Blog | Wednesday 26 April 2017
Sarah Sharpe, DIT Marketing Assistant - UK Exporters, explores the best ways to tailor to website to a Japanese audience.
Website Localisation and Design Can Help You Win Business in Japan
As products and services cross borders in a globalised world, brands need to adapt to varying linguistic, cultural and digital landscapes. Whilst the UK and Japan share many aspects when it comes to business culture or consumer values, tailoring your website to a Japanese audience is a must for British companies looking to break into or develop in the Japanese market. Here are 5 key points to help you reach and gain the loyalty of your target customers in Japan.
1. Translation or Localisation?
The first and most obvious point is language. All high quality translations should take into consideration different linguistic and cultural contexts and translating your website into Japanese is no exception. Be sure to have this done by a native Japanese speaker, who will be able to understand the complexities of the Japanese language and nuance your brand messaging for a Japanese audience. Adapting your website for the Japanese market, however, goes beyond translation.
Website localisation takes into account a vast range of factors including web content, layout, design, search engine optimisation, local keywords and domains, form-filling, date and time settings, customer service and more. The next sections will take a brief look at 4 important elements: SEO, website design, practical points and website development, but this list is by no means exhaustive and it may be necessary to hire website localisation experts to help you create an effective platform for your brand in Japan.
2. Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation
Search engine optimisation is a complex part of website localisation but essential if you want your website to reach its target audience. Your website should be optimised for major search engines used in Japan (Yahoo! Japan, Google). This will involve finding and effectively using Japanese keywords and Meta keywords as well as registering a Japanese domain name. Fully localising web content can be a tricky business and it is worth finding a local partner to help with both translation and web text writing / SEO. In addition to this, promoting your website through various channels via social media, affiliate marketing or paid advertising is a way to give your website greater visibility. Getting noticed, however, is just the beginning!
3. Web design and layout
When adapting your website design according to local culture as well as digital and consumer trends in Japan, there is no single winning formula but there are several general points to consider. Japanese sites tend to use bright colours, have playful or ‘cute’ images and present a large amount of information on one page. Rakuten, Japan’s largest ecommerce website, provides a prime example of successful website localisation. Take a look at the company’s Japanese (http://www.rakuten.co.jp/) and US (https://www.rakuten.com/eco?l2-id=WB) website landing pages and the difference in website design is immediately evident. This conventional pattern is not necessarily the best option though - a clean website might be more suitable for your brand. Muji’s Japanese website for example, matches the simple style of its products.
There are no hard and fast rules and the most important thing is to make your website visually appealing and easy-to-use for Japanese customers. In terms of aesthetic and imagery – you might want to add a light touch of something related to Japanese culture to help your brand identity appeal to a Japanese audience. It is worth noting the cultural significance of various symbols in Japan such as the number 4 being unlucky as it sounds like death in Japanese or koi (carp) representing good fortune and strength.
Seasonal factors might also be relevant – companies often make the most of cherry blossom season or ‘hanami’, to promote their products and encourage consumers to spend whilst spirits are high from ‘sakura’ and sunshine. Once you’ve captured your audience’s attention, you need to make sure they can navigate the website hassle free so they’ll actually buy your products, use your services and come back again. Below are some practical points to remember.
4. Some practical points
There are various elements of your website that must be adjusted to suit the Japanese language and consumers in Japan. You want to make sure you cover all the basics including time and date, address, currency and shipping costs. In addition to this, converting a website to Japanese provides a significant challenge due to the characters. There are four main types of character used in the Japanese language – hiragana, katakana, kanji and romaji and the implications of using Japanese characters will have to be considered at every level of constructing and maintaining your website. It would also be a good idea to have local customer service through live chat or similar so that you can respond to customer’s questions or needs in Japanese and straight away. This will help your website to facilitate two-way communication with your customers and will make them feel more positive towards your brand after visiting your site. Whilst getting these details right are sure to give your company greater potential to find long-term success in the Japanese market, tailoring your website to a Japanese audience will take some fine-tuning.
5. Listen, learn and never stop evolving!
The final point is that tailoring your website to a Japanese audience is not a finite process. In order to keep up with shifting consumer trends and the ever-changing digital landscape, website analysis and development will continually be an important aspect of your business strategy in Japan as with any other country. In fact, the best way to tailor your website to a Japanese audience is to listen to what they have to say.
Looking for local experts to help you create a Japanese version of your website?