If you’re looking to expand your consumer base, have you tried exporting to Japan? The world’s third largest economy has a lot to offer international businesses so we break down why Japan should be on your priority list and a few tips to help break into the market.

As the third largest economy in the world after China and the US, Japan offers internationally focused companies an exciting opportunity to grow their business in a truly unique market. With a solid population of middle class consumers with high disposable income who are mostly embracive of new technologies, Japan is particularly accommodating to international businesses offering premium goods or services or digital focused businesses with innovative solutions.

For small companies, Japan offers a relatively stable environment to do business in with fantastic infrastructure and a receptive consumer base. British businesses that specialise in manufacturing, consumer goods, high tech products and services in particular will find Japan an ideal market to conduct business in due to hunger for such services in the region. Upcoming opportunities like the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games in Tokyo as well as the 2019 Rugby World Cup offer opportunities for UK firms as Japanese organisers look to learn from the UK’s recent experiences in hosting these events.

Moreover, Japan offers a very open economy and ranks highly for ease of doing business. In fact, if you decide to set up a business here, you can do it in just 14 days!

As with any new market though, Japan offers its own unique set of challenges and it is key businesses do sufficient research and fact finding before embarking on the export process. To get you started, here are a few things you need to know before you start exporting to Japan.

1. Choose a route to market that works for you

Due to the advanced nature of the Japanese business environment, there are various routes to market to get your products and services noticed by Japanese consumers. Depending on your resources, you may decide to enter the market by setting up a physical business in the region or starting small by exporting your products on a few Japanese marketplaces to gauge interest. You could also decide to go it alone or find a local partner to help with distribution and building connections. Either way, your route to market needs to work for your business in the long term Japan is a market that favour businesses willing to make a longer term commitment.

The Department for International Trade have a number of useful guidelines and advice for different routes to market and what to bear in mind for each one so make sure you do your research.

2. It’s all about relationships

The business culture in Japan places significant emphasis on relationships, so if you’re looking to do business in the region, it’s vital you begin to build a strong network of personal contacts. Whether you’re planning to open a physical office or just sell through an online marketplace, it’s recommended you build contacts locally who can help you understand the business culture and who could be a good in road to developing business relationships with potential customers, suppliers and partners.

3. Understanding business etiquette

It will come as no surprise that the Japanese business culture places high value on etiquette, respect and cultural sensitivity. So before you bring your business to Japan, it’s important to learn about their customs and keep in mind values to help you deal with various situations. Most Japanese businesses and customers won’t expect foreign businesses to immediately uphold and understand their traditions, but showing some deference to their culture will go a long way in making your business a success. For example, British businesses are encouraged to get two sided business cards with one side translated into Japanese and they should be presented by holding the two corners closest to you with both hands.

4. Protecting your intellectual property

Japan places emphasis on strong intellectual property protection and follows a ‘first-to file’ system. Therefore, if your brand, logo, product or service has a distinct characteristic you are looking to capitalise on, it is important you secure the correct trademark and patent protection. Having the right protection could also open up opportunities for your business in terms of brand licencing or collaborating with other Japanese businesses. UK companies with an intention of doing business in Japan should look to register their trademarks with the Japan Patent Office and can do so even without an office or business entity in the country.

5. Getting the most our of your sales

Once your business is up and running in Japan, you’ll want to repatriate any income you make from sales of goods and services in the country. Whilst previously this could be tricky and involved setting up a Japanese bank account, there are now a range of options for you to get your hard earned income with less hassle.

World First recently launched a service that helps international businesses selling to Japanese consumers on online marketplaces repatriate their sales income by removing unnecessary hurdles like the need to open a local bank account. Online sellers can now benefit from World First’s fast, efficient and cost-effective service when doing business in Japan, allowing them to focus on other important things – like growing their business.

If you would like some more information about selling to Japan or to find out how to take advantage of World First’s unique service, get in touch with one of account managers now .