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How to step into the Japanese market during COVID-19 crisis

With the motto “overcoming challenges together”, Yahoo! JAPAN has been analysing their data to better understand the impact COVID-19 has had on Japanese people’s online behaviour. They have shared their findings in an effort to help their advertisers.

How have internet user trends changed due to the impact of COVID-19? We will introduce the characteristics of user spending behaviour and how user trends and demand are changing. We will do this with the help of Big Data, unique to Yahoo! JAPAN.

1. Yahoo! JAPAN User Behaviour amid the COVID-19 Crisis

The monthly active users of Yahoo! JAPAN in February 2020 was approximately 72.6 million. It had increased 20 % from the end of last year (2019). Our understanding is that a wide demographic  of users, ranging from the young to the elderly, who are at high risk of COVID-19 visited Yahoo! JAPAN to get information. Not only did they search for information on COVID-19 via Yahoo! News and Yahoo! Search but also Yahoo! Shopping saw a usage surge.

Increased usage of Yahoo! JAPAN in daily life - Digital Marketing For Asia
The number of Yahoo! JAPAN service usage
Source: Yahoo! JAPAN in-house survey (Period: 01 January 2020 to 31 March 20)

2. User behaviour amid COVID-19 crisis based on big data

The data of users’ needs and interests is collected at Yahoo! JAPAN in an aggregated and anonymised form. The search volume for COVID-19 has increased since January 2020 and  search queries have changed from “Japan symptoms” to “countermeasure” and “prevention”. Moreover, as the situation changed, “death rate” became a keyword with a high search volume. Among them, the search volume for “Positive news” has increased a lot since March. We can understand the user’s changing mental state in this instance to then include negative keywords such as “COVID fatigue”.

Increase in users searching for positive news since March 2020 - Digital Marketing For Asia
Source: Yahoo! JAPAN Big Data Report (25 March 2020) 

3. Consumer behaviour based on big data

We categorise industries based on the behaviour data collected at Yahoo! JAPAN and measure the change of user’s needs based on search volume. The medical category has increased by 124% and finance has increased by 145% year-over-year. We can understand from these figures that the information needs of finance, which is directly connected to daily life and COVID-19, increased whilst travel and transport  has decreased. In real estate, the consideration needs of visiting show houses has dropped whilst the interest of property search has remained the same. It is clear that the content needs have changed in some categories.

Changes in consumer behaviour by category (March 2020) - Digital Marketing For Asia
Source: Yahoo! JAPAN in-house survey (Period: 01 January 2020 to 31 March 2020)

Please see this document about consumer behaviour by industry.

4. What Yahoo! JAPAN can do for you – supporting marketing activities

It is forecasted that the needs related to “staying at home” will continue. For example, Ecommerce sites such as Yahoo! Shopping, cooking recipes and entertainment such as gaming and movies will continue to grow, whilst the needs of the travel and food service industry will continue to decline.

How to market in Japan amid COVID-19

Since the original article (above) was prepared by Yahoo! JAPAN, the overall sentiment in Japan has been recovering from the initial shock of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 cases are low compared to the West, and the majority of Japanese citizens have returned to a cautious but somewhat normal life. Japan launched a domestic travel campaign called “Go To Travel” which has seen success across the nation, and a similar campaign to encourage eating out called “Go To Eat” has followed suit. Although the economy has been hit and recovery is much slower than anticipated, Japanese people appear to be going about their daily lives domestically.

That said, there are aspects of the pandemic that will stay and have changed Japan for the foreseeable future. For example, a whopping 65% of Japanese companies encouraged their employees to work from home, which is enormous considering their traditional work culture. Many companies will continue to adopt digital transformation, especially with a push from Prime Minister Suga, and allow employees to work remotely and adopt new technologies. Consumers have also discovered the convenience of online shopping and have adopted many new online and digital services. 

As for the travel industry, people are still quite limited when it comes to international travel. Japan had initially closed its borders to all foreigners with tourism taking a huge hit from the lack of international visitors. Although their rules have eased since then, it is still a challenge for foreigners to enter Japan without a visa. Some positive news, though, is that Japan is planning to allow overseas tourists from Spring 2021.

Although tourists may be keen on visiting Japan, Japanese tourists are not in a hurry to travel overseas. An analysis of the search volume of travel-related keywords on Yahoo! JAPAN reveals that domestic travel terms are almost back to pre-COVID-19 levels, whereas overseas travel-related keywords are still quite low1. This is most likely due to people being deterred from self-quarantining and having to show negative test results from COVID-19 tests before and after travel.

Here are some key takeaways from the analysis of the impact of COVID-19 in Japan.

  1. Yahoo! JAPAN is a top media platform for online advertising in Japan.
  2. “Stay home” will continue to be a trend but the urgency in Japan is not as strong as in other Western countries.
  3. Ecommerce, entertainment, and other digital services will grow.
  4. Domestic travel has resumed but international travel is still difficult.
  5. Digital transformation has changed the way companies conduct business, allowing for opportunities in the tech industry.

Overall, the consumer demand for digital services and business needs to support remote work has catalysed digital and online industries. Moreover, it has become easier to market to the Japanese people through online marketing. Our Japanese digital marketing experts have experience in helping overseas companies enter Japan digitally. With services ranging from online advertising to social media marketing, contact us for your initial consultation.

1Source: Yahoo! JAPAN organic search data of trip, tour, flight ticket and hotel categories from 1 November 2019 to 19 July 2020. 

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