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Expert advice on how to tailor your digital marketing strategy for Japan

Most companies looking to market their product or service in Japan have seen success in another market first. If you are one of those businesses, here are some tips on how to tweak your existing marketing and promotions plan for targeting the Japanese market. 

5 steps to tailor your digital marketing strategy for Japan

Step 1: Define marketing goals for the Japanese market

If this is your first time promoting your business in Japan, it is important to focus on building brand awareness. As an overseas brand, it may be most effective to work with a local PR agency or Japanese influencers to introduce your brand to your target audience. Ensure that promotions are also tailored towards Japanese people and are not merely copied from your existing marketing plan. Be aware that Japanese consumers have distinct consumer behaviours and expectations. Some preliminary market research will help you create an optimal marketing strategy. Here’s a guide on how to conduct market research on Japan. 

Step 2: Update your target audience and personas

The target audience you have for your home market may not apply in Japan. Each market has its own characteristics, and Japan is no different. Learn what type of Japanese person might become a customer and find out why they would choose your product or service over the competition in Japan. Refer to this article for help in creating personas for the Japanese market. Furthermore, knowing the differences in personas between Japan and your home market can provide clues on how to tailor your service offering in Japan. Make sure to note all the similarities and differences so that you can create effective campaigns that will be attractive to Japanese consumers.

Step 3: Integrate Japanese market trends

When considering digital marketing, there are several key differences in Japan compared to most other countries. One being Japan’s popular social media platforms and digital media channels for social media marketing and online advertising. For example, Facebook is not even in the top 3 and LINE, Japan’s no.1 messaging app, has the greatest number of monthly active users at 86 million. Another difference is that Google is not the only major search engine player in Japan and Yahoo! JAPAN had the most digital users in April 2020, beating Google. We have also outlined specific solutions on how to tailor your online campaigns in Japan. 

We compiled some digital marketing trends in Japan for 2021. Some highlights include the continued rise in the popularity of video content and video advertising, plus an increase in digital transformation at Japanese companies. Make sure you are familiar with all the trends and integrate your findings into your strategy to keep it relevant and up to date on a regular basis.
For ecommerce in Japan, Amazon is also a major player but there are others specific to the Japanese market. If you are selling online, make sure to include Rakuten and Yahoo! Shopping as marketplace candidates as well. It’s also important to note the popular payment systems in Japan as they are completely different from other countries. Paypal is almost non-existent, PayPay is the top cashless payment system in Japan, and thanks to its popularity, other barcode-based payment systems are also booming, such as Rakuten Pay and LINE Pay. Remember that most Japanese online shoppers will expect to see these payment options when making purchases online.

cashless payment system QR code

And why are all of these ecommerce platforms and payment systems successful in Japan? We believe it’s because users are able to collect points and win cash back, and the Japanese love this! Knowing this, perhaps you can incorporate a digital stamp card or frequent-buyer discounts to your customers. It can help to build loyalty and repeat purchases from Japanese buyers.

Another way to learn about trends in Japan, especially product or industry specific data, is through social listening. You can use digital tools to track what popular topics are being mentioned on social media channels right now. Moreover, social listening data can enrich your digital marketing strategy by providing the latest target audience, competition, and market-specific analytics.

Step 4: Include Japanese holidays and events

Japan has a unique set of holidays, and even the ones that may seem familiar are celebrated differently. For example, Christmas is mainly a date night for couples or for families to gather to eat KFC and Christmas cakes. Also, it’s the girls, not the boys, who give chocolates out on Valentine’s Day. In addition, seasonal sales occur at different times compared to western markets. You can reference our guide for building a Japanese marketing calendar for further information. 

Tokyo Olympics 2020

Let’s not forget the big event of 2021 in Japan, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Although it is still scheduled to go ahead in the summer of 2021, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we advise that you keep a close eye on any changes to the event. Should it go to plan as scheduled, this is a great opportunity for companies to promote their brand in Japan. With the world’s eyes on Japan and expected increase in inbound tourism, make sure to take advantage of this event. For instance, include Olympics-related keywords in your online advertising campaigns and social media posts. 

Step 5: Localise all content into Japanese

Last but not least, ensure all of your content is transcreated into native Japanese. This includes your website, organic posts and all PPC ad copy. Unlike some other Asian markets where there are many English speakers, in Japan you must localise everything into Japanese. Unsurprisingly, there are many challenges to properly localising campaigns into native Japanese. As such, we recommend that you hire a translation agency or translator who can write marketing copy in native Japanese who is also a native speaker. 

Furthermore, a mere translation is not always enough when localising digital marketing content. Ensure to use your market research findings and refined target personas to also tailor the messaging in your online campaigns. 

In conclusion, when creating a digital marketing strategy for Japan, it is essential to customise every aspect with the Japanese market in mind. We mention the importance of tailoring your goals, target audience, online campaigns, marketing calendar and content. 

Let’s also not forget to conduct market research in Japan before making changes to your Japanese promotions strategy. 

As always, you have the option to hire a Japanese digital marketing agency to carry out the above steps and beyond for you. At DMFA, our team of Japanese digital marketing experts can ensure your market-entry strategy will be effective in Japan. We can also provide consultation and ensure the quality of Japanese content as native speakers while offering support in English. Contact us to learn more about our online marketing services. 

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