During this 10 years living in Japan I have seen foreign companies entering and leaving Japan. After a while it becomes really interesting to see how some companies plan their Japan market entry. Although I have seen companies fail that had researched the market in advance, done a lot of planning, but failed in the end; when at the same time some companies seem to jump into the market without much preparation and – promptly fail.
While I have seen Ikea becoming now truly successful, although there were not so promising steps done in the past, I have to say now Ikea seems to have gotten everything lined up perfectly for their success in Japan. They have set up model rooms when Japanese end users struggled to imagine how to create then the same style in the smaller sized Japanese homes. Additionally Ikea is quite frequently found on TV to explain the concept. Although market entry might not be easy, I believe with some preparation and decisions done locally, there is a real possibility to success.
Another recent example of a larger global company seemingly now in the process of planning their market entry into Japan: Best Buy. Have a look at their job description as published on LinkedIN.
Considering that LinkedIn is not yet popular at all in Japan and has so far only about 400,000 members, I wonder why the ad was set up using LinkedIn as a tool. Compare this figure then to the total Japanese working population of about 80 million (based on the date from the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication), then I wonder why Best Buy is focusing on LinkedIn. The job description says that they need a Japanese national speaking fluent English. Foreign languages are not really the strength of the average employee. I was not able to find exact figures, but I have heard many times the figure of 5% of the working population can speak fluent English (not considering now what actually fluent means). Calculated this means then a potential target size of about 4 million English-speaking Japanese. But still Best Buy seems to prefer to focus a minor share of the LinkedIn group members to look for the one of the most critical position for the future success: Starting member of the Japan site.
Let me add one question: Considering the strength of local companies like Big Camera, Yodobashi Camera, Yamada Denki and all the others, what competitive edge could Best Buy bring to the Japanese market? I was trying to find one argument, but gave up after 24 hours. I can only wonder if we ever see a Best Buy store actually open in Japan, because I truly cannot see any strategy in their approach.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (伊藤シビル)