How To Ungate Your Amazon Account To Sell in Japan
Whether you are an established or new Amazon seller, getting started with Amazon Japan seems like a straightforward and lucrative idea.
The fact that Japan’s marketplace is growing at a fast pace makes it a hotspot for potential Western sellers who want to gain from the untapped consumer base. Also, while Japan might seem like a small marketplace at the moment, it is the third-largest e-commerce economy with almost 71% of its population preferring online shopping.
This makes Amazon the best online shopping choice, especially for sellers who want to reap the enormous capabilities of Amazon Prime Japan.
But what makes Japan the to-go choice for both local and foreign sellers and buyers? It is the nation’s strong infrastructure, internet penetration, or favorable tax requirements?
While the country seems to have some of the best seller-accommodating services, there is still more to learn about selling on Amazon.co.jp, as discussed herein.
Why Sell on Amazon Japan?
By records, Amazon Japan makes over 13 billion in net sales and gets over 550 million visits per month. This makes it the 14th largest online store in the world, slightly above Rakuten and Yahoo! Shopping.
Moreover, being the 11th most country populated country, the Japanese online e-commerce platform receives hundreds of millions of visitors. That means listing your products allows you to reach millions of new and seasoned online buyers, and expand your business.
Therefore, besides increasing your revenue, here are three main reasons why you should consider expanding your market outreach to Japan.
#1 Amazon Japan Marketplace is Ever-Evolving
For more than two decades, Amazon has been operating in the shadow of its immediate competitors: Rakuten and Yahoo! Shopping. However, the now giant e-commerce platform has always worked aggressively to ramp up its market dominance, and it currently owns the largest market share in Japan. Going by these trends, anybody aspiring to tap into the vast online space is sure to enjoy the best-selling moments.
#2 Ever-Growing Audience
In 2022 alone, almost 650 million people visited Amazon.co.jp, and the number is estimated to increase in 2023. That means, even with an unsaturated market, Amazon sellers still have a lot of customers to buy their products. Moreover, fewer available sellers mean new sellers can create their brands without worrying about getting sabotaged.
#3 Numerous Payment Methods
Japan is a technologically advanced country hence; sellers and buyers can enjoy numerous convenient payment options.
Whether you want to receive or make payments in local and international currencies, you can opt for cash on delivery, e-money options such as PayPal, or credit cards.
How To Start Selling on Amazon Japan
Selling on Amazon Japan is an enjoyable experience, considering how the platform allows new and already-established sellers to juggle several hurdles in multiple regions. However, like any other country, Amazon Japan has its unique selling requirements that all sellers must fulfill before they can start selling.
Briefly discussed, here are four steps one can use to start leveraging the vast e-commerce space to reach more buyers.
#1 Research the Market
The first step to start selling on Amazon.co.jp is to make preparations and understand the market.
This step has a lot to do with knowing which products are most sought by Japanese consumers and those that need additional considerations before launching them.
Market research also helps new sellers to know if other sellers are selling similar products. The information can be obtained from Japan’s recommended product categories on Amazon seller central Japan.
International sellers planning to enter the Japanese market also need to consider tax and import regulations before they can start selling. For instance, when importing goods, sellers need to pay Import Consumption Tax and customs duties for some products. The consumption tax paid also depends on the customs value of goods, customs duties, and other excise fees.
#2 Set Up the Account
Amazon account registration is almost similar to all sellers and involves a straightforward process that starts with clicking the relevant call to action (CTA) button such as Sign up or Get Started. While the seller can use third-party ungating services, the general steps will prompt them to provide the following documents:
- Company registration details (company name, email address, business license)
- Information about company owners and team members
- Credit card
- Phone number to receive PIN verification code
- Bank details
- Product UPCs or EPNs
When setting up an Amazon seller account, sellers also need to choose their plan, which is either a basic or professional plan. The Basic Plan is for those that sell less than 50 items per month and costs 100 JPY for each item, plus referral fees that vary based on the product category.
On the other hand, a Professional Plan is for businesses that sell more than 50 items per month and costs 4,900 JPY per month plus referral fees. As an advanced plan, a professional plan allows sellers to list products in certain categories that basic sellers cannot access.
#3 Build Product Listings
The Add a Product tool is all sellers need to utilize when selling a small number of products.
However, those dealing with large volumes of inventory may need to use inventory file templates; spreadsheets that contain multiple data columns that describe products using different information.
Sellers who need to optimize international listings can also use Build International Listing (BIL) tool that allows them to create and update offers from a single marketplace to more target marketplaces. That means Amazon Japan sellers can manage their Japanese inventory through international marketplaces like the US. However, this is only possible if the sellers have linked their accounts from two separate regions.
Moreover, while BIL lets sellers propagate product ratings and reviews across different marketplaces when they use the same ASINs, sellers can also face challenges like using the same product image, models, descriptions, and size chats.
For this reason, the sellers only need to choose one set of product details, which can limit them from connecting with customers from different marketplaces.
#4 Ship and Fulfill
Japanese consumers are known to be strict on deliveries. Thus, whether sellers are shipping from their local warehouses or international markets, they will still need to create in-country bases to facilitate faster deliveries. This is where the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service comes in.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is the simplest shipping method that relieves merchants of the stress of organizing logistics and satisfying Japanese buyers. In this type of fulfillment, the Amazon Japan platform takes the responsibility of processing the transaction, collecting the products, and shipping them to customers. The service also offers additional features like basic customer service that handles returns, requests, and refunds. Sellers can get more information about Japan FBA here.
Sellers who prefer handling their products themselves or selling dangerous products that are not eligible for FBA can still choose Fulfillment by Seller (FBS). In this case, they can keep their inventory on hand, decide on their packaging and labels, and manage profits on products with tighter margins. To hasten deliveries, they can enlist services of delivery companies like Sagawa, Japan Post, and Yamato Transport.
Amazon Prime Japan
Amazon Prime Japan has become a household name in the Japanese tech and e-commerce industries. Owned by Amazon, the program allows its members to enjoy free 2-day shipping, online streaming, and unlimited shopping deals.
Also, as a strategy to streamline the buying and selling process, Amazon Prime Japan allows its subscribers to enjoy free special product handling while Prime buyers can try products before they buy.
How Much is an Amazon Japan Prime Membership?
Since its introduction in 2005, the Amazon Japan Prime membership cost has increased over the years, just like any other online streaming subscription. For instance, while the subscription is currently at 4,900 yen annually or 500 yen monthly, it is expected to increase to 5,900 yen annually or 600 yen monthly from August 2023. The cost, however, does not scare away determined sellers and buyers who want to enjoy unlimited Amazon.co.jp services.
The program offers different subscription plans that allow both new and established users to choose what best fits their budget. The subscription plans include:
- Amazon Prime annual membership allows its subscribers to enjoy their membership for the whole year. The plan is suited for those who use their Amazon Japan Prime membership regularly and costs about 19710.90 JPY per year, with a 12-month renewal plan.
- Amazon Prime monthly membership renews automatically every month and costs about 2125.66 JPY per month. The plan allows its users to access a complete content library of Amazon Prime, as well as fast shipping and delivery, online streaming, games, and discounts.
- Amazon Prime student membership allows students with authenticated school email addresses to access Amazon Prime for 1062.12 JPY per month or 9784.55 JPY per year. The plan also gives students a free six-month trial before they can start paying for it.
What Do You Get with a Japan Amazon Prime Subscription?
Japan Amazon Prime subscription comes with numerous benefits depending on the location and membership plan. Here are some of the key benefits of being a Japan Amazon Prime member:
- Free Special Handling for items that require careful storage, packaging, and shipping.
- Prime Video: Access to unlimited movies and TV series at no extra charge. The benefit is exclusively for Japan-based customers.
- Prime Video Channel: Prime members can get extra channel subscriptions for a low monthly charge.
- Amazon Music Prime: Access to ad-free shuffle playback of 100 million songs and playlists at no extra charge.
- Free Shipping Benefits: Prime members can experience free shipping through Standard Shipping, Expedited Shipping, and Scheduled Delivery.
- Raku-raku Baby: Raku-raku Baby subscribers can enjoy a discount offer of 10% for buying baby products. They can also get a free Welcome Box when they add 30 or more items to MY Baby List.
Amazon Seller Central Japan
Amazon Seller Central Japan is a platform or dashboard that allows Amazon sellers to manage their selling accounts. It also helps Japanese sellers to navigate their accounts and grow their businesses with vital tools and content. With these basic tools, sellers can:
- Add or update their product listings.
- Track their daily sales.
- Manage payments, returns, and refunds.
- Monitor their store performance through customer metrics.
- Manage other selling programs like B2B, Amazon Custom, and Handmade.
- Access international markets through Amazon Global Selling.
How To Access Seller Central Amazon Japan
Seller Central Amazon Japan is available to all Japanese Amazon sellers once they register and create their selling accounts. With their accounts ready, they can choose their selling plans, either Basic or Professional plan. From there, they can now access the Amazon Seller Central dashboard and utilize it to streamline their online businesses.
Japanese sellers can also create their Amazon Seller Central accounts free of charge, which allows them to expand their selling potential. Amazon also makes the registration process straightforward, with only basic requirements like business type, product categories, and contact details.
What Are Amazon Restricted Or Gated Categories?
Amazon gated or restricted categories in Japan are those with strict selling rules that no seller is allowed to sell freely. These categories, brands, and ASINs have specific approval guidelines, and any seller who meets the standards can enjoy a vast market with less competition.
That means Amazon only has the power to draw the rules and open gates for more sellers to access the categories. The good news, however, is that Amazon does not always restrict the entire category, like in the previous gating practices.
Instead, it gates subcategories, leaving some products open, even though they might be under gated categories. This explains why there is a short list of gated categories and a long list of restricted products or subcategories.
Generally, any seller who wants to sell within a gated category must apply for Amazon to let them in.
Also, enlisting the services of third-party ungating companies is another way how to get ungated in Japan for Amazon to let them in.
Why Does Amazon Gate Its Categories?
Most multi-million investments are built on trust, customer satisfaction, and a healthy working environment, and Amazon is no exception. Being a huge marketplace with millions of users globally, Amazon strives to maintain a good relationship with both buyers and sellers by ensuring only high-quality products are in circulation.
It achieves this by gating some categories, brands, and ASINs. Therefore, among others, here are the main reasons why Amazon gates its categories:
To Be Able To Monitor Product Standards
One of the first missions of the company is to ensure buyers are offered both high-quality and safe products. It does this by allowing only sellers whose products have undergone stringent quality assessment steps to access highly-demanded categories.
Since the platform is home to millions of brands and buyers, there are high chances of buyers getting counterfeit products.
Hence, it is Amazon’s responsibility to block such products by setting up strict selling rules. That is why ungating service for Japan requires sellers to show authorization and necessary documentation from agencies that oversee all safety standards concerning ingredients or raw materials, packaging, product labeling, and expiry dates.
For the Protection of Every Brand’s Reputation
Amazon also works jointly with big brands to ensure that only authorized resellers can list products from certain brands.
Therefore, to protect the brand’s reputation, Amazon asks sellers to provide legit documentation from these brands to show they are allowed to list their products.
Resellers who do not provide proof of authorization are locked out of certain categories. Many large and well-known brands require pre-approval with them directly, before even applying to Amazon.
This is true for both seasoned sellers, and individuals new to the platform.
To Enhance Customer Satisfaction
Besides ensuring buyers can get high-quality products, Amazon also restricts some categories to prevent sellers from exploiting buyers. That means only sellers with a positive track record can access the categories and reach buyers.
This enhances customer satisfaction and a positive rating. The company may also limit or dictate maximum pricing to ensure buyers are not being fleeced.
Adherence to The Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency
Many items require the approval of the PMDA to sell in the Amazon.co.jp marketplace. No retail platform, website, or other selling venue is permitted to offer any product that is not previously approved by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The obvious reason for this is safety because specific laws exist to ensure that end users are not harmed. Further, items from foreign countries may not be permitted, as they do not meet standard codes from other regulatory bodies.
Categories And Products That Require Amazon Approval in Japan
As stated earlier, Amazon has a long list of gated products and a short list of restricted categories. That is because one category can have more subcategories, which can add up to tens of products.
Therefore, when applying for approval, Japanese sellers need to consider three ungating levels; category, brand, and product ungating. They should also differentiate between category and product unlocking.
General Guidelines to Get Ungated on Amazon Japan
Whether you are a new reseller, FBS, or an established FBA seller, utilizing the vast market space offered by Amazon should never be a challenge again. Amazon’s mission is to see its users grow, and thus, increase sales and profitability.
And this does not matter if you are listing your products in a locked or unrestricted category. If you want to expand your selling portfolio by accessing restricted categories, here are the general guidelines to get ungated on Amazon Japan.
Sign Up for A Professional Amazon Seller Account
Professional Amazon Seller Account is the backbone of any seller as it records all the activities conducted by the seller on the platform. It is through this account that Amazon can tell your business position and determine whether you meet all the quality standards or not.
If you don’t have one, you can create a Professional Seller Account which goes for around 4,900 JPY ($39.99) per month. Starters can also choose to create a Basic Seller Account that costs about 100 JPY ($0.99) for each item sold.
Analyze And Verify Your Account Health
Creating a professional Seller Account is not enough. You still need to maintain its health to maximize your chances of getting approved. Maintaining a healthy account includes meeting your customers’ expectations and adhering to Amazon’s business code. That means you should have a timely shipping record, good customer relations, competitive pricing, and avoid violating Amazon’s policies. To check your account health, go to the Account Health section on the Amazon Seller Central Japan Account and click on the Performance menu.
Check Specific Category Ungating Guidelines
Each category has specific ungating instructions, and you need to check them before requesting approval. Some categories are complicated, while others have simple instructions that even new sellers can unlock easily. For example, some categories like CA Grocery & Gourmet ungating service may require sellers to have at least three years of selling experience and running websites.
Choose A Reputable Supplier
Getting a reliable supplier is also a vital step, especially as your demand curve grows. Amazon will also ask you to provide legitimate invoices from trusted suppliers whose products fall under gated categories. After choosing a supplier, you need to place at least three orders, with each order having at least ten pieces of the restricted product. Retailers are not considered suppliers. You cannot go down to your local store and purchase a bunch of items for resale. The products need to come from verified wholesalers and distributors.
Prepare All Documents
Before submitting your approval request, you need to prepare your documents, which include recent purchase invoices from reputable wholesalers. These scanned copies of individual invoices should have all the ASINs written next to the product name. Price and other confidential information should be locked for wholesaler privacy.
With all the documents and other requirements ready, you can proceed to request approval from Amazon.
Guidelines To Ungate Specific Categories on Amazon Japan
If you intend to sell in any gated category in Japan, you need to consider the following best tips to maximize your chances of getting ungated:
- Obtain Pro-Merchant Status. – You can get the status for around 4,900 JPY ($39 per) month. It becomes easier if you already have a Professional Seller Account.
- Maintain Order Defect Rate Below 1%. – Since it is challenging to tell how fast some products can go bad, it is crucial to ensure your orders move as fast as possible to minimize cases of selling defective products.
- Maintain Pre-Fulfillment Cancel Rate Below 2.5%. – A higher pre-fulfillment cancel rate can impact your account health negatively. Thus, you need to lower your order cancelation to maximize your approval chances.
- Lower Late Shipment Rate to Below 4%. – Timely delivery is one way to get customer trust; hence, you should try as much as possible to avoid late shipment.
Final Thoughts on Ungating Service for Japan
Entering Amazon.co.jp as a new reseller or an established FBA seller is among the best marketing options you can choose.
Considering how fast the Japanese e-commerce industry is growing, incredibly high-quality products in circulation, and the Japanese habit of bulk buying, you are guaranteed to record high sales through all seasons.
However, while the marketplace seems promising, it is also vital to keep in mind other barriers like language, cultural differences, and other local issues that may limit your exploration.
Although, this should never be an issue with the right ungating service in place.