How Uber Japan failed to localize their UX
Despite establishing a local office in 2014, Uber has had difficulty growing in Japan.
The cheap and convenient public transportation means that ride sharing is unnecessary, and the huge number of local restaurants and convenience stores mean that food delivery is an extravagance reserved for pizza parties.
But this is changing due to COVID-19, as food delivery services experience a boom in interest from people stuck at home. And while Uber has a great head start on new local competitors, their UX is holding them back.
Uber Japan has invested heavily in advertising and campaigns, without taking advantage of UX research to localize their UX to the needs of Japanese users.
This has created a confusing and frustrating user experience that is a case study for why simply translating the UI is not enough, and how conducting UX research to understand local users and localize the UX is essential.
Firstly, the process to create a new account is partially in English, and partially in Japanese. Not only is this confusing, but it can affect the user’s trust in the service at the crucial account creation stage.
The user is required to enter their name to create an account, but the name fields are around the wrong way, requiring users enter their name in the American way, First > Last name instead of the Japanese way of Last > First name. This leads to users entering their names in the Japanese way first, before realizing and going back.
The most frustrating part of using Uber Eats in Japan is entering an address, because the UI is simply a poorly translated version of the US version. Japanese addresses are unique, and the majority of apps will autocomplete your address from your post code, only requiring you to enter your building and apartment number.
With Uber Eats, first you need to select your country and city. (even though this is the Japan Uber Eats app) Beneath that is the only required field - a mysterious area that says “additional information”. Beneath that there are spaces for your post code and actual address.
If you leave out the “additional information” it will return an error that offers no explanation as to what you should write for additional information.
Despite Uber Eats Japan focusing their marketing strategy on coupons in mailboxes, the UI for using the coupons is confusing. The order page has a small “no promotion code applied” section, which you can tap to see “Promotions you can use” and "Promotions you may not use" (?) From that screen you can find the button that allows you to enter a promotional code.
While this is incredibly confusing, it is made worse by the decision to use the term "promotion code" (プロモーションコード) which requires 10 characters and is therefore cut off in the UI, instead of "coupon" (クーポン) which only needs 4.
Japan's oldest food delivery company, Demae-kan, is putting up a fight against Uber's aggressive campaigns to grow their user base during the coronavirus crisis. The company recently received funding and management support from LINE, and released an updated version of their app that is much easier to use than Uber Eats - notably including an easy way to enter your address and food categories that match the tastes of Japanese customers, for example the category "Japanese Curry", which would be under "Japanese Cuisine" in Uber Eats.
The Uber Eats app in Japan has a large number of negative reviews focused on how the app is hard to use, with users saying that they are surprised that such a large and successful technology company could make such a poorly designed application.
If Uber is to be successful in Japan in the future, conducting research to understand their Japanese users, and reflecting this in their UX is essential.
Don't make Uber's mistake! Contact me about conducting user research to adapt your product to Japan.