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How to enter the Japanese market successfully?

Are you ready to enter the Japanese market? Historically, Japan has posed both exciting opportunities and challenges for foreign companies. If businesses take the right measures before launching in Japan, they can better equip themselves with the tools and expertise to help increase their chances of success. Here is some preliminary reading before you start to create your marketing plan for Japan, and then you can come back to this checklist for a successful market entry into Japan.

Checklist for successful Japanese market entry

Inforgraphic - Japanese market entry checklist | Digital Marketing For Asia

1. Do the research

Market research should be mandatory for any new market entry. You are going into unknown territory – it’s best to inform yourself of what the market is like in Japan, what the trends are, who the major players are, and what kind of promotions they are running and where. Here is our digital marketing trends forecast for 2021 as a starting point, but we encourage you to delve deep into your specific industry in Japan. 

  • Market research
    • Industry trends
    • Competitor analysis

Japanese consumers behave differently compared to other countries, even within Asia. Some key things to keep in mind:

  1. The level of customer service is globally recognised. Ensure your company provides the same level of service and in Japanese whenever possible.
  2. Japanese people are very careful buyers and research diligently before making a purchase. Make sure you include an abundance of information on your website and marketing materials. 
  3. Japanese consumers value quality over anything else, including pricing. It is essential to keep this in mind when it comes to customer care and product packaging.

You can definitely attempt market research on your own, but it can take up significant time and resources if market research is not your expertise. Please contact us if you are in search of an agency that offers digital marketing consultation and market research using social listening for the Japanese market.

2. Define the target audience

Who would buy your product or service in Japan? Who is buying your competitor’s product or service? Your customer in Japan may not have the same demographics or characteristics as your customers in other markets, and it is absolutely essential to know who your potential customers are in order to shape your marketing strategy.

  • Target audience
    • Create personas

It will also help to create personas for your marketing campaigns. This will define your marketing strategy for the Japanese market. Once you launch in Japan and start collecting data from your campaigns, you can start to refine the personas to optimise your marketing.

3. Choose digital platforms

Popular media platforms in Japan may differ greatly from your home market. Consequently, we advise that you become familiar with which platforms Japanese people use and specifically, where to find your target audience in Japan.  

  • Digital platforms for marketing and promotions
    • Yahoo! JAPAN 
      • No.1 PC user reach
      • Search and display ads effective for both B2B and B2C
    • Google
      • Run search ads alongside Yahoo! JAPAN 
    • LINE
      • No.1 social media platform in Japan
      • Reach 90% of mobile users and 64% of the entire population
    • Twitter
      • Great for organic but not paid or sponsored posts
      • Used for social listening as it is the best platform for collecting the most honest opinions of Japanese people
    • Instagram
      • Japan has the world’s highest volume of “stories”
      • Great for influencer marketing and B2C or D2C
    • Facebook
      • Used for business networking in Japan
      • Stick to B2B organic posts
    • YouTube
      • Most popular social media in terms of time spent on the platform
      • Great for influencer marketing

In terms of online advertising, you will want to include Yahoo! JAPAN (especially for B2B companies targeting PC users), the most popular web portal and digital media in Japan. We recommend running search ads on both Yahoo! JAPAN and Google for B2B and B2C. On social media, there are some platforms that perform better for B2B and others for B2C. Ensure you are familiar with the most popular social media platforms in Japan before choosing which ones to use for your Japanese campaigns. For example, LINE Ads may work better than Facebook Ads if you are targeting Japanese consumers. Refer to our article on everything you need to know about online advertising in Japan and UI/UX considerations for social media marketing in Japan for more info.

4. Create a marketing plan and strategy

Based on all of your findings from 1 to 3, you should be well-equipped to create a marketing plan and strategy for the Japanese market. We have guides on how to create a Japanese marketing calendar and how to create a PPC campaign strategy for Japan which may be useful for you. 

  • Create a marketing plan
    • Strategy
    • Budget
    • Marketing Calendar

Make sure that you allocate enough time and budget to succeed in Japan. It’s a market that can take time to break into but will reward you in the long run with loyal customers. We recommend setting aside at least £1000 a month for online advertising and running campaigns for at least 6 months. 

5. Localise website and marketing content

We have mentioned this on numerous occasions, but it is absolutely essential to have a Japanese website as less than 10% of the population consider themselves proficient in the English language. And please don’t rely on Google Translate as the Japanese needs to be native and moreover, transcreated. You can find some tips on what not to do for the successful localisation of PPC campaigns.

  • Localise website
  • Localise marketing content

If you are interested in our localisation services, please do get in touch as we have bilingual Japanese digital marketers in-house who understand SEO and transcreation. 

6. Hire a native Japanese marketer, consultant or agency

With all of the market-specific knowledge and expertise necessary for a successful market entry into Japan, we recommend that you have at least one Japanese native speaker on your team. Whether it’s a country manager, business consultant or agency, we recommend finding Japanese experts who have experience promoting businesses in Japan. Here is a guide on how to choose the right agency for the Japanese market.

  • Hire a Japanese consultant

We are digital marketing experts who can support you with anything to do with online advertising, research, website localisation, SEO, and social media marketing. In fact, if you hire a country manager and end up managing your Japanese online campaigns in-house, we will be able to provide you with complimentary support if you advertise on Yahoo! JAPAN. 

For other topics such as exporting goods and registering a business in Japan, we recommend consulting with JETRO or Export To Japan. It is also worth checking your local government programmes and organisations, such as Department For International Trade’s E-Exporting Programme and UKFT for the fashion industry in the UK. 

We hope you found this checklist helpful for your Japanese market entry planning. Should you require support with any of the checklist items, our agency’s services cover all of your Japanese digital marketing needs. Contact us today for your free initial consultation. 

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