I have been meaning to write about the new and improved Costco.co.jp for quite a while now, definitely over a month though. Over the last year it seems like the majority of Costco websites around the world have been updating their look and information. As a usability person (in my former life), I totally applaud this since the sites were pretty basic and had limited usefulness really since the information was very static and sometimes out of date. As many of you know, Costco US and Canada got major design overhauls a while ago that really made some huge leaps forward in the ability for people to have a better shopping experience. And of course, Costco UK thrilled many a UK Costco lover with the unveiling of their full online shopping site a few months ago. All of that has been great and really improves the Costco brand. But even the countries that don’t offer online shopping (yet, I hope) have been making some improvements to their sites. Sure, their improvements and design changes might be on a smaller scale but it is all important since so many people look online first for information about stores now.
The newly designed Costco.co.jp site is a huge step up from the previous site. I think the thing that makes the biggest impression is the new, clean look of the site with links right from the homepage to a wealth of information about Costco Japan. I’m also a fan of the store images running as a bit of a slide show on the page; love the one with the bevy of roasted chickens! Aside from the pictures, there are links to the main areas across the top of the page for areas like Membership, Locations, and Careers. However, they also have several graphic, ad style links to other information (though in some cases it is the another link to the same information in the main menu). I like that they quickly direct people to the two membership types of Business and Individual right from the homepage now and do it with an image which is likely to get the most notice. Down at the bottom of the page they have text links to all of the pages on the site in a site map directory. There is a wealth of information on the site that you could have easily missed before but now it is very easy to find and go right to the page that fits your needs Also, at the very top of the page in small text to the right, you will find links directly to the FAQ, Photo Center, Event Information. But also up in that same bunch of text links is the exciting Expansion Plans link. This is also where you can find the link to toggle from Japanese to English.
I think the best improvement though has to be the addition of the “What’s New?” and “Event Information” sections right on the homepage. The “What’s New” section is an excellent use of the website since it highlights all of the important news in easy to read bulleted lists and does actually change. It’s so handy that they list the stores that will be opening this summer and have deals for early membership registrations for residents in those areas. That is a great way to generate lots of interest and give new customers a little more incentive to join early. The other part of that section that is a perfect update is the list of career opportunities. This information is nice to have so easily found on the homepage, but it is also a good improvement since it gives visitors a possible reason to keep checking back to the website. I think Costco Japan is making really good use of their website now since all of the information in the “What’s New” and “Event Information” sections appears to actually change and keep up to date with timely information and not just languish there for forever until it is tragically out of date.
I also noticed that there’s a sign-up for an email magazine for Costco Japan members. From the little tiny picture this looks like they mail out coupon information, as well as other useful Costco Japan news, if you sign up. I was going to try to sign up but since I don’t have a Costco Japan membership, I am excluded from being able to receive this information. Of course, since it is only available in Japanese I’m pretty sure that would exclude me from getting the full benefit out of the magazine too. Naturally, I wish that they would have any coupons available as a PDF right from the website, just because I know that people are still reluctant to sign up to get even more email when they’re not sure of how much benefit there will be and more importantly, how often they get email from signing up for something.
I’ll be in Japan for a holiday at the end of June and I can’t wait to check out a Costco or two, if I can find one that I can get to without driving (I’m not sure I’m up to driving in Japan). Trying to find the right location though has made me realize that they really need to have a way to search for a location that is nearby a certain address or city, like you can on the Costco US website. I had to look at the Expansion Plans page to see a map of all the locations so that I would have a rough idea of where they were. I don’t understand why if I can perform a search for a nearby location on the Costco US website I can’t do it on any of the websites for Costco in other countries. I guess I’ll just have to go to continue to use the Costco US website for this information still. Maybe this is something that Costco Japan could work on improving in their next website update.
Costco Japan currently has 15 different warehouses open in Japan with another three set to open this summer. It’s wonderful that their website is maturing as their membership base grows. Wonder when they’ll start having online shopping?