category, driving substantial brand growth.

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