Amazon Japan: More Power to the Customer

5 comments

When I lived in America my girlfriend and I would often visit Best Buy, Borders, or the local mall on a Saturday afternoon. Fortunately for us, we’re a couple who sees finances similarly so these trips to stores were more of a chance to decompress from the week, hang out, and gawk at the expensive items. Rarely did these trips end with us buying anything; we were more interested in seeing what was out there and enjoying our free time.amazon box

I now live in the countryside in Japan and the idea of going to the store on the weekend to hang out is a little more difficult. There is a local shopping center, but their items are limited and after one walk through I decided I wouldn’t be coming back very often. On top of losing a hobby, finding items for myself has become a bit of a challenge. I’m in the market for a wireless mouse and keyboard, but there are no stores within walking distance that carry these items. Luckily, one night a friend enlightened me to a new world, “You know, they have Amazon here, right?”

Fortunately for foreigners living in Japan, China, the UK, Germany, and France,  Amazon – the company that brings everything from books to toilet paper to your door - has branched out to other countries.

The Japanese version offers new and improved perks to their customers. Thanks to companies like Zappos, customer service has been leaning towards the customer lately and Amazon Japan take this in stride.

Shipping

All items receive free standard shipping for items 1500 yen (~$15) or more. I didn’t use Amazon for much purchasing in America, but a majority of items are surely over 1500 yen and this is a tremendous perk to the customer. Standard shipping is also considered 1 to 3 business days in Japan, where it is 3 to 5 in America.

Amazon Japan offers a great book selection and a majority of new books would be free to ship. This is a brilliant move by Amazon as foreigners must be stacking their bookshelves with Amazon’s books because there are a lack of options for purchasing English books in Japan. A quick visit to the website, and 1 to 3 days later, the book shows up.

Customers also have the option to group items or ship individually. If the items are over 1500 yen, the free shipping kicks in. If you’re in a rush to get your new 900 yen book, it will still only cost you 300 yen extra to get the one item expedited ahead of the rest. Not a bad deal and Amazon shows how to properly treat their customers by supplying options.

Payments

To fit the needs of its customers, Amazon Japan offers a variety of payment options. Credit cards are not widely used in Japan so these options allow for people in Japan to pay Amazon when it’s easily accessible.

  • Payment by ATM: With a bank account, one can transfer funds from the local ATM to Amazon to pay for an item. A quick trip to pick up some cash can kill two birds by paying the Amazon bill as well. Japanese ATMs have a variety of options to transfer funds. However, I must learn how to read those options before I can expand on them.
  • Convenience Stores: With less room in homes to store food and other items, the Japanese are daily shoppers. This allows convenience stores to be prominently featured all over the country. I’ve used the convenience store to pay for my first month’s bills, and the convenience stores also works closely with Amazon.If no one is home to received the item, delivery people will rarely leave an item on a doorstep so you can have your Amazon item shipped to your local convenience store and they will hold it until you can pick it up. You can pay for the item beforehand, or, if the item is over 1500 yen you can pay for it at the convenience store. The person behind the counter will take your money, and it will be wired to Amazon. With over 40,000 convenience stores around Japan, chances are you can fly by one on the way home from school or work without much effort.
  • Cash on Delivery: Since Japan is a cash society, it makes sense that Amazon would allow their customers to pay with cash. For only 260 yen (~$2.60) you can have your item shipped to your house and you can pay the deliver person. This allows people to avoid dealing with ATMs, convenience stores, or credit cards. It makes sense to just pay by credit card and save the 260, but credit cards are really not utilized here, so the cash on delivery shipping makes sense for a majority of people.

Concerns

There are only two small concerns about Amazon Japan. First, if you have an Amazon account in another country, it doesn’t transfer over and you have to sign up for a new Amazon Japan account. No biggy, it takes an extra five minutes and you only have to do it once.

I was shocked by my second concern. Most of the sign-up is in Japanese! I looked for English translations, but there were none to be found on the page. A majority of Amazon Japan can be translated to English, but not having the sign-up in English is a poor decision on Amazon’s part. By hiring a translator for four hours, this process could be made a million times easier for foreigners living in Japan without Japanese experience.

Amazon Japan has some wonderful features that Amazon USA could learn something from. Tax is also included in all advertised prices which makes the buying process that much easier. By offering their customers more choices and free shipping, Amazon Japan does their job right by making their customers happy. Seems simple, but this kind of business can be too hard to find.

Subscribe Follow us on Twitter Get email updates

Leave a Comment