Three tips to increase sales: The differences between the Japanese and British shopping experience

by Intern, on 2019/08/09 14:43:47

Every year, interns come to Flow solutions from all over the world. What do they expect from Japan and Japanese culture?
This article is part of a series written by interns about the customer experience in Japan.
This time, we asked an intern who came to Japan from the UK about “the differences in the shopping experience between Japan and the UK”. This article concerns itself with an evaluation of the Japanese retail experience and ideas that Japanese retailers should consider looking into in the future.



Westminster Bridge at sunset, London, UK-1


I, like many Brits before me, came to Japan expecting a high-tech, futuristic, and above all, alien, country.
No doubt, this was because of films like “Lost in Translation”, where Tokyo was used to explore the isolating effect of big cities.
This definitely added to my preconceptions about Japanese customer service. I expected robots and touch screens, not old-school, white-glove treatment.
This style of customer service is almost non-existent in the UK.
Perhaps if you were to go to a very traditional store, like the famous Savile Row tailors, you might find something similar, but it’s not at all common.
However, in Tokyo, go to any store, even one of the ubiquitous convenience stores, and you’ll be greeted with a resounding welcome and staff, who are always ready to help without being overbearing.
This a highly effective tool, especially if you’re new to Japan, because you feel that you should buy something, just to show your gratitude to the lovely staff.


Casual woman portrait smiling and looking very happy


Tokyo might not be your first thought for old-school customer service, but it is extremely well-known for its cutting-edge fashion.
Wander down to Harajuku, and you’ll see a canvas of bright colours, Victorian-inspired corseted dresses and a whole host of wacky and wonderful costumes. These trends often impact the direction of global fashion, and hugely contribute to Japan’s soft power.
Nevertheless, if you go into a clothing store, you might be surprised by how understated the clothes on offer are. Apart from a few specific streets that are filled with one-off boutiques, the majority of stores would look as at home in the UK as in Japan.
The only real differences that I’ve discovered are that international brands are often more expensive in Japan, and that clothes from Japanese brands tend to run small.


ECO keyboard, Green recycling concept

Generally, whilst Japan and the UK have their differences, they are more alike than different.
However, as someone who tries to be environmentally conscious, living in Japan can be something of a struggle.
Japan has a great reputation for recycling, claiming that an incredible 84% of the plastic it gathers, goes on to be recycled.
Take a deeper look at the data and you’ll see that this isn’t quite true. In Japan burning plastic is counted as recycling, whilst most other countries see it as a damaging, polluting, process.
Equally concerning is the sheer amount of packaging.
In the UK, there’s a small charge on carrier bags, inducing shoppers to bring their own bags.
Not so in Japan. Every purchase, no matter how small, comes in a plastic bag and absolutely everything, including bananas, is wrapped in plastic.
Younger generations are becoming more and more environmentally conscious, and if Japan doesn’t change, it could become less attractive to shoppers.

The core message of this article is that you should dismiss any preconceived notions about Japan.
Customer service doesn’t rely on robots, not all Japanese fashion is outlandish, and recycling could become a very serious issue indeed.

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Writing by:Isabella


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