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Effective and distinctive solutions to digital marketing campaigns in Japan

The landscape of social channels: Google, Yahoo! JAPAN, LINE, Facebook and others

Are you looking for guidance on online advertising campaigns specific to the Japanese market? For many western businesses, their main digital platforms most likely include Google and Facebook. If they were to simply translate their ads and continue to use the same channels, the results may not meet their expectations. This is because Google is not the top digital entity in Japan, nor is Facebook the most popular social media platform in Japan. In this article, we will explain which digital channels should be used for your online advertising campaigns in Japan and how to manage those ads.

Why are my digital marketing campaigns in Japan underperforming? 

If this is a question you are asking yourself, perhaps not enough preliminary research or planning was done before launching your campaigns. There are several things you should be aware of before starting your promotions in Japan. Did you assume the same platforms would be popular in Japan? Or did you guess that Japanese internet user behaviour would be relatively similar to those in other markets? There are some notable differences in internet user behaviour that should be taken into account for your Japanese campaigns. 

Facebook is not as popular in Japan and is considered a B2B networking platform

If you have noted the most popular social media platforms in Japan, you will see that Facebook is used by business professionals for networking. In the case that your main social media platform is Facebook elsewhere, you may find that in Japan you see lower engagement and thus needing to find an alternative platform. As a B2C company, you will risk having your organic social content and social media ads go unnoticed with a poor ROI. 

Google is not the only popular search engine in Japan

Unlike in most other markets, Google doesn’t have over 90% search engine market share in Japan. In fact, Yahoo! JAPAN claims about 18% of the market. Learn more about whether to use Yahoo! JAPAN or Google for your PPC campaigns in Japan

What are the top digital platforms in Japan?

According to the latest figures from Nielson, Yahoo! JAPAN sits at the top of their ranking for digital users. This may come as a surprise to many who are used to seeing Google being a top player in almost all markets across the globe. 

Top digital platforms in Japan 2020
Source: Nielson April 2020 Top 10 report on total number of digital users

Search Engine vs Web Portal

Unlike Google, Yahoo! JAPAN is a web portal with hundreds of other service offerings like ecommerce, travel, auction, and credit cards. It is considered the no.1 news source in Japan with 79 billion page views a month1

Although Yahoo! JAPAN has the greatest number of digital users, Google still does have the majority share as a search engine. 

Social Media in Japan

As you can see in the chart, LINE comes in third place and is the top social media and messaging platform in Japan. We have previously discussed how LINE Ads might be a better solution over Facebook ads for your Japanese social media campaigns. Similar to Yahoo! JAPAN, LINE’s services range from news, COVID-19 support, online shopping, digital comics to TV and a barcode payment system. This super app is used by 90% of Japanese internet users as well as 64% of the entire population in Japan2. Here is more information on LINE

Refer to this blog article for more on digital trends forecasted for 2021 (link to blog B20).

Strategies for Japan-centric PPC campaigns

Now that we have established the top digital platforms in Japan, we can discuss specific campaign strategies for the Japanese market. Once you have defined your target audience and are aware of specific trends within your industry in Japan, you’re ready to create your ad and marketing campaigns.

Use LINE to target Japanese consumers – B2C companies

Source: Macromill internet survey of 20,000 smartphone users aged 15-69 (January 2020)

If you have a B2C business, your best bet in reaching the most Japanese consumers is advertising on LINE. Japanese mobile phone users use LINE the most as their go-to social media app. As you can see in the graph, LINE outperforms Facebook and Twitter in Japan. Refer to our guide on LINE Ads for businesses and case study on how L’Occitane increased online sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advertise on Yahoo! JAPAN to target Japanese businesses – B2B companies

Yahoo! JAPAN ads are known to perform well for B2B campaigns. This is because they have the most PC users out of all media platforms in Japan – beating Google – and many of those users are business managers and decision makers. 

Another important difference between Google and Yahoo! JAPAN is that display ads perform exceptionally well on Yahoo! JAPAN. Furthermore, they are not used for merely brand awareness, but many of our clients see an increase in conversions from their Yahoo! JAPAN display ad campaigns. You can learn more about why Yahoo! JAPAN ads are essential for B2B businesses here (link to B23).

How to start your LINE and Yahoo! JAPAN digital marketing campaigns

We have a guide on online marketing in Japan which will give you a starting point for your Japanese campaigns. There can be some obstacles in opening accounts on the two platforms if you are not a Japanese speaker or well versed in their advertiser guidelines. Line, for example, has very little support in English and you can only open an ad account with a Japanese credit card. Yahoo! JAPAN on the other hand is relatively easy as you can open a prepaid account; however, to pass their ad review, they are much stricter compared to Google. 

Do you or your agency need help in opening ad accounts or managing the campaigns on LINE or Yahoo! JAPAN? Our team of bilingual Japanese digital marketers are ready to support you with our ad management services. If you are managing PPC campaigns in house and decide to advertise on Yahoo! JAPAN, our support is completely free! In addition, we are able to open LINE Ad accounts on your behalf without a hassle and offer social media management services. Contact us to learn more and start advertising on Japan’s top digital platforms.

1Source: Yahoo! JAPAN Media Guide (October 2020)
2Source: Line Corp. (April 2020) 

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