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BuzzStarter Website Review – Mitsuwa of San Jose (or Torrance)

Did I tell you how much I loved Japanese goods? A few months back when I made a pit stop at Narita, I ended up buying a couple of goodies like this Yomiuri Giants ballcap, fridge magnets and Tatami slippers. There is just something about products that come out of Japan that brings me back to when I was 7 and let me tell you why. Tatami slippers feels awesome on your feet at the end of a long day by the way ūüôā

You see my father earned a technical scholarship at AOTS (Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship) early in his career and he spent a few years training and eventually working there.

Kamui #9 of the Yomiuri Giants

Kamui #9 of the Yomiuri Giants

During his time in the Empire¬†he would buy my older brother really cool toys, which made my eyes glaze over, and I remember getting upset because I had limited air time with his toys. All I got at that age was a t-shirt or Mars chocolate bars when he came back home. Do not get me wrong here, as a young boy I still appreciated whatever I got especially growing up in a very strict and middle class household. It translates up to now as Japanese chocolate bars are the first things I normally buy from Nijiya or Mitsuwa, the topic of this articles’ website review.

A quick reminder once more, this review is not about the actual service at Mitsuwa. This review is based on their website and the various pros and cons that I find as I browse around its different sections. The customer service at the San Jose store again is quality, extremely friendly and the deli and food products are of good grade.

Now the website is quite interesting. Doing a basic incognito search on Google, with all cookies deleted and current location service masked, the Mistuwa (mitsuwa.com) website shows on top of SERP. I click on it and this is where it brought me:

mitsuwa homepage in japanese

Mitsuwa… in Japanese!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I immediately got confused because immediately after landing here, Google landed me on the Japanese version of the site. Now normally I would not mind but compared to Nijiya’s English/Japanese mix, Mitsuwa’s was much more immersive, with a lot of Kanji and not a lot of English words or Romanji.

I also had to do a double take just to make sure I am not on Google JP as I tend to do analysis and testing across different Google search versions and sometimes I forget to reset it back to the US version.

However no big deal right? On the upper right section of the website is a link that says “English >” so I went ahead and clicked on it…

…only to be brought back to the Japanese version! I clicked on it once more, on different browsers and different search engines such as Bing and Yahoo and all results drop me back to where I started.

Hard to write a website review in a language that I do not understand right? Do not fret dear explorer, Chrome has a decent translation service which I inevitably used just so that I can navigate and understand where Mitsuwa is headquarted. Clicking on Translate brought me a not so perfect English-worded version of the site but it is better nothing and I just really needed to get to their About page to get to the bottom of their corporate identity. Once I got there, it looked like this:

mitsuwa company page-english translated

Hold on wait… all that Kanji and they’re based in Torrance?

 

Hmmm… so… Mitsuwa is another US company based in Torrance, CA with no stores in Japan or anywhere else in Asia.

At this point, I have to give them low points for user experience. Either the English version of the website is not working for some reason, which they still need to fix as Google tries to serve the best experience based on the probable location of the user. Or they are forcing their user to go to their Japanese version, regardless of where they come from. I think the first scenario is more likely as it does not make any sense to force the Kanji experience on their English-reading customers. The thing is though, as I pointed this out on my Nijiya Market website review, there is very little potential ROI with regards to delivering a default experience that your main United States market or audience will not appreciate. Most of my views regarding this can be read in my¬†BuzzStarter Website Review ‚Äď Nijiya Japanese Markets article¬†so I am not going to rehash it but let’s just say that less than 1% of the the US market read Kanji, so I would not default a Kanji experience unless my company is based in Japan.

Since I am slightly hinting once more on product and branding, I have to tell you something. I have been shopping at Mitsuwa for almost 3 years now and I never knew they had a mascot until I started reviewing the website, of which I only went to when I decided to review it. Say hello to Mi-tan!

mi-tan-mascot-mitsuwa

Mi-tan, the Mitsuwa Mascot is definitely a cute and cuddly something…

 

It definitely is an ambiguous type of animal, maybe an usagi (rabbit), a guinea pig (morumotto), or a white mouse (shiroi mausu). Whatever it is, it is cute right? This critter is all over the website too which brings me to my point…

How come I never see this guy at the San Jose store? I will definitely try to drop by shortly after I write this to double-check but I am fairly sure that Mi-Tan is not heavily merchandised at all because if she (or he) was, I would have seen plushies of this guy all over the place. Having mascots are an easy way of emotionally connecting the brand to your audience however in this case, the Mitsuwa mascot is not surfaced as much in the store that I go to when compared to the website. It definitely is a huge room for improvement Mitsuwa, Mi-Tan keychains anyone?

Have you guys also noticed all these certificates at the bottom of most retail websites? Most of these security certificates are for the users security, especially when it comes to their identity and credit card information for online transactions. For Mitsuwa, they have this badge at their footer:

PCI Compliant Control Case badge

PCI Compliant… really?

 

Again, the goal of this is to assure visitors to their site about certain security guarantees. In this case, Mitsuwa is guaranteeing PCI Compliance, that they are following a set of requirements designed to ensure that they are delivering and maintaining a secure environment whenever you store or transmit credit card information on their site.

Sounds good so far right? Well let us click on the badge to see what the real skinny is on their PCI Compliance…

mitsuwa-non pci compliance

Uh oh… Someone needs to update this…

 

As you can see, it looks like the certificate has not been updated in awhile. By the way, looking at this message does not mean Mitsuwa is not PCI Compliant but on the other  hand, it does not make anybody feel good online shopping here once they see this message. Time to fix this guys!

How about the actual shopping experience then? It was challenging at first because since I am being defaulted to the Japanese version, clicking on the “Net Shopping” link sends me directly to the Japanese version of the online store. Now I do not know if this is by default but I will give them the benefit of the doubt that it is not.¬†Luckily there is an English version of the online store and off I went.

Immediately I found a number of tactical SEO items that can improve the site such as:

  • Category structure. The online store has almost the same categories as any other shopping site but it’s at the same level URI wise as product pages. For example the Bread and Jam’s category URL:
    • https://store.mitsuwa.com/bread–jam-c19.aspx
      is at the same level as a product under the category:
    • https://store.mitsuwa.com/boloniya-butter-bread-p1435.aspx
      This is important because if search engines where to define your keyword to category structure, it would be harder for these bots to differentiate between parent and child pages, where your categories are parent pages and products are children, and attach the right taxonomy to these groups.
  • Lack of direction in keyword research.
  • Friendly URLs need to be revisited for relevance.
  • Much more…

The wrap up. I give the site a score of 2.5 out of 5 buzz points. It is the lowest score I have given thus far ever since I started reviewing websites. The pros:

  • Great selection of Japanese goods that are available online.
  • A fairly fast loading site.
  • Mobile responsive.

The cons:

  • They need to fix the English version of the site. For US based retail store there seems to be a lack of urgency in fixing this, especially when almost 99% your consumers can’t read Kanji.
  • Fix all security certificates on the site.
  • Lacking in tactical SEO best practices on the online store.

Mitsuwa, if you need help please reach out and I will be more than happy to give you the proper guidance you need to resolve these and the other issues I found that are too many to mention.

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