Translation tips for selling to Japanese customers

Is Japan on your list for global expansion? It definitely deserves a spot. The Japanese ecommerce market is expected to grow from $52 billion to over $80 billion over the next five years, according to a report by A.T. Kearney. Exponential eretail growth, along with intensified localization efforts in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, make it prime time for market entry into Japan.

As it is now, about 99% of the population only speaks Japanese. Therefore, localization is the key element to cross-border success in Japan. Here are our best tips for catering your language translation efforts to a Japanese audience.

1. Build a detailed translator style guide

It’s extremely important to define your target audience in Japan. Unlike English, the Japanese language has many levels of politeness depending on who the audience is in relation to the speaker. As such, it’s necessary to maintain your brand’s style and tone.

The best way to ensure that your brand image is accurately portrayed across languages is by implementing a company-specific style guide at the beginning of the translation process. This document outlines the grammar, syntax and tone translators should use to accurately represent a company’s offering. Style guides offer invaluable insights that translators can use to cater their writing to a specific audience’s needs.

2. Take advantage of key translation tools

Translation API
Manually managing hundreds of files doesn’t make sense. Our recommendation for larger online retailers is to use an API to send and receive content from a translation provider like Gengo. This streamlined approach gives you complete control over your workflow, and allows you to dynamically order translation as you scale. You control your website, and all your translated content.

Translation memory (TM)
You may find the translations of several words and phrases can be recycled for each product release. As new SKUs are added to your ecommerce site, usually fields like color and size will remain consistent. Translation memory is a common translation tool that compares untranslated segments against previous translation data to make sure you don’t pay for the same translation twice. Partnering with a language service provider (LSP) that utilizes translation memory can help you achieve the quality you require while maintaining consistency, saving time and reducing project costs.

3. Focus on mobile ecommerce

Japan’s population is quick to adopt technology, especially when it comes to smartphones and tablets. It’s no surprise that mobile shopping in Japan is growing quickly, with half of all transactions conducted via mobile devices. If you want to grow your ecommerce presence in Japan, you need to up your mobile strategy as well. Whether it’s localizing your mobile app or optimizing your website for mobile and tablet use, you need to ensure that the user experience is equal for all your international shoppers, no matter which language they’re browsing in.

4. Increase buyer confidence with translated user reviews

Japanese consumers require a great deal of assurance when they make purchases. A business will simply not succeed in Japan unless it can earn the trust of its consumers. One surefire way to help gain customer trust is by translating user reviews. User-generated content has proven to have a positive effect on customer-company relationships and sales. Translating real user opinions will help you achieve better conversion rates, customer engagement and retention.

5. Measure the success of your localization program

The ultimate goal of international expansion is to increase revenue. But how can you measure the impact of translation, especially in the early phases? We suggest you to embrace kaizen, the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement, as your mindset when going global. Regularly check key performance indicators (KPIs) such as SEO performance, customer engagement, conversion rates, regional sales and other figures to gain a better understanding of your localization program. When you observe a tactic that works well, you can use it again to bring more success in the future. If there are efforts that fall flat, you know it’s time to change things.

In all of the excitement of attracting and converting global shoppers, it’s easy to forget the key to sustainable growth: building trust and obtaining lifelong customers. Through testing different strategies, consistently putting in effort, and measuring your performance, you can increase your retention rates and significantly increase your global sales.

Though geographically small, Japan is an economic and ecommerce powerhouse. If expansion into Japan aligns with your company’s goals, it can be a great market to explore.

Gengo has assisted many online retailers establish and grow their presence in Japan. In fact, Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten experienced a 16%+ conversion rate boost using Gengo versus machine translation. Contact us today to learn more about how this market fits into your language translation strategy.

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Alex Nguyen

The author

Alex Nguyen

Alex crafts and coordinates content for Gengo’s marketing team. Based in San Francisco after a brief stint in Tokyo, she loves all things culture and design. When not at Gengo, she’s likely brushing up on her Japanese, letting loose at indie electronic shows or trying out new ice cream spots in the city.

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