Japan E-commerce 101
Japan E-commerce 101
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How big is Japan’s e-commerce market?
Japan ranks as the world’s fourth-largest e-commerce market, following China, the United States, and the United Kingdom. In 2018, Japan’s e-commerce market was valued at $166 billion USD. By the end of 2026, it’s expected to reach $325.9 billion USD.
Learn more about Japan’s e-commerce market with our infographic.
What are the top e-commerce platforms in Japan?
Rakuten and Amazon.jp are the two leading e-commerce platforms in Japan. In 2018, Japan’s External Trade Organization (JETRO) assessed that Amazon and Rakuten owned nearly the exact same percentage of Japan’s e-commerce market (20.2% and 20.1% respectively). That’s despite Rakuten having a 13-year head start.
Over the past few years, Rakuten has been making a push towards greater inroads in North America, attempting to challenge Amazon’s ubiquity in the e-commerce market. Much like the latter has done to the Japanese incumbent in its home country this past decade.
Competition between the two remains tight. Rakuten provides a vast range of services in Japan: it’s the country’s most popular credit card; the largest online internet bank; a wireless network; a travel agency; a messaging app; a golf reservation system; and much more. Does Amazon have the resources to surpass it?
Find out how Amazon.jp and Rakuten are battling to dominate Japan’s e-commerce market.
What are the differences between Rakuten and Amazon.jp?
There are a number of differences between Rakuten and Amazon.jp, the main one being how they work for brands. Amazon handles many parts of the buying process on behalf of its merchants. Rakuten, on the other hand, offers more of a partnership approach. Brands manage their own inventory and logistics, build their own stores, and provide their own customer services.
Amazon provides brands with ease and simplicity but gives them very little control over the customer experience on their stores. Whereas Rakuten gives brands complete control over the customer experience but ultimately demands greater resources. Brands that do have the resource typically find launching on Rakuten to be more desirable than leaving their brand and customer experience in the hands of Amazon— though many take a two-pronged approach and sell on both.
Discover the other differences between selling on Amazon.jp and Rakuten.
What are the differences between Japanese and Western consumers?
Consumers in Japan are more digitally savvy. Screens are much busier, and online shopping is a lot more popular with older generations than it is in the West.
Japanese consumers also have higher expectations around product information — people really want to get a feel for a product before purchasing it. As such, e-commerce sites tend to have complex layouts that include a lot of information packed into small spaces – that’s what customers expect. Fail to meet those expectations — be it through lack of relevant product information, photos, or customer reviews — and you’ll have a hard time converting consumers.
View the other differences between Japanese and Western consumers and find out why they’re important when it comes to marketing.
What are Japan’s most popular annual promotions?
There are a number of annual promotions in Japan that present enormous opportunities for brands. Some of those occasions align with days celebrated in the West (though they may be marked a little differently). Others you’ve probably never heard of before.
Christmas, for instance, isn’t an official holiday in Japan, but it is celebrated by Japanese consumers. The occasion is seen more as a time for couples to celebrate their romance and for friends to throw parties together, rather than a time for family. You’re also more likely to catch people eating KFC than turkey.
New Year (Shogastu) is Japan’s biggest annual event — and it’s tradition for all kinds of merchants to pack bags of unknown items and sell them at heavily discounted prices (known as “Fukubukuro” or “lucky bag”). The second-largest event is Obon.
Learn all about Obon and Japan’s other popular annual promotions in our infographic.