Region/Countries: Japan Industry: Multiple Sectors Date: May 2017

Japan was the fourth-largest export market for Wisconsin goods in 2016. As a growing economy and a diversified market, Japan offers excellent opportunities for companies looking to grow globally. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC’s) Market Development Director, Khay Khong, shares insight into the export process.


Q: What advice can you provide to businesses looking to begin exporting to Japan?

A: Japan is a sophisticated market with advanced technologies and well-informed customers.

It is recommended for companies to visit the country and understand how their product can fit in the Japanese market. Often, products need to adapted. For example, a consumer product may need to be downsized to fit into the Japanese home. Product packaging is almost as important as the product itself, and may have to be redesigned to appeal to Japanese taste.

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about doing business with Japan? And what is the reality?

A: A major myth is that the Japanese market is saturated. Actually, the Japanese market is very receptive to innovations and trends, be it futuristic electronic products or cutting-edge medical devices. Japanese consumers appreciate high-quality or unique products, so international products that meet these specifications will do well.

Q: What should businesses consider when planning an export strategy for Japan?

A: Businesses should consider doing a market assessment to gain a complete understanding of demand for their product, the competition, marketing channels and launch strategy.

Q: What is the economic outlook for Japan in the coming years?

A: After a period of stagnation in the 1990s and the global slowdown of the 2000s, Japan’s economy has returned to strong annual growth rates over the last decade. Today, Japan has a robust manufacturing sector that is strong across the board, with specialized strength in shipbuilding, food processing, chemicals and motor vehicles, among other types of products.

Q: How does WEDC help businesses sell in Japan?

A: WEDC has an in-country trade representative in Japan that can perform a market assessment or partner search. In September 2017, WEDC will lead a global trade venture to Japan and South Korea. It is essentially a market assessment/partner search trip. For a subsidized fee of $3,000, WEDC will arrange high-potential one-on-one meetings for each participating business and take care of the logistics and hotel accommodations.

Q: What is your biggest piece of advice for businesses looking to begin exporting to Japan?

A: Successful collaborations with Japanese partners require a strong foundation in friendship built over a period of time. Patience is often required for the business to grow. Face-to-face communication is especially important in the early stages. It is important to visit partners in Japan. Businesses should also invite their Japanese partners to visit Wisconsin.

Q: Any other information you’d like to share about conducting business with Japan?

A: Japan’s business culture and etiquette is unique. Hierarchy plays an important role in their corporate structure. Japan is known for their strong work ethic and long working hours.