​PASSPORT TO: Japan - The Third Largest Global eCommerce Marketplace

Why should you have a Japanese language option for your website? As a large, wealthy nation of largely urban, single-language online consumers, the question should rather be “why not?” Don’t miss out on your slice of the スフレチーズケーキ !

(That’s Japanese soufflé cheesecake, by the way…)

Japanese: A language of mysterious origin.

Japanese (日本語, Nihongo) is an East Asian language.

The language’s history is as mysterious as it is contentious. What we do know, however, is that the early form of Japanese - aptly named Old Japanese - exhibited similarities and influences from Chinese, particularly in written form. Modern Japanese emerged in the 1600s; with three writing systems used to create Japanese script, this character-based language has a highly complex grammar system.

The best estimates suggest that Japanese speakers number over 128,000,000 - quite a sizeable marketplace, if we say so ourselves - making the language the 9th most widely-spoken in the world. The vast, vast majority of these are in Japan, where Japanese is the national language.

However, Japanese marketing efforts can have far-flung benefits even outside the Land of the Rising Sun. Large Japanese communities exist throughout the world, including in Brazil, Germany, Hawaii, Australia and Canada.


Do you speak Japanese?

A huge web audience.

When you think of the major international audiences for your products, who do you think of? Probably Germany or France? Perhaps Russia?

Well, it may (or may not) surprise you to learn that Japan registers more Internet users than all these countries - 118,626,672 as of 2018 to be precise, according to research.

To say Japanese people are hooked up would be an understatement - Statista found that 91% of survey respondents use the Internet on a daily basis; Internet penetration is 93.3%.

Not only that, but someone in Japan would be able enjoy browsing your website with an average speed of 20.2 mb/s, compared to only 10.8 mb/s in France; globally it’s 7.2 mb/s.

It’s hard to conceive of a more web-friendly country - which is why Japan should be high-priority for your marketing efforts if you think you have a product or service for these 118 million users.

An eCommerce hub.

As a highly developed, urbanised country who use a single language, the opportunities for online marketing in Japan are incredible - you just need to speak their language.

At present, 71.3% of the Japanese population - over 88,750,000 people - shop online. Statista forecast this to increase to 74% by 2022.

As well as a strong purchasing power parity, the US Department of Commerce estimates that Japan is the third largest eCommerce marketplace in the world - and one of the fastest growing.


English isn’t widely spoken (or understood).

By choosing to speak Japanese as a business, you open your products and services up to all non-English-speaking Japanese people - giving them the comfort, confidence and trust of reading about your business in their own language.

The classic excuse that ‘they all speak English anyway’ - even if it did ever apply - certainly doesn’t in Japan’s case, whose citizens register low English proficiency. This has actually slipped from 2015, when Japan’s ranking earned them a ‘moderate’ proficiency!

Even a highly-competent English speaker from Japan would value your brand’s message more in their language - it shows you’ve made the effort.

The importance of authenticity...

Nothing’s more damaging to your prospective overseas marketing campaign than copy that contains errors - grammatical, technical, or otherwise. Ideally, your translated material will read as if it was written in the target language. A tall order for a language so different so linguistically different to English.

One way to ensure this is by choosing a translator whose mother tongue is the target language. This is a ‘golden rule’ we have at Alexika; it means information on your website will contain the correct phrases, words and terminology. We’ve explored why using mother tongue translators is important in our blog post.


Reap the SEO benefits.

Translating your website into Japanese provides a great opportunity to improve your search visibility. Well-translated online material will contain the search terms that Japanese people use - and so have a greater chance of appearing high up Google Japan and Yahoo Japan, the most popular search engines.

There you have it. Why not launch yourself to the third largest global eCommerce marketplace?

Start the ball rolling by getting in touch with Alexika’s friendly team.