This post is part of a regular series of interviews with people across Asia-Pacific who use the Internet to create, connect and grow. This week Mr. Kinoshita, the CEO of Tsujikura, from Japan shared his four customer-centric business principles.
1. Think deeply about what your customers need
Tsujikura of Kyoto was around well before the Internet was dreamed of, let alone the radio or television. A manufacturer of traditional Japanese lanterns and umbrellas established in 1690, Tsujikura takes pride in maintaining the tradition and culture passed down during its more-than-300-year history. Tsujikura might be steeped in Japanese history, but after many overseas tourists visited the store in Kyoto, Mr. Kinoshita, the CEO, said that he "felt that the business had a duty to deliver a small piece of Japanese culture to those who could not visit the store in person." To answer this need, Tsujikura launched its website in 2012.
2. Only promote to customers who are interested
After the site launched, Tsujikura started using Internet ads to promote the site. This was a big step for the company that had had never used newspaper or magazine adverts in the past, but Mr. Kinoshita explained his philosophy, "Internet ads allow for the kind of freedom of expression that I strongly believe in. Search ads can provide genuine information to those who are interested." Once Tsujikura started using online ads, international sales saw a three-fold increase in 2014 and page views doubled. Since 2012, the company's combined national and international sales have grown by 160%.
3. Follow the customer, wherever they may lead you
Initially, Tsujikura concentrated its ads in the US, but after receiving orders from Spain and France, the company implemented ads in the two countries. In addition, following transactions with hotels based in Singapore and Maldives, it also continues showing ads in those two countries.
4. Listen to customer demands, but maintain your standards
In many countries, Tsujikura's umbrellas are used to make places look nice more than to keep off the rain, and some of them are also turned into lighting fixtures. Mr. Kinoshita is happy to meet the needs of his customers, but will not compromise on the centuries-long traditions of craftsmanship, "Because Tsujikura has a long history as an umbrella manufacturer," Mr. Kinoshita explained, "we are happy to adapt the existing product to the new world of today, while maintaining our long-established traditions — without introducing any radical changes to the way they are made."
What's next for this traditional company? Mr. Kinoshita shared that in October 2014 40% of users accessed the site from mobile devices, so their next step is to follow them onto mobile with a new mobile-friendly website.
Posted by Mr. Kinoshita, CEO, Tsujikura
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