B2B E-Commerce: How to Build Appropriate Japanese Business Relationships

B2B E-Commerce

Your e-commerce won’t be able to penetrate foreign markets unless you fully understand the culture of people you will work with. In other words, you need to adjust your sales and marketing strategy to the culture of the country you are targeting in order to work efficiently with natives. It is crucial to put yourself in their shoes and adapt your message to the culture and language. Japanese business relationships are coded & your e-commerce won’t penetrate the market unless you fully understand the culture of the people you work with.

Japanese Business Relationships: The Codes to Follow

Japanese culture has its own codes and people strictly follow them. In order to easily navigate in this world, your communication will need to conform ad follow the rules. For example, a foreigner who recently arrived to work in Japan can definitely find himself in trouble when communicating with the Japanese management systems in place. With time, some people try to adapt their behavior and manage to fit into the hierarchical system, even if more centered around the cooperation than in different Western countries.
In order to implement your project without any relationship issues and avoiding finding yourself in a situation of conflict, you will need to define the boundaries of the business relationship you are about to start. For example, use some formulation and attitude that would create a sort of distance between you and the others. So that they know where to stand. This is much more effective than resolving an ambiguous situation afterward.
In order to show appropriate politeness to Japanese business people, you will need to keep in mind the 3 critical points to nurture a great Japanese business relationship , even if you don’t plan on taking it further afterward:

1: Value teamwork
2: Respect the hierarchy
3: Don’t be too direct but beat around the bush

The 3 Ingredients to a Great Business Relationship in Japan

Value Teamwork

The Japanese school programs use annual curriculums whose main objective is to give equal chances for each student to reach the same academic level. With this system, we, as Japanese, are taught that working as a team is much better than self-decision making.
After graduating from University, former students usually get an entry-level position, where skill and experience is rarely required. From there they will learn the rules on the job and become even more team-oriented individuals.

Respect the Hierarchy

Japanese culture is very hierarchical. For better or worse, classic business top management defines the rules which determines all the business decisions, allocates budgets, and administrates small divisions. Executive and non-executive individuals have to follow those decisions no matter what. And despite the existence of gifted talent, they tend not to consider them if among younger or female staff. This leads to a society which is entirely lead by males, in which younger people and females must follow decisions.
This the reason why you need to be careful when defining employees’ assignments. You need to be authorized to, somehow, judge someone else’s’ work. Whether you agree or not with this way of doing business, it’s important to understand and respect it when doing business with Japanese companies.

Don’t be too direct-beat around the bush

Most of us Japanese people, don’t dare speak for ourselves and expose our thoughts to others directly. However, putting off decision making will make managers think that we are trying to escape our responsibilities. It’s in our culture to be less direct, and “beat around the bush” in order to explain our thoughts and opinions in a more implicit way.
In most Western cultures, decision making process should be quick, clear, and direct. However, Japanese executives take longer to collaboratively find a consensus and make their decision in an implicit way. This also goes for disagreeing with something, which is often done in a discreet and passive manner.
Building business networks and understanding local business place culture and background are crucial to a great Japanese business relationships. This is even most important when it comes to cross-border companies like e-commerce websites. While it might seem difficult to form business relationships with companies from another culture, following tips from experts in that culture will help you make heads and tails of the way they operate.
What’s your best cultural business tip?