Detailing automobiles have always been my hobby since I first purchased my 1994 BMW 318i when I was 18.
The word "Detailing" is something very new in Japan. In Japanese, "Sensha" meaning "to wash" was an overall broad description. As an importer, wanted our automobile enthusiasts to enjoy their lifestyle by bringing in a new experience and concept, hoping to extend the longevity of the current market for the next 10 years.
The wide variety of accessories was another big reason for choosing Auto Finesse. There were more than enough items in one brand that anyone can wish for. The brand colour of black and teal were eye-catching. Although bottled solutions must be tested before seeing results, but I believed the accessories alone were sufficient to attract customers, giving them the perfect opportunity to try out a new brand. I was confident that I would be able to fill in the gap if I brought in "Detailing" to Japan. The brand that fulfilled my idea was Auto Finesse, and I currently still stand with the choice I made.
Honestly, the initial reaction to the Japanese was not great at all. Don't get me wrong, the product range was great, and the solutions and accessories themselves were amazing. The package design had a huge impact compared to other brands which stood out on social media. The branding was excellent.
After launching, not just being a new detailing product brand, Auto Finesse had a much more different "ideology" for automobile enthusiasts.
First of all, the idea of [Pre-Wash] did not exist in Japan. As I mentioned earlier, "Sensha" was just about washing a car. Contact washing with shampoo and mitt was the first stage after rinsing it all down with a hose. No one understood the purpose of snow foams and pre-washing until we presented the "why's" and "how's". When we started Auto Finesse Japan, waxes were considered old-school. Sealants or Coatings were the Japanese standards, and everyone looked for professional stores to have their vehicles finished. The idea of washing a car was only there to wash down dirt and maintain the beauty of the paint. We understand enthusiasts in the UK polish their own cars with a polisher, however over here, polishing is still considered to be a work for professionals.
Auto Finesse had approximately 130 products, and we knew no other brand in the Japanese market had the same amount of variety. The challenge was tailoring the products for the Japanese consumer. We focused on tailoring the products in a manner where a customer would not be reluctant to challenge themselves with the new concept. We worked especially on how to explain what each product was for, by creating labels for each bottled product, even including instruction manuals.
The marketing for the lineup was done through design brochures, websites, and social media, mainly focusing on brand imagery. The goal was to strike our target customers with the impact of "The World of Detailing" and differentiate the new concept from the commonly known "Sensha". After 4 years, the term "Detailing" became widespread in Japan. There are now plenty of detailers that give out services, not just polishing and finishing like in the past, but more focused on how to maintain a clean vehicle from the wash stage. High-performance luxury waxes re-entered the market, and are advancing over sealants. I like to think of myself almost as the pioneer of "Detailing" in Japan, and it motivates me to carry on my current business.
As Auto Finesse Japan, we currently use two online platforms for direct sales. One being our official online website, and another online Yahoo Store mall. We also distribute to Autobacs, the largest automobile lifestyle providers in Japan, detailing stores, auto custom stores, and also online gift stores for various purposes. As an exclusive distributor in Japan, our main job is to safely import goods, inspect every product that has been flown in over the Pacific, and provide dealers and direct customers with the highest quality products that we can vouch for. We have great partnerships with dealers who offer walk-in stores and provide services with detailing bays. If we were to expand the Auto Finesse brand even more on a larger scale, walk-in stores may be a possibility in the future. Business in Japan is built on mutual respect with each other. These relationships are the key to success in business in the future.
Starting up as a distributor, we inquired about Auto Finesse through their online website. Dealership and distribution programs were easy to find, and the advantages/differences were immediately clear. Responses to contact were prompt, and we were immediately provided with sample products, before opening an account.
As we had the expertise from our previous business arrangements, we had experience importing products, however, we did lack the knowledge when it came to importing mass amounts. We were aware that other international distributors often use sea freight shipping, however, we preferred air as we found it less time-consuming and secure. This is when Auto Finesse had brilliant support for us on the logistics side. Their coordination with their carriers created a stress-free importing experience for distributors like us. Auto Finesse handled everything from the collection, export, and delivery.
Product images and pack shots for every product were provided to us through our dealership online account. All images were available at high quality for any use from online usage to printing pristine banners. Everything on social media was available for all of us to use. Last year, Auto Finesse updated its imagery platform. All files are now shared with every distributor, and they can be downloaded with any device. MSDS and product videos for all products can be downloaded through the online account as well.
Our favourite product is definitely "Avalanche". It's surprising how it can loosen up and remove dirt, oil, and grime without touching the surface, and being pH neutral. Works extremely well on all cars, smells good, and looks amazing. Avalanche has been one of our Top 3 best-selling products each year. We believe there are unlimited goals for Auto Finesse Japan. As we mentioned earlier, the idea of the pre-wash was uncommon in Japan until Auto Finesse was introduced in the market. The first two years were the most challenging because it was a new brand and it was a concept that had to be recognised and trusted by our target customers.