E-Commerce & Shipping Trends in Japan

If you want to plunge into the international eCommerce scene, Japan is an appealing choice. In revenue comparison, Japan is in third place after China and the United States, with a steadily growing market and rapid adoption of online shopping. 

Yet, here are some things to consider before deciding to invest in the land of the Sun. We recommend getting to know the eCommerce profile and Japan’s understanding of eCommerce. It’s also a good idea to take the shopping trends in Japan into consideration. What are the best shopping periods? How do Japanese people prefer to pay? What platforms do the shoppers use to purchase their goods? These are some elementary questions worth exploring before you embark on this journey.

Buckle up! In this article, we will discuss the eCommerce and Shopping Trends in Japan. Get to know your buyers and tailor your small shop according to their needs.

Japan – An eCommerce Profile

The Japanese market is distinguished by customers who are willing to spend on quality goods and companies with a strong global orientation and a willingness to invest in long-term, sustainable products and services. Japanese customers focus their purchasing decisions on value, quality, and style, and they prefer to know a lot of details before buying anything. While mobile prevalence is high, Japanese customers frequently use mobile to research items they want to buy but then switch to a PC to make the transaction.

For Japanese shoppers, quality matters more than quantity – leading to a higher average order value in Japan than in Western countries. However, this preference for quality over quantity is changing, with younger generations willing to shop for cheaper products and looking for ways to save money, which leads to discount stores and internet merchants seeing an increase in traffic.

Because of their aging population, Japanese shoppers have been known to be slow to embrace new practices in various areas. This, however, has seen drastic changes during the past few years. Traditional Japanese businesses have been pushed to undergo digital transformation since the majority of employees work from home. Many people acclimated to internet buying at an unprecedented rate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, more individuals are turning to digital platforms, media, and apps to order necessities online.

International eCommerce

Japanese eCommerce is heavily dominated by local companies. However international eCommerce is rapidly growing and day-after-day international small businesses deliver their goods to Japan. Cross-border spending accounts for 18 percent of total e-commerce, with China, the U.S., and Australia ranked as the top three overseas shopping destinations.

The expansion of overseas sellers can be seen in Shopify's sales numbers from the Black Friday Cyber Monday sales event in 2020, where the Japanese market witnessed the largest growth at 350%. Similarly, Amazon saw a significant 27.7% increase in sales in Japan in 2020.

For international merchants, one of the biggest challenges is the nation’s dependency on the Japanese language. Thus, investing in the Japanese language-supported eCommerce platform is essential in order to reach a decent amount of Japanese online shoppers. Language is not the only parameter that poses a challenge, but the web page layout and design of your eCommerce platform should be adapted to a style that the shoppers are accustomed to for easy access and navigation. Japanese web pages are often dense in images and text, with high levels of product information favored over white space.

Shopping Trends in Japan

Five categories are considered to be the most popular among Japanese shoppers. In 2022, Fashion is the largest segment accounting for 54.39% of the eCommerce revenue in Japan. It is followed by Electronics with 38.23%, and Beauty & Personal Care with 25.56%. Other significant categories are Furniture with 32.67% and Toys, Hobby & DIY with 20.88%. In 2025, Fashion is expected to account for 76.18% of the eCommerce revenue in Japan.   

You may want to take a closer look into the most current trends and see how your small business might be affected.

Shopping Periods in Japan

Japanese buyers shop throughout the year, however, in some time periods, there is a significant increase in the number of purchases. New Year's is the number one holiday in Japan when the Japanese clean their homes and buy new clothes. Furthermore, online spending in Japan is consistently greater during the summer months, when Japanese companies are known to issue yearly summer bonuses. The average worker bonus is approximately $3,000, and the majority of that bonus is spent on luxury products, leisure, and travel. White Day (March 14) and Christmas are two more spending holidays. Black Friday is rapidly gaining traction in Japan, with major local brands giving discounts since 2016.

Mobile and Social Commerce in Japan

In comparison to mobile commerce giants such as the United Kingdom and China, smartphone penetration in Japan is 46.8 percent, a far lower percentage. Japanese e-commerce titans are investing in mobile infrastructure in an attempt to increase mobile adoption. For example, Rakuten, which has at least 95 million registered customers in Japan, built its own mobile network in 2019. 

In 2021, mobile commerce in Japan increased at a compound annual growth rate of 13.6 percent. Despite Japan's normally rapid adoption of new technology, mobile commerce penetration still remains very low, accounting for little less than a quarter of total e-commerce revenues. Owing to the large aging population and preference to use desktops, this is an understandable factor. However, the younger generations are steadily changing the climate with the increased usage of smartphones and tablets.

Social media penetration is strong in Japan. With 93.8 million users and a penetration rate of 87%, it represents a platform where many brands connect with their shoppers and often use influencers to promote products usually through a variety of videos. 34% of Gen Z customers shop through Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.

Preferred Payment Methods for Online Purchases

In Japan, the most popular online payment option is credit or debit card, followed by bank transfers and cash. Digital wallets are still in their early stages, accounting for only 2% of payments last year. In Japan, the largest social media platform is LINE, a messaging app with its own payment system, followed by Twitter and Instagram.

Barriers to Cross-border eCommerce Development in Japan

In general, tariffs are generally low, yet Japan has various non-tariff obstacles that may impair business activity by obstructing or delaying the entrance of foreign items into Japan. US companies may still face non-tariff barriers in certain areas.

Narcotics and related items, firearms, firearm parts and ammunition, explosives and gunpowder, precursor materials for chemical weapons, germs that are likely to be used for bioterrorism, counterfeit goods or imitation coins or currency, obscene materials, or goods that violate intellectual property rights are all strictly prohibited from entering Japan. Other prohibited items include certain agricultural and meat products, endangered species, and things such as ivory, animal parts, and fur, the trading of which is prohibited by international convention.

Furthermore, Japan limits the import of certain products, including medical products, pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, and chemicals. Before these products are shipped to Japan, Japanese Customs checks and evaluates them for import compatibility. Importation and sale of those products may additionally necessitate licenses from applicable regulatory organizations. Certain chemicals and other additives in foods and cosmetics are strictly regulated and adhere to a "positive list" approach.

Shipping with PackageHopper to Japan

Does Japan sound like the perfect place to expand your small business? Do your research, decide on your expansion strategy and leave shipping to us.

Partner up with PackageHopper for an outstanding experience in shipping to Japan. We can pass on our bulk-shipping discounts to our consumers because of our long-term connections with leading carriers. This means you can transport larger packages without paying a higher charge.

PackageHopper was created to help members find the best shipping options for sending packages anywhere around the globe. Have you used our PackageHopper services to send items to loved ones overseas? Let us know how you brightened someone's day using PackageHopper Express on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter