4 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Online Business in Japan

Whether you are looking to embrace entrepreneurship and start a serious online business or just trying to make some extra side income. Here are some handy tips to get you started!

Before you start

Photo by  Jordan Benton

Photo by Jordan Benton


Identify a niche - if you don’t have a product yet, but just thought about starting, identifying a niche with a good following would be the best place to start. Keep an open eye in your daily life, because many great business ideas are essentially solutions to the problems we face. You never know when you’d come across new business opportunities. It’s always easier to start with things you are passionate about, because the extra knowledge can help you identify your customers down the line. 

For example, if you are really passionate about anime and video games, you would know which games are up and coming, or which games are generating a lot of buzz in the gaming community before it launches. You might be in a better position than many people to do cross border e-commerce and selling Japanese game figurines or peripherals abroad. 

If you already have something in mind, then the next step would be to figure out whether you can make the product work in a competitive market. 

Photo by  bruce mars

Photo by bruce mars


Do your research - Blindly jumping into e-commerce is dangerous, because you might end up with piles of unwanted stock, high storage fees, and no means of getting rid of them. Some basic research can be done via Google search but for more data, try to utilize the Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool, pretty much available for free. This tool allows you to test out keywords and see how much search volumes are generated per month per keyword. You can limit the search to only Japan area or search in Japanese to cater to a more local customer base.

On top of customer demand, researching about your potential competition is important as well. Check to see who are the top players in the industry, and what they are doing right and what is working for them. 

Photo by  rawpixel.com

Photo by rawpixel.com


Do proper planning - Like starting any business, there are certain processes that needs to be done in order to have a more unified structure and strategy. As mentioned in the latest Startup Lady Night in June, our wonderful guest speaker Chioma from An-yal -- a successful digital agency for lifestyle brands -- taught us that in order to build a product/brand, the first step is to work on our positioning and messages -- how do you want your product perceived? What’s the story behind your product that makes it memorable and special? Then identify a good audience profile -- who would put your product into their shopping cart? What kind of person are they? Finally figure out your digital strategy -- where will the conversion/sales take place? On my own web page? Or on a platform? Or on social media?

Photo by  AKANE ZEN

Photo by AKANE ZEN


Cultural Immersion - A sound interpretation and understanding of Japanese culture and customs could benefit your business in unexpected ways. Having a deeper look into consumer behaviors specific to Japan can help you develop your digital strategy to better target your audience.

For instance, during last month’s Startup Lady Mastermind session, one of our members had some small business ideas of selling pearl accessories in Japan. Unbeknownst to her, Pearl necklaces happens to be the only acceptable piece of jewelry for women to wear to a funeral (as part of culture etiquette), therefore, many Japanese women feel obligated to purchase pearls to wear when they attend a funeral. Understanding this small piece of culture information could essentially help the entrepreneur see where the demand is, and this could have a huge impact on how to brand pearls and how keywords and e-commerce content should be written. 

Bookmark the Startup Lady blog! More posts about e-commerce to come! We will also be touching on subjects such as the lean startup, bootstrapping, female lead startup companies and more!

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About the Author

Amee Xu is the Vice President of Startup Lady Japan. She has 5 years of experience doing e-commerce. She plans to disrupt the industry with VR and change the way people shop online. Currently, she specializes in Amazon content, marketing, and consulting.