#178 – How to Sell on Amazon Japan – Nick Katz
Here’s a story of a seller that’s doing almost 7 figures on Amazon, and it’s not in Europe or the United States. It’s Japan.
Today on the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Director of Training and Chief Brand Evangelist, Bradley Sutton welcomes Nick Katz, an Amazon seller who after attending university went to Japan to work, then transitioned to selling on Amazon. Now, over 20 years later, he’s spent half of his life in the country. That allows him to give us a great, behind the scenes look at what selling on Amazon in Japan is really like.
Amazon’s global marketplace has changed the way we live. This episode offers a look at how it might also change the way you sell!
In episode 178 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Bradley and Nick Discuss:
- 01:29 – How Did Nick End Up in Japan
- 03:36 – Accountants Earn “A Load of Cash”
- 05:38 – Becoming a Translator to Fine Tune His Japanese
- 07:57 – Importing Board-Sport Gear Opened the Door to Commerce in Japan
- 09:00 – How Nick Started Selling Online
- 10:57 – Selling 750K on Amazon with Over 500K in Japan Alone
- 14:37 – A Call-Out to Add Japan to Helium 10’s Growing List of Global Markets
- 15:34 – Japan’s Different Selling Model Makes Things Interesting
- 19:03 – How Would a Foreigner Open an Amazon Account in Japan?
- 20:01 – Setting Up Your Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Account in Japan
- 24:59 – Japanese Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising – How is it Different?
- 25:33 – Searching on Amazon in the Japanese Language
- 32:10 – Using a Translator
- 35:01 – Nick’s 30 Second Tip
- 35:46 – How to Contact Nick
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Bradley Sutton: Today, we’re talking to a seller who’s doing about seven figures on Amazon. Amazon USA? Nah. Amazon Europe? Nope. It’s on Amazon Japan. How cool is that? Wait, wait, hold on. Let me do this in Japanese [Speaks in Japanese]
Bradley Sutton: Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Serious Sellers Podcast by Helium 10. I’m your host Bradley Sutton and this is the show that’s a completely BS free unscripted and unrehearsed organic conversation about serious strategies for serious sellers of any level in the e-commerce world. We’ve got a serious seller on the line today coming from the other part of the world, coming from Japan, Nick-san Konnichiwa Ogenki desu ka.
Nick Katz: Konnichiwa genki desu yo. Thanks, Bradley. Thanks for having me on.
Bradley Sutton: Thank you for coming on here in case you guys couldn’t catch that weirdness that we were speaking, that was Japanese. I used to speak a little Japanese. My Japanese is very bad right now, but Nick has been living in Japan for how long now?
Nick Katz: I’ve been here since 1995. So, do the math, a long time.
Bradley Sutton: 1995. You’re aging yourself, since you were five years old, right?
Nick Katz: Since I was five, exactly. Yeah, no, since I was about twenty, any, but so.
Bradley Sutton: [Speaks in Japanese]
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. So, what brought you to Japan?
Nick Katz: It was actually, I didn’t take a year out– So, I’m from England and from the UK I normally take– so the UK, it’s quite common for people to take a year out before they go to university and I didn’t do that. So, I decided to take a year out after university. I came to Japan for one year and that kind of snowballed into however many years I’ve been here now, in fact, half my life. It was just coming out for a year just to work and just to see what the country was like. And I just loved it and didn’t go back. Is the boring story? I do have a more exciting story that I tell people in bars, but I won’t go into that now.
Bradley Sutton: Let’s go to pick it back a little bit more growing up in England. What did you envision yourself? As far as your career path would be like, you know, everybody says, “Hey, when I’m, you know, big I want to be a fireman or I want to be this or that”.
Nick Katz: Yeah, that’s actually an interesting question. I don’t know why, but I decided many years ago that I wanted to go to university and study accounting. Thinking back, I have no idea why on earth I would want to do that. And I actually wanted to be, I thought, I’d go into accountancy and then maybe in the future run a business, but this is all stuff that I just really didn’t think about properly. And after I came to Japan, it just kind of just became the thing. It is just something that I ended up doing?
Bradley Sutton: You must’ve been an exciting teenager with your friends. There’s the kid who wants to be an accountant.
Nick Katz: The thing is though, I mean, you think it’s Bradley. See you don’t– if you’re from England, especially like 30 years ago, like in the States, if you’re a good student, you go into law, right? And then the UK is different. The UK at the time, there were six big accountancy firms in the world, like the big six, which has since all kind of merged and it’s become like three now, but of those six, five of them were from the UK. So, a good student in the UK went into accountancy. So, it’s kind of like law in America. It’s like saying “I wanted to be a lawyer in the States”. It does sound way more boring, but it was a really, really good career path. You earn an absolute load of cash and that’s what people did. That’s what a lot of people do. I don’t know if they do now, cause I’ve been out of the country for so long, but that it was– it’s not as weird as it kind of just sounded coming out of my mouth just now.
Bradley Sutton: No worries. I’m just giving you a hard time. But so I’m assuming you, you started university for a year with that mind, right? Like as your major, and then you decided to go to Japan to work or to study abroad or how did that happen?
Nick Katz: I was actually given a job in one of these big firms when these big accounting firms, cause I studied business. Everybody on my course applied for these big accountancy firms and they give you a job and then you can take, and then you can take like a, you know, what’s it called? It’s a common. You can go off and travel for like a year or two years. I did that. I just came to Japan for a year, just to kind of just to travel basically. I did actually have a job here as well, but it wasn’t very many hours. It paid really well. It was like a paid way of coming out and seeing Japan. And then I just didn’t go back basically, if you look into going to Japan, if you were kind of younger and you want to go and live in Japan, there is a way you can do it really well. It’s called the Jet program and it’s where the Japanese government pulls– takes out about. I think it’s 6,000 university graduates a year and they work for between one and three years at a school in Japan, normally a junior high school or a high school and then the government and they pay for your flights out there. They pay you a pretty decent salary. And so I came out for a year doing that.
Bradley Sutton: Interesting. My family has hooked up some different people over the years to do something like that. And they’ll, they’ll teach in a school or a Juco, like a cram school. They get set up with, with housing sometimes, and it’s a pretty nice way to kind of immerse yourself in another country while still getting money at the same time. So, upon finishing your teaching career there, like what did you get into? I mean, obviously you have to pay to sustain yourself.
Nick Katz: Yeah. So after that, I kind of– I’m a big believer in fake it till you make it. So, I decided after those two years that I would become a translator and that was actually before I really spoke that much Japanese, but it kind of forced me into learning Japanese. I actually went to work for a company who stupidly paid me hourly, never pay a translator hourly. That’s the worst thing you can do, especially if they’re a bad translator. I was paid like 40 bucks an hour to translate really slowly. I meant I could learn the language. I was paid a really good salary. I mean, this is going back, you know, 25, no, 23 years. Um, and so.
Bradley Sutton: Going Japanese to English?
Nick Katz: It was Japanese to English. Yeah. It was actually working. It was actually a computer firm who had the main offices there. It was a Japanese company was bought up by an Australian company and they, yeah, so they had offices in Australia. The Japanese company had to speak to them and do so it was like email translations. I was doing the translation of the documents, the simultaneous video translations and stuff like that, but I was awful, but there wasn’t anybody really in my town who could do it. So I did it. So I did that. And then, yeah that’s kind of where I learned my Japanese.
Bradley Sutton: They set the bar pretty low with translation because you know, you go to Japan and Korea and, and you see the ones that don’t have native speaking people doing the translations and you’ll get one of my favorite slogans of all time. This was from a Korean company, it was for a body kit company. That’s like these, you know, like fast and furious kind of accessories for cars and their motto was “Upgrade your sensitive”. So like, I mean, they just come up with like the worst English in the world. So like, I’m sure you’re better than, you know, whatever they had before. So, you were doing that for a while, now at what point did you get into eCommerce?
Nick Katz: I got into e-commerce in 1999, so I started just a bit after I came to Japan, I really got into board sports. I got into snowboarding and then wakeboarding. And then from there I started in like, it was a fairly new sport at the time it was called kiteboarding or kite surfing. If you’re French at the time, it was called fly surfing. That really takes it back. So, it was the very beginning of kiteboarding. And I started doing that. There wasn’t anywhere to buy gear, really the sport had just started. And so the only gear was really in America. So, I started importing my own gear to use. I had a friend in town who had started, and so we started our own kiteboarding business back in 1999, importing gear. And then from there, I actually opened a store about a year or two years later. And so that was kind of the beginning of everything for me I guess. I started like finally I’d started my own business kind of organically without really thinking about what I was doing. I was, you know, still fairly young and yeah, grew into one of the biggest kiteboarding businesses in Japan.
Bradley Sutton: Was this like on your own like .com or .co.jp? Or was this on Rakuten or where’d you get most of your businesses?
Nick Katz: This was from the .com domain and you know what? I have just released the domain. I have not renewed it for the first time. And I got an email from GoDaddy about two days ago. So, kiteboardingjapan.com if you want it, it’s available.
Bradley Sutton: Love it. Now, at what point did you discover or did you start selling on Amazon Japan?
Nick Katz: You know what, in presentations and stuff, I usually say I started selling on Japan in 2014 but thinking back, I actually was selling earlier because I saw I had my own store. I had an online store and I actually did start selling some of things like the DVDs, the kiteboarding DVDs and stuff on Amazon Japan. I don’t even know when that was, it was probably about 2010 or 11 or something. So, I started doing that. That was kind of before I Amazon was particularly big, certainly not particularly big in Japan, but it was easy. So that’s when I started, I guess. But I kind of made a conscious effort to sell on Amazon in 2014 and it was actually Amazon UK, and I was sending products. It was online arbitrage. That was with a friend that was doing it. He mentioned it and I thought, I’d give it a go. I’d buy products in Japan and send them to the UK and sell them on Amazon UK. And then I started on Amazon Japan itself in 2016 and at the beginning of 2017, I think that’s when I went to move over to private label.
Bradley Sutton: So, then in 2016 in Amazon Japan, were you doing arbitrage or what were you doing?
Nick Katz: In Japan I started selling my own products, but it wasn’t private label per se. It was, you know, white label. It wasn’t a proper private label. That was in the 2016 and then in the beginning of 2017, that’s when I went properly into private label, developed my, you know, developing my own products and starting my own.
Bradley Sutton: For the Japanese market?
Nick Katz: Japanese market and starting my own brand. And I went full time pretty soon after that.
Bradley Sutton: Now are, have you just been increasing in sales every year or did you have a peak year? or it just, every year it gets bigger?
Nick Katz: You know what, it’s actually stayed pretty steady for the last few years. The last few– last three years, we’ve done over half a million in Japan. I mean, look at that last to last year, it was about three quarters of a million. It is going up. It’s not had crazy increases in Japan, but I have moved a lot into Europe as well. I do about the same sales in Germany and Japan, and then the UK is a bit smaller.
Bradley Sutton: So, we’re talking about a quarter of a million dollars in just the Japanese market in Japan.
Nick Katz: Yeah.
Bradley Sutton: Three quarters.
Nick Katz: Yeah. So, I do seven figures between those two marketplaces, but not in Japan, but the sales have gone in the sales have gone up. I haven’t really focused just on Japan. I’ve constantly been growing, not just the Amazon markets, Amazon marketplaces, but also the sales channels. So, we now sell them pretty much every rethink all the online marketplaces in Japan, all the big ones certainly, and had a big push into retail at the end of last year. I mean, a lot of the big box retailers, the electronic retail stores in Japan, although that hasn’t been great obviously during COVID, but I’ve kind of been working on diversifying the business as opposed to just growing Amazon Japan. Amazon Japan is pretty stable for me now. And the products that I create for the two brands that I have here. I actually look not just to Amazon, but to take them on to other platforms in Japan.
Bradley Sutton: So, when you say three quarters of a million dollars in Japan, is that Japan overall or just Amazon Japan?
Nick Katz: That is Japan overall. So, it’s about half a million, just over half a million for Amazon. Amazon is still by far the largest of our sales here.
Bradley Sutton: And then is it Rakuten is maybe second place for you over there?
Nick Katz: Well, kind of, yes and no. So, one of our first online distributors was actually selling on Rakuten. So, we actually stayed off Rakuten specifically because of that, but they were buying a lot of products. A lot of our products to sell there and it was only a trade show at the end of the beginning of this year. I was doing a show and we had so many Japanese buyers come through asking if they could sell on Rakuten. Then I thought, “You know, we should just be doing this ourselves”. So, we have actually just started selling directly ourselves on Rakuten. It has always been through another company, so sales are actually pretty decent for us, but there have been through the other company, but we’re just taking it on ourselves and it’s literally been the last two weeks. So, the second for us actually is, if it’s not distribution, it will be our own site. We do pretty well on our own site now. So we do about, uh, I think it’s about $20,000 a month just through our own, um, WooCommerce site.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. How do you find, you know, product opportunity? Obviously we don’t have Helium 10 for Amazon Japan, but how do you find product opportunity? Like has this all just been built around one niche or one brand that you’re just expanding out or do you just do random things where you find opportunity or what’s your process there?
Nick Katz: Okay, before I answer that, I would like everybody who’s listened to this podcast and wants to start selling in Japan and would like Helium 10 to support Japan. Can you send an email to Bradley saying, add the Japanese market, just to send them an email? So yeah.
Bradley Sutton: firstname.lastname@example.org That’s how we decide to actually in recent months we’ve added Amazon India. It was requested by so many of our users and Amazon Mexico. We actually just launched last week. So, who knows one day we can maybe do Japan if there’s enough people selling over there. So, most of our listeners probably aren’t selling in Japan. So, I think they’d be interested in just in your process because like, is it just the same as, as other places or how do you even do it without a Helium 10?
Nick Katz: That’s kind of the thing. So, because I’ve been selling in Japan for a while, it’s before there were any tools, and even now there are very few tools, hence the reason why I’m trying to get Bradley to add Japan to Helium 10. But anyway, yeah, there are very few tools, so you kind of have to, so you kind of learn to work without tools. So, you know, initially you do, you know, the nine, nine, nine hack, which I don’t even know if you can still do that. And then just, you know, slowly work out across categories, what BSR rank roughly equates to. And when then when you start selling yourself in a category and you can see your own sales and you can just go back and look at the numbers again and adjust. That’s pretty much what I did right. At the very beginning.
Bradley Sutton: Is it basically a similar process that you’re just looking for where there’s demand and just, you know, the competition is either non-existent or underperforming, and then you just go for those, as opposed to just focusing on just one brand and just trying to build a brand.
Nick Katz: I mean, Amazon marketplaces, I sat on, you know, several now. I mean, Amazon is the same everywhere, essentially. It’s exactly the same. So, it’s exactly the same in Japan, as it would be in America, there are some features missing from seller central. There are some features that we have, they don’t, they didn’t have an America. So, essentially the whole thing is the same. So however you sell in America and there’s a million different ways to sell a different strategies. I mean, you could apply those exact same strategies in Japan. There’s no difference there. The huge difference is that you just cannot assume that a product that sells in one marketplace will sell in the other. There are loads of products that will sell, you know, hundreds a day in America and won’t sell anything in Japan and vice versa as well in the States, I’m specifically talking about America, if it’s a very, very large marketplace and you are always told by people to niche down. So you kind of go down into the sub categories and look for those hidden gems, the products that other people haven’t found that strategy will not work in pretty much any other marketplace and certainly not Japan.
Bradley Sutton: So are you even selling/cross-selling across the platforms or is everything you sell in Japan pretty much unique or some of the stuff you sell in UK, you’re also selling to Japan and vice versa.
Nick Katz: Yeah, so I kind of think that there are very, very few global products. There are very few products that will work across all marketplaces. I have a completely different brand set for Europe than I do for Japan, but actually I’m kind of unusual as a seller in that I have been setting for, you know, full time for three years on Amazon and I don’t sell in America. And I’m currently in the process of taking my entire Japanese brand over to the States. But until now, I have been selling the brand exclusively. It was designed with Japanese in mind, but it’s I think it’s a brand that should work in other countries. I’m going to give it actually a go selling it in the States, but now it was designed and the two Japanese brands are currently only being sold in Japan.
Bradley Sutton: Alright, now let’s take it back a bit. You know, you have a unique advantage over others who might be considering selling an Amazon Japan due to living there and basically almost being Japanese. And you’re now by spending most of your life there, but you are Japanese, like instead of cats, it’s a katsu motto or something. That’s something we should change your last name too. So, tonkatsu.
Nick Katz: I was actually called tonkatsu for the first few years in Japan by my Japanese friends.
Bradley Sutton: I love it.
Nick Katz: So, by the way for our listeners here, Nick means meat and Katz means cutlet. My name actually means meat cutlet in Japan they have a dish called tonkatsu, which is a pork cutlet. So, yeah.
Bradley Sutton: I love it. Yes, everybody, you know, pretty much if they want, you know, Japanese food, you know, other than sushi is either teriyaki or tonkatsu that people– So, that’s great how your name worked out like that. But anyways, I almost forgot what I was talking about here for somebody who is not as Japanese as you, you know, like just say me here, living in California, you know, I might have some ties to Japan because, you know, 20 years ago I lived there for a couple years, but you know, in actuality I don’t, you know, I don’t have an address over there anymore. I don’t have a bank account. I don’t have almost anything over there. So, how would somebody like me open up an Amazon Japan account? Can you walk me through that process?
Nick Katz: So, coming back to what I mentioned just a second ago, Amazon is the same in every single country. Everything you do is pretty much the same. I mean, there are small differences when it comes to things like the VAT for Europe, blah, blah, but basically it’s the same. So, if you were an American and you want to open the account in what if you have opened an account in the UK or Germany, you go into seller central, and then there’s a section in there where you can add marketplaces. So, that’s exactly the same for Japan.
Bradley Sutton: Now. I swear, I look into this, like maybe a couple years ago, I thought that, or to have an Amazon Japan account, you almost had to have like somebody working for you that had an address in Japan for like returns or to be your spokesperson or something like this was like two or three years ago. That’s no longer the case. Like you can just be a hundred percent in America or UK or wherever and not have to have boots on the ground over there?
Nick Katz: Well, you never had to have boots on the ground. So what I think you probably means a couple of things. It could be in theory, you are supposed to have Japanese language support. That is actually an official requirement from Japan. So, that’s one thing that you may be thinking of. The other thing is when you import a product, if you send a product specifically directly into Japan, sorry, directly into a fulfillment center in Japan, you have to have an importer in the country. So, you kind of as a result of American seller, you cannot send a product directly into an FC without going through either the importer of record. I’m actually a part owner and an importer of record companies. So, this is kind of right up my alley but you have to use an importer of record or something called an ACP, which is a little bit different as actually kind of like a proxy importer. So, you are the importer yourself, but there has to be this Japanese company there. That is a requirement from Amazon. So, that may be what you’re talking about.
Bradley Sutton: To use the FBA, you’re talking about?
Nick Katz: Well, yes, but it’s not just FBA. I mean, for example, but if you want to sell you selling your products, for example, into Amazon fulfillment center, to, you know, to be able to ship, to use that as your warehouse to ship to other, you know, to fulfill your Shopify site, for example, it would essentially be the same problem.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. But like, if I just open up, I can just open up an account right now. And if I’m fulfilling by merchant, you know, I’m shipping from California directly to Shinjuku, you know, somebody there I don’t have to do, I don’t have to get any of that stuff.
Nick Katz: Alright, FBM?
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. FBM.
Nick Katz: That’s totally fine. You can do that.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. So then, I think most people, especially doing private label and, you know, they would want to do FBA because they realize most Japanese people might not want to wait three weeks for a product. They might not buy it. So, how difficult is it to get what you’re saying is necessary in order to use FBA in Japan?
Nick Katz: It is really easy. It’s not, it’s not a difficult thing to do or difficult procedure. It’s just something you have to do because I’m involved in IOR company. Every day, we get emails from people that sent products, directly into Amazon Japan, and their products are stuck in customs because there wasn’t an IOR, there wasn’t a Japanese importer listed. So that’s why I kind of, yeah. So, if you are aware that you need an IOR or that you need an importer, it’s not a problem at all. There are loads and loads of companies that do it. They charge, you know, it’s not a lot, it’s normally per shipment, you know, we charge like $50 a shipment and that’s it. That’s all you have to do. You’d have to pay the money to the man and then you wait to get the products in no problem.
Nick Katz: Is that you can’t send. When products go through customs, you can’t just have a shipper and then the ship to address there has to be– customs, has to be able to see a Japanese address listed there as well. And that there is a problem with customs, if duty or tax hasn’t been paid. If they have questions about the products themselves, they have to be able to contact. There has to be somebody responsible for the products in Japan. And this is probably a bit more information than you need, but actually..
Bradley Sutton: No, this is important stuff. Yeah.
Nick Katz: Yeah. I mean, it comes down to who’s responsible. So in Japan, it’s the company who imported the product, the person who’s responsible for bringing the product into the country. They are basically the person who is responsible if there is a claim from a customer even years down the line. So, whoever is your IOR, whoever is your import is actually responsible, not just for bringing the products in, but they are, they will eventually be the person responsible if there are any liability claims for the product later on in the future.
Bradley Sutton: So yeah, this is something then like, you know, if I had a childhood friend in Japan, which I’m sure I still do, but it’s not like, “Hey, can you be this because can you just put your name on this?” This is actually kind of a serious thing. Like, in very rare situation that something could happen. You really want a professional because you’re pretty much making your friends sign for liability.
Nick Katz: Japanese people, they’re not very litigious. It’s not like the states, so it’s very unlikely that’s going to happen. But, and I think a lot of people do use their friends as the address and the name, which I think is kind of fine to do that. It’s totally fine to do that. But most people are not aware that, I mean, in the very, very unlikely chance that there is an issue, it would come back to that person. But I wouldn’t, it’s so incredibly unlikely. I wouldn’t really worry about it unless you’re, you know, you’re selling, I don’t know, shotguns and Amazon Japan which is probably not very likely. So I mean, yeah, just something to be aware of.
Bradley Sutton: Alright, good to know. So, we talked about, or you talked about how a lot of the things are kind of across the board on Amazon, Japan, you know, I know they have brand analytics and they, you know, you’ve got BSR and there’s FBA and there’s FBM, and so many things are similar. What about PPC? Like obviously they have PPC, is it pretty much the same set up? Like, do you find yourself paying more than you do in Europe, less than you do about the same, like, you know, cost per click and things like that.
Nick Katz: Cost per click in Japan is a lot less, so that’s one of the main reasons why the Amazon, Japan marketplace is my favorite of the marketplaces that I’m in, in that it’s, I mean, for me, it is by far the highest profit margins and a lot of that is due to things like PPC is, is a lot cheaper.
Bradley Sutton: What do people search in Japan? Like, for those who don’t know, there’s, there’s different alphabets, you know, of course you can do in Roman. Romaji right? And then you’ve got hiragana, which is the basic alphabet, which makes up the complicated, like more Chinese alphabet, the Kanji. So like, I’m just, I’m just trying to say, like, you know, you could have one word in like three different ways almost to write it. Like how do you target that in PPC or how do you know that what people are searching for?
Nick Katz: Oh, that is a very, very good question, Bradley. And it’s, it’s such a difficult thing to answer. So, as I mentioned earlier, I have a Facebook group that I started four years ago about Amazon Japan. And I would write these really long posts about the Japanese space. And like, I’m talking about a space between words just because it’s so important that people understand it, but nobody understood, understood what I was waffling on about it. So Japanese is really hard because as you mentioned, there were three alphabets, but it’s not just that there’s also, so it’s the way that words are put together. In Japanese as you know, Bradley that there aren’t, there are no spaces in Japanese, all the words are put together. It’s kind of like Chinese in a way, but the way the Japanese works is that unlike Chinese, which is just all the Kanji characters, all strung together, Japanese has those other two alphabets, the Hiragana and Katakana that kind of breaks up the Kanji and it makes it easier to read.
Nick Katz: It’s very hard to read Japanese. It was all written in Katakana, all written in hiragana because there’s no spaces and the Kanji helps to break it up. If you look at a text, if you look at like a page of Japanese, you’ll see that there’s no space there. So, when you think about keywords, you think about, you know, people call them keywords, but they’re obviously often will usually phrases, you know, let’s use the, you know, long hat, long handled stainless steel, garlic press. There are going to be spaces in there. But if you were to write that in Japanese, it would, there wouldn’t be any spaces there at all. Right? And to make things even more difficult, there are different types of spaces. There’s like a– to make it really easy for here. There’s a English space and a Japanese space. So, it’s not just the three alphabets. It’s the fact that you can have a space or not have a space. Japanese doesn’t have a space in Japanese as a language, but when people put things into a search engine, they often put a space in because they assume that it helps a search engine find things better. So there’s always factors you have to think about. And the only way to really it’s, I’ve been looking at this, you know, for years. The only way to really find out what’s going on is just to test. A good way of doing it is for example, if you start a new PPC manual campaign, also first of all, you can look at your auto campaigns. You can look at, if you look at brand analytics, you’ll notice that, you know, a stainless steel garlic press with a space, for example, would have, way more searches than stainless steel garlic press without a space. You can find these things in the brand analytics reports, all the PPC reports to kind of find out which ones are better, but when you create your own manual campaign, what I normally do is just have lots of different variations with spaces, without spaces, you can try Kanji and the hiragana, blah, blah, blah. And then you could just see which one has impressions. If there’s no impressions for one of them, then you know that Amazon is basically putting them together.
Nick Katz: It’s going back to your original question, which is about the actual alphabet itself. Amazon Japan is pretty good with that. You can write a word in Kanji and it will kind of show the search results for hiragana and Katakana as well. But that you’ll really see the differences. If you add a space or not a space between the words in the keyword phrase, that’s why you see different results and you can test it yourself really easily. Just find, try and find a Japanese word or Japanese two words and could search that on Amazon, Japan search and it with a space search and it without a space search with it in Kanji search with it in hiragana, and just see if the search results are different. And if the search results are different then you know that Amazon Japan is treating them as different. And then you kind of have to add those in to your PPC reports. This is probably going way more detailed than we want to in this podcast.
Bradley Sutton: That’s important to know, you know, we don’t want people to say, “Oh, Hey, Nick. And Bradley said, it’s super easy to, super easy to, to rank in Japan and to do keyword research.” That people need to know the truth of what’s going on
Nick Katz: Just to quickly add something here. Because this is something I really, really believe very strongly about. One of my main marketplaces is Germany. I don’t speak a lick of German. I do have a German VA, but I don’t know the language at all. I actually do the PPC for Germany and I don’t understand the damn word of it. And I think that’s my advantage. That’s my, that’s my killer weapon. You know, I don’t care that I don’t know. Cause I just look at the data and I make choices based on the data. And you should do the same for Japan. If you don’t know the language that kind of helps you when it comes to PPC, because PPC reports should be based on the data. If you’re seeing a profitable keyword, you use that keyword. If you, if you see an unprofitable keyword, you take it out. You negative it you, lower the bid, whatever. It doesn’t matter if you know the language or not. And it doesn’t really matter if you understood anything. I just told you about spaces and crap like that because the data will show it to you. So you just copy and paste that and use what it shows. And then you kind of can do better than a Japanese person who understands the language. And has a bias. You know, if you have a bias, if you think, “Oh, that keyword must be popular,” people use it. If you don’t understand what true, what the word is, you know, and you see that it’s not making you money. You take it out even though. Yeah, I think you get the point.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. I think that’s important. But, it kinda goes back to your fake it till you make it thing. You can do that in analytics because the data is data. One thing I don’t think you can do this, or not– I don’t think I know you can’t do it. So, I’m curious to get your insight is something that you can’t fake it till you make it or just use Google translate is like your listing optimization. Here in America, we see a listing and there’s this stigmatism like, “Oh, this is made by a Chinese seller or a foreign seller because the English is so bad”. And it kinda just turns you off as a buyer. So, I would assume the same thing as in Japan, “Oh, this listing is obviously made by a Gaijin”, you know, by a foreigner. You know, you don’t want that stigma. So, then if somebody doesn’t speak Japanese then, but at the same time, if you’re just hiring a translator, you know, it’s not the same as somebody who understands Amazon, who can look at data, like is the only thing you can do hire just a regular translator and then give them your English listing or how does somebody from Europe or America coach somebody to try to make a listing in Japanese?
Nick Katz: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head there, you get a translator, you get a good translator. If you can afford one and you want to sell stuff and you get a cheap translator on Fiverr, if you just have no idea what you’re doing,. Yeah, you have to have a translator. Google translate will not work. It doesn’t really work for any language, to be honest. Not to the level of actually a listing. Anyway, I mean, I use Google translate if I’m replying to an email for Italy, for example, but if you’re making a listing, yet you have to have a translator. Finding a Japanese translator is not going to be difficult. If that is your main hurdle for starting in Japan, then you know, don’t start in Japan. You just get a translator.
Nick Katz: There’s lots of translation agencies. Make sure you get a decent one. Don’t try and be cheap. You actually raise a very interesting point. Just a second. When you started talking about this saying that you don’t want people to think that the listing is being made by a foreigner, you actually kind of want people to think the listing is made by a foreign company or a foreign business, but not a Chinese company. So if you write a bad listing, if you have a listing that has really bad Japanese in it, Japanese people will assume it’s Chinese. And that is the worst thing you can do. Japanese people don’t like buying products if they think it’s made in China, Japan is full of Japanese people and they want to buy Japanese products, but Japanese products are expensive so they realize they have to buy cheaper products and they’ll buy a cheaper product on Amazon and they’ll just kind of close their eyes and pretend it’s not from China, even though they know it’s from China, but if there’s a problem with it, instantly in the reviews, “Oh, this is a Chinese product. I should have bought the Japanese one”. And I read it thinking, “Yeah, you should have bought the Japanese one. It’s twice the price, but it would have been better. Right?” So, if you write a bad listing, they’ll instantly jump to the assumption that it’s Chinese and that’s an instant off. That’s an instant, like do not do that. But Japanese people do want to buy stuff from foreigners. That’s why you should, if you’re Australian, American, German, you should write, you know, German company, German design, you should write that in the title, and in the bullet points. As you make Japanese people be aware that you’re a foreigner, they like that. They just don’t want you to think they don’t. You don’t want them to think that it’s Chinese. So definitely, yeah. Any translations done into a language like Japanese, which has to be cultural translations, but pretty much all translations have to be. Even if you’re going from America to the UK, you’ve gotta be aware of the differences. But when you go from the English to German or English to Japanese, if you don’t get the cultural translation, right. It’s just absolute, you know, it just will not resonate with the customer at all.
Bradley Sutton: Good to know. All right. Well, I mean, I have more questions. It’s hard to believe we’ve taken this much time ready there. And there’s so much, I have to ask about Amazon Japan. I think you’ve piqued the interest of some people, but before we get into how people can reach out to you for more information, we always have a part of the show we call the “TST” or the TST 30-second tip. So, where somebody interested in selling in Japan or who is selling in Japan, what is something that you can say in like 30 seconds or less, that very valuable, very actionable that they need to know about selling in Japan?
Nick Katz: Okay. So I would say coming back to the, kind of the original product research, just know that Japan is not the same as other countries. It’s got 120 million people. So half the population of Germany, sorry, half population of America doubled population of the UK. There’s a really large population is a really small country. So, small products work really well here, products with small houses, small pets, small, you know, miniaturize, everything. So just– even not sure what to sell in Japan, go onto YouTube, look at what a Japanese house looks like, and then decide what products you want to sell. If you’re in the home decor space, just be aware of that Japan is different and you can find that on YouTube and a Google search, and then target your products to that customer.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Now, if anybody wants to find your Facebook group or to just find you on the interwebs, reach out to you, how can they find you?
Nick Katz: Okay. The easiest to probably find me is through a website that unfortunately I haven’t been– a blog that I haven’t been blogging in for a while, but it’s the thejapanguy.jp, all one word, But you can, at least there’s a contact form there and you can contact me through there. That’s probably the easiest way I’ve got a Facebook group called, Amazon Japan PL. So, you can– I tend to rant in there most of the time so that’s probably a good place to contact me as well.
Bradley Sutton: Okay, excellent. Now what’s the just real quick, what’s the current situation, as far as people going into Japan, you have to quarantine? What’s the word like, cause I’m planning to go spend a month in Japan, January to February, if it’s opened, is that going to be, you think it’s going to be open by then? Or what’s, what’s the situation?
Nick Katz: You know what? I haven’t actually checked the very latest for things like Americans. I know that, you know, I’m from the UK and as of nine days ago, I am now allowed to go to the UK and come back. So that’ll probably give you an idea. I am in Japan, I live in Japan. I’ve got a Japanese visa and if I had left the country in August, I wouldn’t have been able to come back. So, I can now come back. I have to self-quarantine for two weeks. So I’m assuming that nobody from outside Japan is able to come in at the moment. I know that there are talks with other Asian countries like Singapore to open these kind of a combo, what they call them gateways, where the con the weather, the people from those two countries and Japan go to Singapore and Singapore comes to Japan, but that’s pretty much the extent of it at the moment. So, definitely you won’t be able to come now. And I don’t know when they will open up the doors, obviously this is the big news yesterday. You know, the Japanese government is saying that the 2020 Olympics happening is going to happen next year COVID or not. And, but we don’t even know if spectators people will actually be able to come and watch it or not. So, we just don’t know. So just obviously check the just check the net, find out. I’m not sure that at the moment.
Bradley Sutton: Sounds good. Well, I thank you for your time [Speaks Japanese].
Nick Katz: [Speaks Japanese].
Bradley Sutton: Alright. So, we will talk to you later. I’d love to hear from you next year to see how you’ve expanded your business, both in Japan, and also how your US launch has worked out for you. Alright, so we’ll talk to you next year.
Nick Katz: Definitely. Okay. Thanks so much, Bradley.
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