Voice of the Industry

Omotenashi and the Japanese cardmember – lessons from JCB

Thursday 17 March 2022 08:03 CET | Editor: Raluca Constantinescu | Voice of the industry

Tsuyoshi Notani, Managing Director at JCB International (Europe) Ltd., takes a deep dive into the behaviours of Japanese cardmembers, revealing how European payment providers and merchants can better cater for their needs


The Japanese culture is unique and multifaceted. When looking to attract Japanese customers to your business, whether online or offline, it is essential to understand that they appreciate hospitable service. 

At JCB, we are guided by a Japanese hospitality principle called ‘Omotenashi’ – and this refers to the level of attention to detail Japanese hosts offer their guests, or, in our case, our cardmembers. 

JCB Japanese cardmembers hope that this level of service will be extended to them wherever they are, but especially when they travel throughout Europe. For this reason, JCB cardmembers are invited to enjoy exclusive access to our global JCB PLAZA Lounges, where a host of concierge services are available at their fingertips. By invitation-only, a few select cardmembers are invited to use JCB ‘The Class’, which is the most prestigious JCB Card, affording very bespoke services. 

We work closely with our acquiring and merchant partners in Europe and globally, to offer premium lifestyle rewards and other associated loyalty programmes including special offers at luxury dining establishments, sought after tickets to shows, hotel stays, fashion, and much more. 

So, if you’re a payment provider or merchant in Europe looking to attract Japanese tourists to spend with you once travel opens, here are some useful insights that could help. 

Japanese travellers in Europe 

Japanese visitors have been travelling to Europe en masse for many years. In 2019, France received 1.1 million visitors from Japan, with France being the top European destination for Japanese travellers in 2018, according to data compiled by Nippon.com. And in the UK, for example, the average spend per visit from Japan was 90% higher than the global average for all inbound visits in the region in 2018. 

Although France and the UK have always attracted a high proportion of attention and spending from Japanese tourists, our own data shows that other markets in Europe have witnessed similar growth. The top three ranked European destinations for our Japanese cardmembers in 2018 were Germany, Spain, and Austria, with Spain particularly seeing a jump in visitor numbers that year – it experienced a 36% rise in visitors in December 2018 YOY1

Spend data for Japanese JCB cardmembers in these regions also showed an increase in average transaction value in 2018. Germany’s average transaction value was up 27%, Austria’s was up 39% and Spain’s was up an impressive 60%2

A pre-pandemic trend is that many of these travellers are choosing to venture abroad alone. In 2016–2017, 64% of Japanese air passengers globally were lone travellers3 – suggesting there is an opportunity for businesses with exposure to these customers to develop bespoke promotions for solo flying. 

But it isn’t just those on holiday who are spending – many international visits are business-focused. The globalised nature of large corporations means Japanese professionals are often working in offices based across Europe. 

The needs of these customers differ from your typical leisure travellers. Merchants should consider what business travellers might want to purchase on their trips, what services they need to support their professional lifestyles, and crucially how they prefer to pay for their goods. 

Japanese spending patterns 

It is important to consider how cardmembers are spending, as much as where. 

We’ve identified a clear shift towards transactions via ecommerce among our Japanese cardmembers. 91% of transactions made by Japanese cardmembers in Europe were completed digitally in 2020 compared to 73% in 20174. This rapid growth was most likely accelerated by the pandemic, but these preferences will likely remain fixed into the future. 

The UK is particularly strong in the ecommerce sector – with 73% of all Japanese cardmember virtual shopping occurring with UK retailers, rising from 59% in 20195

As international travel resumes, many merchants will be eager to welcome back foreign visitors to spend in-store, but as the last 18 months have shown us, the barriers for cross-border spending are breaking down further as technology advances. The world is truly accessible to you when you adapt and attract spending from new demographics. 

This article was first published in our Cross-Border Payments and Ecommerce Report 2021–2022, which taps into the fast-growing cross-border market and provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments that are pivotal in this space, being the ultimate source of information for ecommerce businesses interested in expanding globally. 

About Tsuyoshi Notani 

Tsuyoshi Notani is the Managing Director and Head of JCB International (Europe) Ltd. He is responsible for delivering the overall business strategy and driving growth across across Europe and Turkey. Tsuyoshi was at the helm of pioneering JCB ecommerce growth in Europe with an over 300% increase in JCB cardmember digital sales between 2016 and 2019*. He has previously led business planning, strategic alliance, and brand marketing teams from JCB’s headquarters in Tokyo. Further, he was the Managing Director for JCB International (Thailand) Co., Ltd. which includes regions such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Nepal. 

About JCB 

JCB is a major global payment brand and a leading credit card issuer and acquirer in Japan. JCB launched its card business in Japan in 1961 and began expanding worldwide in 1981. Its acceptance network includes about 36 million merchants around the world. JCB issues cards across various countries and regions internationally with more than 140 million cardmembers. As part of its international growth strategy, JCB has formed alliances with hundreds of leading banks and financial institutions globally to increase its merchant coverage and cardmember base. As a comprehensive payment solution provider, JCB commits to providing responsive and high-quality service and products to all customers worldwide. For more information, please visit our website

* Reference: JCB proprietary data (May 2020) 

1. JCB proprietary spend data, Building Foundations for Growth whitepaper 

2. JCB proprietary spend data, Building Foundations for Growth whitepaper 

3. JCB proprietary spend data, Building Foundations for Growth whitepaper 

4. JCB proprietary spend data, Ecommerce: Business without borders whitepaper 

5. JCB proprietary spend data, Ecommerce: Business without borders whitepaper

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Keywords: JCB, merchants, loyalty programme, ecommerce
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce