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BuzzStarter Website Review – Nijiya Japanese Market (San Francisco & San Jose)

On our previous website review, I just revealed to you my love of shopping. This transcends all sorts of different products, from clothes to accessories, including food. Another set of products I crave are everything Japanese, from candies to snacks, deli-style sushi, fresh cuts of fish and kobe style beef. Just to give you an idea of what I look like when I buy those Japanese Oreos:

Do it like Doraemon!

As happy as Doraemon eating a cookie!


Yeah, well I do not exactly look like our buddy Doraemon here but, that’s how my inner lion feels like when I’m munching on a 9-piece sashimi/sushi bento box for lunch… and sometimes dinner ūüôā By the way, they have great deals on these bentos, I suggest you check out out yourself as Nijiya Market is almost in every major city in both south and north California.

On the other hand, you know that this is a website review so, you are probably thinking how their website was configured or performs right? Well let me get down to this then.

Let me make this clear, going to the actual Nijiya Market is a great experience. I normally go the the San Jose and San Francisco stores and I have never had any rude clerks or attendants, they deliver products at great prices especially their deli and sushi bentos. What I am reviewing here is the site and not the brick and mortar experience, I shop here regularly.

So when I loaded up the Nijiya Market website ( on Firefox, the site appeared to hang for a few. After 2 seconds when it did actually load up, I tried on other browsers such as IE, Chrome and Safari and I got the same result so I did a little bit of debugging. Guess what I found out?

This page has 18 external Javascript scripts.
This page has 9 external stylesheets. 
This page has 7 external background images.
There are 12 JavaScript scripts found in the head of the document.
There are 51 components with misconfigured ETags.

Now there’s a couple more items that are¬†causing the site to have load time issues but these are the main culprits. Now Nijiya, if you do not know how to fix this, give me a call¬†and give you the right guidance to resolve this.

You maybe wondering, why would load times matter? Well search engines, especially Google, look for usability and this is important as the algorithm values fast load times as a good sign of user experience. There are also a couple of other important domain and page factors that Google adds to this but this has been known to have a direct correlation to page indexing.

As a retail site as well, slow loading sites are known to convert less than fast loading ones and this is fact. It is also common sense, would someone like to shop at a website that has slow loading pages? Take a look at this Kissmetrics infographic:


Kissmetrics Website Shopping Behavior Infographic.























Looking at the first graph should send the CTO and the lead product manager of Nijiya’s website back to the drawing board as that is exactly what I experienced when I was trying out the Nijiya website on four¬†different web browsers, getting the same result. Can you imagine how many visitors they are actually losing because of these load performance issues?

As far as trying to improve the brand loyalty, it is also important to note with the above data that having a fast loading site is important in achieving that. This is more true if the business is extending that brand and that retail experience to a medium that is available 24/7. Nijiya, you need to fix this and again I extend my help!

So far I have discussed some technical issues that affects not just the experience but SEO. Since we are on the topic of brand, I want to bring out something about the site. When you visit it one thing is glaringly clear, you notice that there are Japanese translations for every English copy on the every page:

nijiya market homepage

The Nijiya Market Home Page.


When I first saw this, I thought to myself I landed on a company based in Japan. I got this impression because I do visit a number of Japanese-based retail stores and the Nijiya website gave me that experience.  However, I did a little bit of digging and visited their About Us page and it turns out that the company is an American based one that started in San Diego. With its success, it has been expanding mostly in US western markets with an impressive opening in New York.

That in mind, I wondered why the effort? Are they doing this because they want to present an authentic Japanese brand?¬†It definitely can’t be for the the Japanese American market. Studies has shown that American Nisei learned Japanese (read and write) from their Isei parents, went to Japanese school, lived in a Japanese community or in the internment camps. They speak it to an extent but reading is extremely limited by this generation. From Sansei to Gosei, the first language is English and¬†based¬†on a 2011 columnist in The Rafu Shimpoof Los Angeles, “Younger Japanese Americans are more culturally American than Japanese” and “other than some vestigial cultural affiliations, a Yonsei or Gosei is simply another American.”

(Sidenote here. Not a lot of people know this about American history but during World War II, Japanese Isei, Nisei and their Sansei children were interred in camps because of Executive Order 9066. In 1988, then President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act which issued a formal legislative apology and compensation for more than 100,000 Japanese Americans who were negatively impacted by the internment.)

Is it for the visiting/transient Japanese? I did a little digging on that as well and it turns out based on the the Japan National Tourist Organization, there were¬†45,488 Japanese tourists to the US in 2013, and there were¬†52,016 for 2014. That’s an impressive 14.4% year over year increase but not enough to push revenue. To make this even work, Japanese tourists would have to be aware of Nijiya as a brand for them to even be aware they exist. The last time I flew in from Japan (I rode ANA) from Narita to SJC, nothing on the flight merchandised anything relating to Japanese stores in the area. Which I think is not a bad idea at all for Nijiya to consider in order to generate awareness.

I guess the owners are doing this to promote the Japanese language as well as elements of the culture on the website. I think that is definitely a noble effort, as I believe that in order to chart a course for the future, one must look at the past. However, presenting two language experiences in one, especially on a website can be polarizing, if anything it creates a confusing user experience. You may tend to alienate the non-Japanese American who has no knowledge of the brand, instead of converting they may instead bounce.

My suggestion? Create two versions of the site, one in English and one in Japanese. By doing this you:

  • Will have the ability to present the right experience for the right audience.
  • Will reduce¬†confusion for your average English speaking shopper. They’re not going to think that the products are shipping from Japan which equals expensive.

Now there’s a lot more issues I found (such as dead links that are heavily promoted on the left nav) as I went around the site but the one major thing that Nijiya has to fix is that, they need to create a mobile responsive version of their website. Currently they don’t have any and I am dying to see their analytics numbers to see before and after mobilegeddon, on how much traffic was¬†lost because of this.

So let’s wrap this up. I give this site 3 out of 5 buzz points. The pros:

  • As a retail site, it merchandises a good selection of Japanese products online.
  • Has a defined identity.

The cons:

  • Slow loading site.
  • Delivers a fairly confusing shopping experience.
  • The need to improve on the brand.
  • Does not have a mobile version/mobile responsive version of the site.
  • Dead links.
  • Much more…

There are some key points with this review that the business can simply take and resolve these on their own. However Nijiya, I offer my guidance, please reach out and I am more than happy to help and consult.

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Posted in: BuzzStarter, Optimization Floor, Search Engine Optimization, SEO for Retail, Website Review
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