KnowJapan

Reaching and engaging your consumers


FAMILIARISING YOURSELF WITH THE LOCAL MARKET

  • To successfully market to potential Japanese customers, e-retailers must communicate in Japanese: English proficiency in Japan is moderate, with Japan ranking 26th in the English Proficiency Index, but customers are hesitant to transact in a language they are only relatively familiar with.
  • Retailers should display all elements of pricing in Japanese Yen (JPY) and be transparent about any additional charges. Where international shipping is required, it is essential to be up-front about shipping costs and any export duties or other taxes.
  • It is of the utmost importance to notify your Japanese consumers about anticipated logistical timescales. Domestic delivery in Japan is notoriously quick, and in many cases same-day deliveries are carried out. Please see our logistics page for more information. E-retailer’s will need to ensure these customers’ high expectations are managed from the outset of the selling process.
  • Japanese customers expect to pay for goods online via the methods they have grown accustomed to; whilst bank cards are the primary online payment mechanism here, Japan embraces other methods not usually encountered in the West such as cash-on-delivery and the ever-popular offline convenience shops known as ‘Konbini’. Please see our payments page for more information.
  • It is important to capture the right ‘look’ on e-commerce sites targeting Japanese consumers. E-commerce web design in Japan is influenced by a variety of aesthetic trends that consumers respond positively to, such as:

MOBILE OPTIMISATION

  • Mobile shopping is the fastest-growing segment in Japan’s e-commerce sector. Optimising your online shop for mobile is, therefore, of the utmost importance to build a successful brand in this market.
  • Japan, alongside South Korea and the UK, is the most advanced market for mobile shopping in the world: mobile’s share of e-commerce is now around 50% in Japan, and this is expected to rise to 61% by the end of 2015.
  • In 2014, the average number of visitors accessing Japan’s most popular retail websites via a mobile device was up 34% on the previous year; app users rose 32%. The amount of traffic via PCs, by contrast, decreased 8%.
  • Overall, however, more Japanese consumers still access the top 10 retail sites in Japan using PCs than smartphones.
  • Japan rates third globally in app usage, averaging 40 apps per smartphone, and ranks highest in paid app usage with a total of 18 apps per phone.

CONSUMER PROFILE

  • Fairly well-educated consumer base with a strong proficiency in new technologies. The Japanese have a keen appetite for up-and-coming gadgets and products.
  • An ageing and shrinking population: it is estimated that by 2060, nearly 40% of the population will be aged 65+. This isn’t necessarily bad news for an e-retailer, as the largest proportion of internet users (28%) comes from the 55+ age group. Only 15% of internet users in Japan are aged 15 – 24.
  • When it comes to product quality, the Japanese are amongst the most demanding customers, expecting the absolute best. They also have high standards for customer service.
  • The Japanese view online shopping as a social activity; it is regarded as an alternative to traditional forms of social entertainment.
  • The Japanese are cautious with their money; these consumers tend to shop around searching for the best deal. For luxury purchases, however, they are willing to pay premium prices.
  • The Japanese are famous for their brand loyalty
  • Online shopping device preference in Japan varies by gender. In January 2015, 58.7% of male shoppers preferred shopping on a PC as opposed to a smartphone, as compared with only 47.1% of female shoppers.

PEAK ONLINE SHOPPING

Via a conventional computer: 8-11pm

Via a mobile device: 7-9pm

Day of the week: Monday

Jan-Mar – New Years, Valentine’s Day
Apr-Jun – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day
Jul-Sep – Bon Festival, Respect for the aged day
Oct-Dec – Christmas, New Year’s Eve

MARKETING TOOLS

Digital marketing methods are increasingly being recognised as effective tools to target and convert Japanese online shoppers. Companies in Japan are therefore increasing their digital marketing budgets accordingly.

Digital ad spending in Japan, 2013 – 2019, in billions USD

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
SEARCH
(includes paid listings, contextual
text links and paid inclusion)
$4.53 $5.14 $5.68 $6.16 $6.49 $6.78 $7.09
DISPLAY AND OTHER
(includes banners (static display),
rich media, sponsorships and
video, and classifieds)
$3.28 $3.68 $4.03 $4.32 $4.51 $4.71 $4.93

Importantly:

  • Although the Japanese engage with many Western influences, their behaviour differs to Western consumers and they respond differently to marketing techniques.
  • When Japanese consumers were asked what type of ads they are more likely to click on, the majority stated banner, images, or Flash (46%), and text ads on search results ranked second (28%).
  • As in many countries, search engine optimisation and social media advertising should be integral to your digital marketing strategy in Japan.

Popular Search Engines

SOCIAL MEDIA

Social medial platforms should not be ignored; these platforms have a variety of communities and groups where consumers can follow, review and support products and brands, though direct revenues derived from these channels can be limited.

Other areas of interest

Meeting your regulatory responsibilities

Some routes to the Japanese e-commerce market will oblige you to set up a distinct legal entity.

Receiving payment from your customers

Despite the advanced nature of bank cards and electronic payment systems in Japan, cash-on-delivery remains a popular payment method for goods purchased online.

Getting the goods to your customers

The UK's logistics infrastructure is well developed and relatively straight-forward to negotiate.

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