This November, two big names in the tech industry entered the Japanese market. Slack and Quora announced during TechCrunch Tokyo (November 16th and 17th) they were releasing their products with full localization in Japan. Why Japan and why the need to localize?
The Japanese market, its challenges and the need to localize
The Japanese market is as attractive for foreign companies as it is challenging. However, some intricacies of its business culture and product expectations make it difficult to smoothly gain a foothold.
Japan is not as open to foreign brands as its Asian counterparts. Attention to detail and high quality expected by the average Japanese consumer is vitally important and this extends to software as well. Consumers will not be as patient towards beta products as in the West: Japanese consumers will expect a perfect product before purchasing. Also with regards to language, although machine translation has improved dramatically in recent years, the English-Japanese language pair still has a lot of room for improvement. Editing and localizing remain a must as presentation and grammar are key.
Bringing a business to Japan is only possible by adapting to its culture and audience; solely translating without thinking about the context will only lead potential users away.
Slack and Quora
Two well-known tech businesses, both used in the office and in our free time, have chosen Japan as the first Asian country to localize their products.
Slack’s CTO, Cal Henderson (left) and Quora’s CEO, Adam D’Angelo (right) during TechCrunch Tokyo 2017. By the way, has anyone noticed Cal’s shirt choice? 😉
Slack was made available in Japanese on November 17th. WOVN.io has been using Slack since we were founded; its easy-to-use business chat service makes internal communication a lot easier. Thanks to it, we barely use emails and our Slack channels are accessible to all our team.
Even before localization, Japan was already the third biggest country to use Slack with half a million users every week, this was one of the reasons why they chose to start their Asian expansion in Japan. It took the Slack team over a year to fully localize their service, including specific changes adapted to the Japanese market such as including a send button or fonts, and to create documentation and help materials in Japanese.
As for Quora, after localizing in Spanish, French and German, they have now started offering a Japanese version of their website and app from November, as well.
Quora started as a platform to share knowledge about startups and to connect entrepreneurs with investors. It is now one of the biggest knowledge sharing spaces with unique quality control that makes them stand out from other platforms. Japan seemed appealing because of its market size, where more than 93% of the population uses the internet, out of 120 million people. Based on population alone, China would have been a more interesting market, but its strict internet policies predicted otherwise.
Regardless of the country targeted for a new business, the only way in is by listening to the customers’ constantly changing needs and adapting to them, in whatever language that might be.
Trello is also expecting to release its localized product in Japan beginning next year and we are looking forward to the outcome.
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