The BoF Podcast | How Brands Can Court Luxury Shoppers in Japan

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Japan is home to some of the world’s most sophisticated and fervent fashion consumers, but its digital and e-commerce channels have long lagged behind other markets. That started to shift with the pandemic and e-tailer Zozo benefited from the momentum. Zozotown, its Gen-Z focused fashion marketplace saw a surge in orders, and in 2021, the company launched Zozovilla, a luxury destination that quickly attracted brands including Loewe, Dries van Noten and Thom Browne.

But while Covid has helped shift more Japanese shoppers online, companies hoping to cash in on the change must keep evolving to maintain their interest.

“What’s very important is constant newness, to keep on bringing new collaborations, new content, new news, different ways to style… especially for Gen-Zs,” said Christine Edman, executive officer of Zozo. “This is normal for them: what they wear today, they wear for social media maybe, but tomorrow they change.”

Key Insights:

  • Edman notes there’s a dichotomy at play among Japanese fashion lovers: consumers are interested in individuality, but also drawn to homogeneity, following trends that come and go quickly.
  • Many luxury brands are met with fanfare when they first enter the Japanese market but to have staying power in the country, brands have to have patience and invest locally, she said.
  • E-commerce offers opportunities for more personalisation, something Japanese luxury customers expect more of in the wake of the pandemic, said Edman.
  • In hopes of better understanding the mechanics of a good recommendation, Zozo just launched an in-person styling lab, which brings customers in for appointments and uses data analysis to help them pick outfits.
  • Japan’s fashion retail market is likely to settle into a more hybrid model, said Edman: stores will be more experiential, but consumers will turn to online for convenience.

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