How to sell a lot more to Japan, cut your customer service costs, improve customer retention and survive the impending shakeout.
1. Japan itself has a very mature, sophisticated mail order industry that is already responding aggressively to the craze for American goods. Unless you have a strategy for building strong brand awareness in Japan, odds are a Japanese competitor or a US-Japanese co-venture, is already planning to take over your niche and lock you out. Yes, you may be getting some "free" leads and sales today, but by acting passively you are missing the infinitely bigger prize, a permanent piece of "mind share" in the Japanese market.
2. Typically, Japanese consumers don't pay for purchases by credit card or even check. They overwhelmingly prefer electronic fund transfers through banks or post offices.
3. Japanese retail stores have conditioned Japanese customers to expect a very high level of service. To be competitive past the current boom and to retain your customers, you must be able to offer real-time inventory information, same or next-day shipment, and the ability to return goods, preferably in Japan, easily with a quick and cheerful refund.
4. Your product may be subject to tariffs and other import restrictions. If so, you need to familiarize yourself with these regulations thoroughly and advise your customers whatto expect in advance. Otherwise, your customers may find themselves being asked to pay large duties. If you haven't prepared them for this possibility, expect large and expensive returns.
5. Japanese consumers are more trusting than their American counterparts and more loyal. If you resolve a difficulty on the spot in favor of a Japanese consumer, you stand a good chance of winning his loyalty for life. You must keep in mind that Japanese society is based on a high level of courtesy and consumers there are very likely to form a very strong and permanent negative association with a company that they feel has treated them rudely or without consideration.
6. The appeal of American catalogs is their uniqueness so there is no need to adapt the look of your book to Japanese tastes. However, language, measurements, and currency is another matter. While all Japanese study English in school and many can read it, few gain any real fluency with the language. It is essential that detailed ordering instructions, guarantees, shipping information and other important business points be in Japanese. Also important: convert all measurements to the metric system and quote all prices in yen.
7. Watch your language. The Japanese language has many levels of formality and you must use the appropriate level for your customer group or you may confuse or, even worse, insult your audience. Poor use of Japanese implies poor quality and will kill sales to this quality-conscious country. You'll get much better results if your copy is written in Japanese, not translated from English to Japanese.