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Amazon's Efforts in Japan Remain Dogged

Ecommerce platform still trails homegrown Rakuten, according to sources

July 5, 2017 | Retail & Ecommerce

Amazon has a long history in Japan, having launched a books-only service in the country way back in 2000. But according to a few different measures, the Jeff Bezos-led company still trails homegrown ecommerce platform Rakuten by a slight margin.

An April 2017 poll conducted by online marketing research firm DI Marketing found that 70.2% of digital buyers in Japan use Rakuten, compared with 66.7% who said they use Amazon’s Japanese site. In addition, RBC Capital Markets found that 64% of internet users polled last September said they use Rakuten, with Amazon a step behind at 62%.

New data from NTTCom Research and book/magazine publisher Toyo Keizai delved a little deeper into the shopping habits of Amazon users in Japan. According to their May 2017 survey, 87.2% of internet users said they shopped on Amazon.

However, the site was far from a regular destination for those polled. Just 7.9% of respondents shopped on Amazon on at least a weekly basis, and 27.8% only headed to the site once every few months.

Frequency with Which Internet Users in Japan Shop via Amazon, May 2017 (% of respondents)

Ticket size was also somewhat limited among Amazon shoppers. The survey found that 86.8% of those who shopped on Amazon at least once per month spent an average of between ¥1,000 (roughly $9) and ¥10,000 (roughly $90). Those ticket sizes may be because relatively low-cost items, such as books, magazines, DVDs and video games, make up the most popular product categories among Amazon users in the country.

Amazon’s much vaunted Prime service—which usually results in members spending more money on Amazon—has also not caught on in a significant manner. NTTCom Research found that just 16.6% of Amazon users in the country were also Prime members.

Amazon is still doggedly plugging away in Japan, however.

The company earlier this month announced it would create a team of 10,000 independent couriers to support same-day delivery service. The move was in response to news that Yamato Transport, Amazon’s largest delivery service in Japan, was shifting its resources away from same-day deliveries.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Amazon is expected to ship some 300 million packages in Japan annually.

—Rahul Chadha

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