Hello. I’m Kokumai and I handle product management for Tokyo Otaku Mode’s global ecommerce platform.
How much do you know about Tokyo Otaku Mode (TOM)? Whenever I give out my business card at business talks and events and say the company name, I continually get the following kinds of reactions:
- Is this a Japanese company?
- I’ve heard of the company, but I don’t know much about it.
- Isn’t this the company that runs a Facebook page for introducing to the world otaku culture?
The truth is, TOM also runs a global ecommerce platform from Japan geared toward people abroad (as well as carries out various other operations). Through our shopping platform we sell products related to Japan’s otaku culture and pop culture and ship them out all over the world each day from Japan.
When talking of ecommerce, sites like Rakuten and Amazon probably come to mind. Because barriers to selling products online are lower both mentally and physically, this approach may seem like a no-brainer. However, as far as global ecommerce is concerned, the hurdles are much higher.
Since our company is geared toward a worldwide audience, it comes as no surprise that we can’t use Japanese. So it’s essential that we write all product descriptions in a way that sounds natural to read for overseas customers. (After all, most people probably don’t want to use their credit card to buy something from a site that uses cringe-worthy machine translations.) We also offer customer support in English.
Products that are domestic to Japan are easy to ship, and even if there’s a problem, it can be cleared up immediately by a phone call. On the other hand, however, when shipping products abroad the process is complicated and crosses multiple suppliers. And what’s more, if there’s a problem like the product never arrived or it was damaged, it’s necessary to investigate where the problem occurred and communicate with the customer in their language. Another issue is that pricing can change drastically depending on the box size and shipping company. And since sometimes shipping can cost several times more than the cost of the product, a big issue is how to reduce shipping costs.
Though it almost never happens in Japan, credit card fraud is a rampant problem overseas. In order to avoid sending out products without noticing the order was fraudulent and other such trouble, it’s essential to check each order every day to make sure they are not fraudulent.
When trying to sell products created through the use of an anime’s copyright, they can only be sold in specific countries/areas. Japanese publishers sell merchandising rights to suppliers in other countries, and in many instances products created by Japanese manufacturers can only be sold within Japan. Selling such products to unauthorized countries results in a contract violation. At TOM, we confirm the foreign regions each and every product can be sold in, and only sell to regions that have been authorized.
We at TOM have overcome each of the above hurdles by striving toward creating a global ecommerce platform from scratch.
Today, I’m introducing the fulfillment center, which can also be said to be the heart of the company.
The fulfillment center is located in the coastal area of Tokyo.
The scenery along my commute to the fulfillment center includes a certain world-famous theme park.
This is the warehouse from which we send products all over the world.
These are the behavioral guidelines for the warehouse. We take all four of these “keys” seriously, and by daring to set them in order of most importance it makes decision-making easier during operations.
The walkways inside the warehouse are kept free of any trash. The warehouse wasn’t cleaned up for the photo; rather we always keep it clean for the sake of safety.
This is the “station” area where the person managing the progress of all warehouse operations sits.
A grouping of hugely popular figures.
This is the inspection area for newly received products. We check each plushie one by one for quality.
In order to have shelving of the optimal size, a portion of them are made from cardboard.
This is where we keep apparel products like T-shirts and sweaters.
Our gigantic elevator that looks like it came out of a movie. This was taken just as a batch of orders were being carried off to be shipped out all over the world.
Here is a bundle of boxes that held products that arrived to the warehouse. Many products arrive each day which are later bought by fans worldwide through TOM’s ecommerce platform.
We even take great care with the music played in the warehouse. We play our favorite BGM depending on members’ requests.
We have 10 different kinds of cardboard boxes. They are separated by size according to their dimensions. We gave forethought to the shape of the boxes to match as much as possible a variety of products in order to lessen the shipping cost for customers.
The pillars of the warehouse are decorated with gigantic posters by TOM Special Creators. A drab image may be conjured up when hearing the word “warehouse,” but having creator artwork gives it an eye-catching impression.
Here’s artwork created by a member!
The white portions were created by cutting the cardboard and peeling off a thin layer.
Each order is carefully packed one by one. This one is wrapped in a gift bag, which is an option available for $3.
Special Creator omake (freebies) are hugely popular with customers and are switched out periodically.
We keep things tidy and organized; everything from accessories to stationery is kept in its proper place.
This is the warehouse space we call the “B-Side.” Here, large products in cardboard boxes are arranged orderly in accordance with each sorted area.
Here’s a shot of our office space. Similarly to the warehouse, this shot wasn’t taken after we had just cleaned, this is what it normally looks like. Keeping everything clean and tidy is a gift that the warehouse manager has been thorough about for several years.
At our photography studio inside the warehouse, our professional cameraman handles photographing products each day.
The warehouse is usually connected via video chat to our offices in Shibuya and the U.S.
A shot of the art gallery inside the office.
These are the illustrated clear files that we give out as omake (freebies) to customers. They were made in collaboration with TOM Special Creators.
So, what do you think? Firstly, I hope that you were able to feel the atmosphere of the Japan fulfillment center through the photos. Part 2 of this article will include an introduction to our in-house developed warehouse system, what we’re particular about inside the warehouse, and an interview with the warehouse manager.
Also, we are currently recruiting members to join us in spreading otaku culture to the world. If you’re interested, please feel free to come and listen to our story. We’re currently looking for outstanding members!
Full-Time Campaign Manager
Customer Support Representative