How Seido Supported Shopify development in Japan

How Seido Supported Shopify develop in Japan

The Number One E-commerce Tech Provider

No, it’s not directly related to Budo, but nonetheless, it’s an interesting story that some of our followers may appreciate. Seido is one of the main contributors to the translation and release in Japan of the world number one e-commerce store provider. Why did we invest time in this? How did this happen? Trust us, we had good reasons!

What's Shopify ?

Shopify is an online E-commerce platform that allows anyone to create an online shop.
It is self hosted, meaning that you only have to take care of your store, nothing else.
But if you want to get your hands dirty, you can actually take control over almost everything and create customized stores with a highly advanced technology.
This is the technologies used by Seido for its websites (and we're known to have one of the most customized and advanced technology, even among all Shopify sites!).

Shopify is a Canada based company, founded in 2004 by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand and Scott Lake, following the creation of their own online store: Snowdevil.
Not convinced of the technology available at the time, they decided to create their own platform from scratch, to better serve their customers.

It’s actually quite close to what we do here at Seido, not satisfied with the "default" classic tech available, we're building our own systems to better serve our customers, but we do it with Shopify tech, because it's the best!
Shopify is, today, the biggest E-commerce platform in number of active stores (about 500,000) and allows hundreds of thousands of merchants to sell their products online.
More on wikipedia

Shopify Japan

E-commerce Providers in Japan

Ask anyone in Japan who is knowledgeable about the foreign market and you will get the same answer: why the hell is Japan 10 years behind?
In Japan, you only have a few choices. You can sell on Rakuten, a marketplace that will take between 10 and 25% of your income (compared to that: Shopify takes more or less 3%, payment gateway fees included), or a custom store such as “Makeshop” that is complicated, expensive, and technologically spoken many years behind Shopify.

There’s not much competition, all options are costly, but even worse… overall, there are only complicated solutions.
The reason for it is quite simple: Japan’s market is not designed for newcomers. You’re discouraged from becoming or being an entrepreneur in Japan, and if you’re under 35, don’t even begin to think of creating your own business… I am 32, Seido is 8 years old and I can tell you that I'm glad Shopify was here to help me beat the challenge!
In Japan, if you want to start a business, you have to invest a lot of money, show that you’re serious, and proof that you’re financially backed up.

Well, we know what the result is. The Japanese economy is not in a good shape. The Japanese divorced from innovations at least a decade ago, and now struggles as the front-runner of super-aged societies, and with it, a population that has no idea how to make things evolve.
At the end, it’s not as if the young generation wasn’t willing to take risks, it’s just that the system is locked by the old one. You would argue that that’s the same everywhere… yes, it is, but 10 times worse in Japan.

Rakuten Shop

A Rakuten Website (there's actually at least 10 screens to scroll to reach the end)...

Seido & Shopify in Japan

Seido’s Japanese website has been on Shopify for more than 5 years, but Shopify wasn’t really designed for the Japanese market and a lot of specific features were missing.
We developed and tweaked what needed to be, and it was working fine, but we wanted things to be a bit more… Japan friendly. So we’ve contacted Shopify multiple times to request new features adapted to Japan, with no luck. Not that Shopify doesn't listen, they do. But they had priorities for their own markets and Japan wasn't one of them.

One day, end of 2016, Mark Wang, head of "internationalization" at Shopify, contacted us (as one of the first Shopify users in Japan) to talk about the possibilities of releasing Shopify in Japan.
Wow, that was our chance.
We met with Mark, and we immediately offered all the help we could no matter the costs.

Why? Because we do think that Japan needs Shopify. Does Shopify need Japan? Maybe, maybe not… Japan is not really a key market for them. But Shopify was built on specific values, and mainly making an easy to use platform available for small companies and entrepreneurs.

Japan had none (at least, not as good as Shopify), and we really believe that Shopify could be the tool needed to make young Japanese evolve, take risks, and create their own company.
So, we provided surveys on potential competitors in Japan as well as a detailed road map of all functionalities required for a Japanese version.

A few months later, Shopify sent a developer to Japan, and there again we worked together on some key features that finally lead to the release of Shopify Japan at the beginning of 2017.
It’s not perfect yet, but a lot is in the pipeline for the next few months, and Shopify is really revolutionizing the industry.

By acknowledging the needs of this, very specific, Japanese market, they also enhance their perspective and come up with new ideas to improve the services for Europe and North America as well. It’s a win win situation.

Seido on Shopify Website

Seido's now featured on Shopify's Japanese Homepage

And Now?

You can't begin to imagine how difficult it is for foreign companies to gain ground in Japan. No matter how big they are, Japan is resistant to change and not very open to foreigners. And of course, it feels like competitors are ready to fight back.
Good, very good! Shopify has not only released a tool for young Japanese entrepreneurs, but also pushed the competitors to do better, shook them up in some ways.

Frequent meetups are organized in Tokyo and Kyoto, Paypal has joined the effort, innovative companies such as Stripe (credit card payment processor), Komoju (Japanese style convenience store payment processor) or Ship&Co (Domestic and international shipping logistic tool) also been taken on board.
All these companies employ foreigners and have an international view of the matter.

For a country as conservative as Japan, that’s nothing but good news.
We hope Shopify will soon be one of the main processors in Japan, and Seido will continue to provide as much support as possible.

To Conclude

If you’re wondering… no, we were not paid for that. Of course not.
The only thing we had to win was an improvement of our own websites, and we’re glad that happened.
But it definitely wasn’t all for selfish reasons that we put so much effort into this.

As foreigners, our duty here in Japan is to help Japan and its society to move forward, with everything we have to offer.
We’re not Japanese, there is absolutely no point in copying what Japanese people already do, far better than we. It’s the opposite, and the point is to forget about what Europe or the US are doing wrong, and to promote what they are doing well.

That’s what we do in our martial arts practice, we do that in our jobs and everyday life, and we did that with Shopify.
We wish the best of luck to Shopify, and to all young entrepreneurs in Japan who want to start a business. You’re the future of this country, be strong, take risks, give your best.

And it's worth for all of you, if you feel you have the guts: go and try open your own business on Shopify !

10 comments - How Seido Supported Shopify development in Japan

Published by Bryan on .

This is a great article and I am slightly humored that this is a pseudo-Shopify help page… I like how you have set up your store as well. It’s designed very nicely. Have you had any concerns from potential customers with only one name field as opposed to the double- name(kanji) name(katakana) set up? I have had some comments, but not sure how much it has impacted my abandoned cart rates.
Thank you for being a business owner that looks beyond their business to improve the area they live in. Keep up the great work!

Published by Jordy Delage on .

In reply to Cameron Hay.
Hey Cameron,
Thanks for your comment.
Am I right to think that this is no longer that case,
Absolutely. You can now use Stripe as standard credit card processor, which doesn’t take more fees than other Japanese card processor and is fully integrated with Shopify. You also may have Shopify Payments available in a few months (also processed by Stripe, same integration at checkout, but with slightly lower fees).
You can integrate paypal, of course. It’s not very popular in Japan, but it can be useful.
You now have Komoju, that offers Combini payments (even though it doesn’t handle payment fees, and is a bit complicated to implement. But Any combini payment company is complicated in Japan, so good enough for Shopify).
Custom payments gateway are also available, so you can integrate seamlessly wire transfer and cash on delivery.
The only issue is that you can’t charge payment fees at checkout, but that’s in discussion at Shopify and may change in a few months.
Do you know any young Japanese with an interest in eCommerce and some IT nous who might want some part time work assisting me to set up a Japanese shopify site?
As of today, you can contact one of the two experts in Japan (listed on Shopify website), Japan Consulting and Flagship. They are fairly new at this business, so it might not go as smoothly as it usually does with Shopify abroad, but they have contacts at the highest level so they can figure out anything as long as it’s possible on the platform. (I’d probably recommend Flagship though).
If you wait a few months, I’m working on a project with young developers and they will very likely join the short lists of Shopify Experts in Japan early next year.
Good luck with your business!

Published by Cameron Hay on .

Hello Jordy
Thank you so much for the excellent article on Shopify in Japan (and your efforts in supporting their proper entry into the Japanese market.) I’v spent the last couple of days trying to get my head around eCommerce options for Japan – I could see everything that was wrong about the local incumbents and everything to love about Shopify, but the word I had been hearing from Japan was that the payment options were still a problem for Shopify users in Japan, and that felt like a deal breaker.
Am I right to think that this is no longer that case, and that if I want to set up an eCommerce site for Japanese customers, Shopify now “works” in Japan? The business model I plan to follow relies partly on some 3rd party functionality that can be added to Shopify but I am certain would not work with Japanese platforms.
I have a favour to ask, please…. I am based in Perth, having worked as a journalist in Japan during the 90’s. I used to speak OK Japanese but the years away have taken their toll…! Do you know any young Japanese with an interest in eCommerce and some IT nous who might want some part time work assisting me to set up a Japanese shopify site? I have friends in Kyoto assisting me with other aspects of my business, but they have been unable to handle this task.
Any assistance would be hugely appreciated!

Published by Daniel Dittmar on .

Hi there, I am trying to open a Shopify store here in Nagoya. I am an American. I signed up for the mid-level store at 79 dollars a month. I am trying to figure out how to do my shipping policies. It seems the only way to be able to do it properly is to upgrade to the advanced plan at 299 dollars a month. This seems incredibly expensive just to be able to add shipping rates properly through an app. Is there any way around this that you know of? I want to be able to add multiple options for each country, for example, airmail, EMS, SAL, and Surface Mail with the Japan Post. d

Published by Jordy Delage on .

In reply to Daniel Dittmar.
Hi Daniel,
Well, you can totally do that with Shopify (Shopify Shipping rates set up Guide), but I would recommend to do it by spliting into areas as setting up shipping for each country is really a pain.
If it’s weight based, just set up 2 rates with the same weight range, different names and rate amounts. It will work, and both shipping methods will show at checkout.
The top tier plan allows to use carriers calculated prices, based on your carrier account negotiated prices. But it doesn’t work with Japan Post (since Japan Post has no integration of this type, not Shopify’s fault), only with FedEx, DHL and UPS (from Japan).
That’s not a very good business model anyway. You want flat rates so your customer don’t get confused at checkout. Sometimes you’ll make a little more money, sometimes a little less, but you’ll sell a lot more this way as it will reduce cart abandonment significantly.
Good luck with your business !

Published by Kenji Sano on .

You guys are doing a great job! I work in Japan and we only use Shopify in our US store but now I want to use it for a shop in Japan but do you know if Shopify offers a checkout in Japanese? or I have to translate each field into Japanese?

Published by Jordy Delage on .

In reply to Kenji Sano.
Thank you very much Kenji!
There is a native translation, but I would recommend to review it before going live.
The only issue at the moment is the impossibility to implement cash on delivery payment method without tweaking Shopify a bit (there is no way to add the Cash on Delivery fees to the order total amount).
Combini payment is a little complicated to implement, but since Shopify has an overall far easier workflow than any Japanese solution, Shopify is still the best choice if you already have a Shopify website.
All the best with your shops!

Published by Jordy Delage on .

In reply to Bryan.
Thank you very much.
Well, we sometimes have customers typing their names in katakana instead of Kanji or using one field for kanji (full name) and one for katakana.
This is obviously the biggest issue on Shopify’s checkout for the Japanese market, but at the end, I don’t think it impacts the sales too much. It’s a hassle for us, when we can’t read a name and have to call the customer, but from the customer side, it still simplifies the checkout with less fields to fill in.
So, no, not worry about abandoned cart.
You could still use one field for name, and one for Katakana. With some tweaking, that would work.
Anyway, thank you very much for your comment and kind words!

Published by Satoko Asai on .

This is so true. We have been with Shopify for our English site and recently launched our Japanese site, with Shopify. I contacted Shopify Japan offering help to promote Shopify in the Japanese market. I have seen how inefficient Rakuten, Color-me and Yahoo! shop in the Japanese market.
Shopify Japan support got back to me they don’t seem to see the opportunities and problems.
Is there any management team or individuals that I can contact within Shopify Japan?

Published by Jordy Delage on .

In reply to Satoko Asai.Hi,
Thanks for your comment.
Nice to see that, that kind of product is sold in Japan, that’s great.
Yeah, Shopify Japan is probably missing opportunities, but they have their hands quite full (it’s a small team), and they pretty much only accept partners within their partnership program.
That said, if you want to meet the team and discuss with them, I can only recommend to come to the meetings they organize about once a month.
You’ll find “Shopify Japan” on Meetup for example, and meetings are also often announced in the Facebook group Shopify Japan (all Shopify Japan’s staff is in the group), so I would recommend follow those two channels.
Good luck, and see you at a meeting (maybe!).

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