Online Shopping Trends in Japan

We all know that borders disappear when shopping online, and Japan is a top market that US and European retailers have their eye on. Here are some of the more common FAQs we hear from foreign retailers:

Mobile traffic and sales in Japan are higher than other markets. Why is that and how can these lessons be applied to other emerging markets?

In 2013, ecommerce transactions were 15.9 trillion yen, which was 5.6% of all retail transactions. Out of that, 74.2% transactions were through PC devices, 16.4% were smartphones, 5% were feature phones, and 4.4% were tablets. Mobile shopping is the fastest-growing segment in Japan's ecommerce sector. The top ecommerce retailer, Rakuten Ichiba, has announced significant growth from mobile transactions, a 62.8% increase from the previous year.

This survey shows which devices are used to search and compare products online. For example, the fashion category averages 60.1% from PC, 27.7% from PC and mobile, and 12.2% from mobile alone. The fashion category has been seeing the majority of mobile shopping impact in recent months. One of the top Japanese fashion retailers, ZOZOTOWN, just announced its transactions from mobile now account for more than 50% of sales, exceeding transactions from PC purchases.

One of the reasons Japan has a higher rate of mobile transactions compared to other markets is because we began using mobile phones to search and purchase products early on, years before the iPhone came to market. The idea of using mobile phones to make payments is well established through our homegrown "keitai" (feature phone) culture. Additionally, the recent shift from "keitai" (feature phone) to smartphone means bigger and brighter handheld screens. This is making the new breed of consumers under the age of 30, who often use their smartphone as the sole Internet device. This reasoning may be unique to Japan, but other countries such as Australia and Brazil have high rates of mobile users for other reasons; often, mobile Internet is superior to national broadband. As a retailer, it is definitely worth investing in mobile-optimized sites in these emerging markets.