How Seido Helped to Bring Shopify to 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
Article by Jordy Delage, founder and CEO at Seido Co., Ltd.