E-commerce is a rapidly growing channel in Japan. Generally speaking, Japanese people tend to spend a big chunk of their time on the Internet. So no wonder to see online shopping is growing in popularity. But, how much do we know about this technologically advanced country when it comes to marketing? Let’s explore this.
The battle for a platform leader
E-commerce platforms are changing shopping behavior and creating something that I’d like to call online shopping culture. Rakuten is a successful Japanese business that proved the potential growth in the Japanese e-commerce market. They first launched in 1997 as a venture capital business, when only large B2B firms could afford investing in online transaction technology. Hiroshi Mikitani, co-founder of Rakuten, identified this as an opportunity, a gap in the Japanese market, and decided to create a platform for small shop owners.
Years later, Amazon has become a well-known website among Japanese people. One interesting fact about Amazon in Japan is: mainly used by men. Both businesses, Rakuten and Amazon, have injected a lot of capital into their logistics network in the past 5 years.
Although Amazon and Rakuten are the major players in Japan, but you may want to know Yahoo Japan, Start Today (focusing apparel), Mercari (shopping app) have also joined the race. However, I must say Amazon is the winner of the Two in Japan.
Noncredit payment culture
If you visit any towns in Japan, you’ll be surprised to see there aren’t much, if any, credit card machines available in shops. Cash is king in Japan. However, digital payment is growing in popularity among people in big cities, such as Tokyo and Nagasaki.
Woman, in particular those who live in Tokyo or nearby towns, often visit physical shops for window shopping. They also use their smartphones for comparing prices.
Japanese women spend a lot of time in shops and department stores but, they always look for the cheapest deal. They take pictures and make short videos to share online. Some of them are successful bloggers and use all the information to create newsletters for their email subscribers. This is perhaps why you often see them [Japanese women] using their smartphones on buses, trains and even in restaurants. On the other hand, men spend most of their time on Amazon and Google searching for what they want.
Youngsters in Japan have gone beyond E-commerce, they are the social commerce generation. Mercal, the C-2-C trading app, is growing in popularity amongst both iPhone and Android users, selling and buying everything and anything.
Elderlies however, prefer phone calls, although it’s changing due to growing popularity of promotional landing pages and email marketing campaigns. After all, grandchildren are teaching their grandparents how to use smartphones and email.
As evident above, it’s very important for you to identify your target audience in Japan. Targeting in Japan can be tricky, as different regions have different shopping behavior.
You may want to enter Japan with a well-defined mobile strategy. Smartphone in Japan is the main driver of traffic and revenue to E-commerce websites. People compare retailers and products on smartphones before deciding where to shop and what to buy.
Last but not least, TV is still a strong channel in Japan, in order to attract customer attention. Imagine what you’d be able to achieve if you combine the power of email, mobile experience and TV ads. Well defined localization plan and cross media strategy can insure your success in Japan.
Back to you
I hope you liked my fist post for GetResponse. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment below. If you’d like me to explain anything in more detail or simply if you have any questions for me.