Case Study: White Rabbit Japan

White Rabbit Japan is a Tokyo-based company offering a proxy buying and package forwarding services and publishing a wide range of Japanese learning materials. I've worked closely with the team at WRJ to optimize the operations and consolidate the product line of the company.

Overview

WR logo

White Rabbit Press launched their publishing business in the early 2000s with a deck of kanji flashcards for Japanese language learners. The series quickly become a top-selling product in markets around the world and was later expanded to include a set of premium-quality kana flashcards and a kanji wall poster.

After setting up their online shop for Japanese language products, the company spun off White Rabbit Express, a proxy buying service for Japanese goods which are difficult or impossible to find outside of Japan. They also produced a series of audio guided tours, Tokyo Realtime, which was nominated for an Audie Award alongside industry heavyweights like the BBC.

Business challenges

As White Rabbit Japan grew from a small startup to a much larger venture with several divisions involved in very different industries, the company met a number of challenges:

  1. White Rabbit Press' offering expanded from two successful items to a wide array of products for tourists and Japanese language learners.
  2. White Rabbit Press is facing less overall interest in the Japanese language than when the company started and increased competition from mobile apps and other digital products.
  3. White Rabbit Express became the new focus of the company, raising questions as to the importance of the publishing business and how much attention it should receive.
  4. The increasing demand for Japanese goods in China is driving the company to refocus their strategy as the White Rabbit services have primarily been targeted toward the English speaking market.

Action steps

Consolidated product line

White Rabbit Express is now responsible for over half of the company's revenue but White Rabbit Press remains an important part of the business.

WRP

Upon close analysis of the sales data, competing products, and the current state of the market, we have identified a number of products to concentrate upon hereafter. Unpopular and less profitable items were purged from inventory freeing up cash for other business units.

Improved mobile apps and ebooks

White Rabbit Press is a household name for Japanese learners who prefer the feel of high quality paper to that of a greasy touch screen. Nevertheless, the educational industry has no doubt moved on and the time has come for the existing physical products to be updated for the new millenium.

Graded readers

Building on the positive brand equity that White Rabbit Press has generated over the years, a number of new educational products have been set for release in the coming year and existing ebooks have been overhauled to take full potential of the digital media.

Revamped proxy buying experience

The existing proxy buying system, based on manual quotes with no fees or credit card authorization before purchase is confirmed, worked well at the beginning, but as the number of orders grew the time wasted on non-serious inquiries added up to ever increasing losses.

The stricter policies designed for the new White Rabbit Express website are bound to reduce the total number of inquiries, however most serious clients actually prefer to make a committment to purchase in exchane for faster processing times and a more straightforward buying experience.

The new process also serves to filter-out the casual window shoppers from the serious clientele, and allows the company to provide its users with a more personal customer service.

Emphasized package forwarding service

Package forwarding accounts for a large percentage of the company's revenues yet the service has been underrepresented on the White Rabbit Express website and marketing materials since its inception.

The service has now been given the attention it deserves and new partnerships with Japanese sellers and local distributors abroad have been set up to prepare for a more aggressive expansion into foreign markets where competitors such as Tenso enjoy a clear lead at the moment.

Optimized operations

Following minute interviews and a close examination of the day to day activities of every employee at the company, a number of optimizations have been set up to cut the processing time from quote to product delivery by more than 80%.

operations

Improvements ranged from education of personnel, through implementation of cloud based accounting & inventory management solutions, to technical innovations such as the use of wireless bar code readers, computer-connected scales and application programming interfaces.

Achievements

The changes introduced during my time at White Rabbit Japan have led to significant improvements in profit margins, customer lifetime value and customer satisfaction. The changes have also prepared the company for expansion to foreign markets and future growth without the necessity of immediate workforce additions.

More importantly still, the consolidation of the business has clarified the vision of the company for the years to come, and hi-tech innovations in the workplace have given the employees more free time and made their daily routine that much more enjoyable.

Philip's wealth of valuable ideas, skills and experience have made a huge positive impact at White Rabbit. He is also energetic, sociable and fun to work with. I can highly recommend him, especially for technology business consulting.
— Max Hodges, CEO of White Rabbit Japan

I continue to work with White Rabbit Japan to fine tune the new processes and make sure that the company's excellent products and services receive the public attention they deserve.

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