Ask any CD or record collector today: if you could go on a CD/record hunting spree anywhere in the world, where would it be? There’s little doubt, that the overwhelming majority would say, Japan.
If you are like many, who prefer Japanese editions of your CDs or records, you’re usually met with one of two problems: cost (they are pretty pricy) or, access (you’re limited to only the selection that re-sellers on eBay provide or outlets like CDJapan which are limited primarily to readily available, recent, in-print titles).
The question that begs to be asked is, why would anyone, in 2017, still pay two or three times more for a Japanese product offered by a reseller on an auction site like eBay? If you’re looking for airline tickets these days, would you get in your car, and drive to a travel agent? Would you then browse through only the offers he/she has prepared, before selecting one, and paying for it, along with their hefty commission fee- when all they did was press a few keys on their laptop to purchase the ticket?
Or, you could just bypass all that trouble, and order your tickets directly from the source- from the comfort of your home. Who in 2017, would pay a travel agent hefty commissions, for a service anyone with a laptop can carry out in a matter of a few keystrokes?
Odds are, when you buy a Japanese CD on eBay for $50, the vendor you picked it up from probably paid around $10-15 for that CD- if that. To be fair to that vendor, around $10 of that $50, will be donated to eBay and Paypal by way of their fees. The rest however, will cover a relatively standard markup. The question is- why would anyone, in 2017, continue to pay two to three times more for that CD that they have to? Ten years ago, with little other options- it made sense. But today, there are options. Buying from re-sellers on eBay, Amazon, and similar sites is no longer the only way to get rare/expensive items from Japan. Today, there are services like Kupiku.com, which enable you to order directly from thousands of domestic Japanese vendors who offer their goods only to the local Japanese market. In short, you’re going directly to the source: bypassing all the additional fees that are passed onto you when you buy from re-sellers/middle-men. Sort of the same way, as if you actually flew to Japan and went on a shopping spree there. Only, now, you no longer need to pay for that flight. You can do this from home.
The reflex answer would be “Well, I can’t afford to fly to Japan to go on a CD/record hunting spree in Tokyo”. A more conversative response would be “well, I’ve been dealing with eBay for years, and they’ve always had my back when I faced an issue”. Let’s address these two points.
As long as you have a computer, and an internet connection, you have access to virtually the entire local Japanese market from the comfort of your home. There no longer is the need to fly to Japan to pick up the latest Japanese goods. Kupiku.com offers you the ability to search, find, and purchase, from thousands of domestic Japanese vendors who offer their goods in Japan to Japanese buyers only. Consider that Japanese issued $50 CD you bought on eBay once. Chances are, there’s a small local vendor somewhere in Tokyo, probably on a little side street, who’s had that same CD for sale in his little shop for 1,000 yen ($9) for a few years. He/she probably offers their inventory online (on websites like Amazon Japan). Kupiku.com, now allows anyone in the world to find that listing, and order it.
Then there is the question of loyalty. Let’s be honest: few of us are truly immune to the effects of branding. We identify what we believe in and who we are through branding. We watch certain news networks almost religiously, while completely discounting other networks. We believe one car maker can do no wrong, while believing another might have more success if they started making home furniture instead. Branding is an incredibly difficult barrier to break when faced with making objective decisions. Countless experiments have demonstrated the power of branding. The taste-tests with popular soft drinks often come to mind, where subjects were asked to drink a new, unknown soft drink, out of a can belonging to a major brand, and then offered the major brand’s drink, in a generic, unbranded can. As expected, most said that the drink inside the branded can they recognized, tasted better.
The same holds true for our allegiance to virtually everything. Brand-induced allegiance makes it very difficult to remain objective (whether we’re talking about products, or politics). Consider this: we continue offering Japanese products on eBay, and Amazon. On any given day, we’ll receive an order for a given CD at a significant markup. Let’s say, we just sold a relatively rare CD for $80. On the one hand, we’re delighted to receive an order with a substantial markup. If the CD generally sells for $80-100, it would make little sense for us to offer it for $50. And yet, this customer could just as easily have used the Kupiku service to find that same CD for $20 or less (simply plug it’s catalog number or barcode into the Kupiku search box). What is most unusual, is that we have in some cases, gone as far as introducing the Kupiku service to such buyers. We have showed them how easy it is to purchase the exact same products for a fraction of the cost, directly from vendors in Japan. And yet, some, continue to purchase their Japanese goods via the same re-seller channels they’ve been using for years- paying double, or even triple, every time around.
This places me, the founder, in a very unusual position: on the one hand, I certainly don’t mind if people purchase a given product from us on eBay: we’ll earn more from the sale. But, another part of me understands that if we can serve the long-term benefit of a customer, if we can offer them genuine, demonstrable long-term value, they will benefit. And let’s face it: the foundation of any business, must be rooted in the relentless pursuit of providing value, and demonstrable, measured benefit to their customers.