Have you ever noticed that ramen shops in Japan kinda stick together? If there is one, there is another one close by, maybe two or three. And not just ramen shops, it can be Japanese sweets, eateries, anything. This might seem strange at first but there is a well known traditional Japanese business sense behind it. Two is better than one because more choices drives more foot traffic and interest. ‘Hey lets go to the local ramen shop district and get something to eat.’ The common interest is why store rivals tolerate each other because the increased customer interest and traffic drives business for everybody. All boats rise together.
I was reminded of this when a Japanese friend scolded me for constantly putting down code payments like PayPay when the speed and ease of Suica is so superior. “Why is it westerners always see things as black and white? Lots of choices drives interest right?” He was right of course. Coming from a western mindset it’s too easy to fall into the same old double standard of saying more choice is better on one hand, while on the other insisting that we should only use one thing. The old one size fits all, my choices are the best for everyone.
I also think there’s another, much larger and unacknowledged cultural difference regarding the concept of service: the Japanese mind tends to think of good service as being offered many options, while the western mind tends to think of good service as fulfilling one’s personal needs and wants of the moment. It may seem like a small difference but it’s a completely different way of seeing things. It’s also a good reminder that what’s convenient to our person is not necessarily convenient to other people.
One size doesn’t fit all. What’s the point of having all that different hardware when everybody’s forced to use the same software? Lots of choices for lots of people works better in the end…it drives interest in mobile payments when there are still a lot of people in Japan who have yes to use anything but plastic or cash. Variety invites and lifts all boats.