Japanese e commerce: selling fashion online

October 25th, 2015

Apparel and fashion accessories are seen to be the most popular categories in surveys of online shopping around the world.  And this holds true for Japanese e commerce as well.  The online retail fashion market in Japan was estimated to be worth around $130 billion in 2014:

Japanese e Commerce by category

Japanese e commerce is generally dominated by online shopping malls such as Rakuten and Amazon.co.jp. But the online fashion market  tends to skew more towards specialist sites in Japan.

In part, this is because of specific category requirements. When selling fashion online, shoppers need specific functionality. Especially for viewing products and the logistics of likely products returns. 

But also important in Japan is the desire to provide  premium user experience. This is particularly relevant in a category where style and image play a big role.

And the fashion leader in Japanese e commerce is... ZOZOTOWN

As of March 2016, ZOZOTOWN hosts over 3,500 brands in 867 online shops.

Japanese e Commerce - ZOZOTOWN

The platform’s success has centered on gathering high quality brands. Shoppers are then given a premium experience.  Its not the place to go shopping for the more discount end of the market! 

In this regard, ZOZOTOWN has a track record of being quite selective.  Though last year, the site has increased the number of brands on offer by widening by 34%. 

In 2013 ZOZOTOWN launched a new app called “Wear”. Wear enables users to find fashion inspiration from looks that other users have uploaded. The aspiration is to be the “Facebook of fashion”.

Japanese e Commerce - WEAR

The Wear app can then be used to find shops that carry the brand. But it can also be used to buy it directly from ZOZOTOWN.  If a product barcode is scanned in a traditional store and the product purchased on ZOZOTOWN, the retailer receives a commission.

ZOZOTOWN offers a high end interface, brand image and reach to the younger target population. It is therefore a great option for young western designers seeking to establish their products in Japan.

Other fashion related social networks and apps 

Beyond ZOZOTOWN, there are the general merchant sites such as Rakuten, Amazon and Yahoo! which carry clothes. But there are several specialist platforms for fashion when considering Japanese e commerce. 

Like WEAR, some of these focus on the social network aspect of sharing information. Others are more about following preferred brands and receiving relevant notifications.

Increasingly, there is a predictive, intelligent aspect that provides users with suggestions.  This is done by learning from their tastes (SENSY) or by matching their existing wardrobes to new items (XZ).

A good starting list of such platforms  is provided below. All come with links to ecommerce:

One important aspect of all these platforms is the predominance of the mobile aspect.  This is because  in Japan smartphones are the most important devices for online shopping

Today mobile is converging with AI and social media. As this happens, the Japanese online fashion finds itself in a really exciting place. Its become a real trend-leader in its own right, by offering shoppers new ways to research and purchase for their apparel.