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Asia Editor's Choice Paytech Spotlight

SPOTLIGHT: BNPL Firm Smartpay Supports Japanese Merchants With E-Commerce Investment

The e-commerce market in Japan has enjoyed sustainable growth over the last five years supported by high mobile and online penetration alongside rising consumer confidence in online transactions. This growth has been further accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic with the number of households shopping online increasing from 42.8 per cent in 2019 to 52.7 per cent in 2022.

However, not all Japanese merchants were prepared for the rapid e-commerce transition during the pandemic, according to payments firm and buy now, pay later (BNPL) platform Smartpay, with many small businesses needing support to digitally transform their businesses, as well as drive more of their sales online.

Smartpay’s research has previously identified that Japan has one of the world’s highest e-commerce cart abandonment rates of more than 80 per cent. While Japanese merchants say they want to sell more on their own websites versus just on platforms.

To support merchants in Japan, Smartpay is investing JPY500,000,000 over the next three years to improve their e-commerce business skills. It has launched a free online training programme – The E-Commerce Growth Academy – in partnership with Japan tech entrepeneur Hiroyuki Nishimura, industry body Japan Omni Channel Association and bank SMBC VC.

The Academy

Hosted on the Smartpay website, the online three-module training programme – worth JPY1,000,000 per merchant – will cover e-commerce best practices to drive conversions and revenue, build best practice user experience and build foundations of loyalty. It will also include seminars and coaching opportunities.

Smartpay will also provide a JPY10,000,000 prize for the merchant that shows the greatest improvement in e-commerce conversions after completing the course within 2022.

Naoya Otsubo, country manager for Smartpay, says: “Many merchants were hit hard by Covid and were not ready for the swift e-commerce transition it caused, but we are here to help. All parties of the partnership deeply care about merchants in Japan and what they mean to our country’s economy, jobs, growth and community.”

Brand ambassador
Hiroyuki Nishimura
Hiroyuki Nishimura

Hiroyuki Nishimura, a best selling author and renowned tech and social leader in Japan with 1.4 million YouTube subscriptions and 12 1.4 million Twitter followers, is supporting the iniative by becoming a shareholder in Smartpay as well as an ambassador for merchants and customers. He will share perspectives on enhancing the e-commerce industry in Japan, and provide feedback and insight on new products/services.

He explains: “I am so proud to be investing back into Japan’s e-commerce industry to help our country’s retailers get back on their feet by giving them the tools they need to help their shoppers with a new payment experience they haven’t seen before in Japan. Fintech success has always been achieved when you build with a win/ win mentality for both the shopper and merchants.”

Merchants that complete the course will be presented with an official certificate from Smartpay accredited by the Japan Omni Channel Association, and signed by Hiroyuki.

Yasuhiro Suzuki, chairman of the Japan Omni Channel Association, adds: “We are very excited that Smartpay is investing in local merchants to grow their e-commerce business at a time when e-commerce is growing exponentially. We are extremely proud to partner with Smartpay, Hiroyuki, and SMBC VC to launch this free world-class training programme.”

Smartpay’s aims

At the end of 2022, Smartpay, co-founded by Pieterjan Vandaele and Sam Ahmed, unveiled a series of BNPL innovations for consumers and merchants in Japan. It is the first BNPL company in Japan to integrate with Shopify, EC-Cube, Visa, Mastercard, Google Pay and Apple Pay, backed by multiple acquirers.

Sam Ahmed
Sam Ahmed,

While its single-click checkout BNPL service lets consumers checkout in as little as 10 seconds with payments structured on three equal installments over eight weeks. According to Smartpay, its solutions help e-commerce merchants improve sales conversion by more than 10 per cent over a 12-month period.

Ahmed says: “As a fintech company that has already achieved a number of ‘firsts’ in Japan for consumers, including being the only BNPL firm to be completely free for consumers with no charges and no late fees, we also have a passion for Japanese merchants and wanted to invest heavily in helping them succeed.

“If you look at successful businesses, especially in technology, it is the companies that build and invest, and value their ecosystem as partners. We believe in investing in the Japanese ecosystem whether that’s through training and improving conversions for merchants or supporting consumers by not charging them late fees and charges. That’s our investment and that’s our belief.”

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