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Japanese digital marketing trends – what we forecast in 2021

Five 2021 trends you should know about digital marketing in Japan

It’s an exciting time for digital transformation in Japan, accelerated by the global coronavirus pandemic. With these environmental influences affecting Japanese consumer behaviour, we predict the following trends for digital marketing in Japan in 2021.

1. Digital transformation to continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Due to the global pandemic, the world – both B2C and B2B – has had to make drastic changes to accommodate the masses of people working from home and shopping mostly online. This has been a challenge for a nation like Japan, which is slightly behind the west in terms of digital transformation. 

With Japanese businesses seeing slower-than-expected recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we will most likely find overall marketing budgets decreasing. That said, the general trend is a reallocation of funds from traditional to digital media with an increase in digital marketing and advertising spend (as you can see in this article about 2020 trends).

2. Increase in online B2B marketing

According to this Mckinsey & Company survey of B2B businesses in Japan on their sales activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a 45% increase in moving their sales to online. Subsequently, we anticipate a surge in online B2B ads.

The same survey reveals that video conferencing, online chat, and email use have increased for B2B sales. Based on this report, we anticipate a surge in B2B digital marketing activities that include Ecommerce, video content, and email marketing. 

3. Yahoo! JAPAN is dominating Google

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began to dominate headlines in Japan, we have seen an increase in Japanese internet users going to Yahoo! JAPAN as their top news source. This is evident in the number of digital users on the platform in April 2020. Yahoo! JAPAN now has by far the greatest online reach of internet users in Japan.

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

Consequently, we believe the demand for Yahoo! JAPAN Ads – especially display ads – will increase. It is also mentioned in Yahoo! JAPAN’s media guide that they have seen a surge in video ads on their platform. In fact, they have a special offer now for free video ad creation for any Yahoo! JAPAN advertiser. Please contact us for further information. 

4. Video content will be king of online ads

Speaking of video ads, as we mentioned in the 2020 digital marketing trends article, we believe that video content will continue to play a large role in online activities in Japan. In fact, the push to digital transformation due to COVID-19 has increased online viewership. In addition, an increase in social media users and a decrease in younger TV viewers are also propelling the demand for video content online.

According to market research conducted by CyberAgent at the end of 2019, they forecasted a significant increase in video ads in Japan – and mostly on smartphones. 

Video ad market size forecast by device (2018-2023)
Source: CyberAgent December 2019

This trend towards video views on smartphones will most likely increase the number of vertical video ads in the future as it is easier to view video content without having to rotate the device.

To learn more about general online advertising in Japan, take a look at this article

5. YouTube is no.1 – social media trends in Japan

With the trend continuing within video, the most popular social website in Japan is YouTube, with LINE in close second. We typically do not count YouTube as a social media platform. However, when compared to other popular social networking websites and apps, YouTube has the most users. Using data from eMarketer, we compiled this graph that forecasts each platform’s users over the next five years.

Social media platform users in Japan (2020 to 2024)
Source: eMarketer (August 2020)

As you can see in the graph, almost all platforms will see an increase in users except for Facebook, which will see an annual decline. LINE will continue to be the most popular social media and messaging app in Japan. While Twitter will see steady growth over the next few years, Instagram and TikTok will see a steeper uptick with an increasing younger audience.  Head here for further guidance on social media in Japan

Those are our predictions for Japanese digital marketing trends in 2021. As you may have noticed, many are based around video content. As an agency specialising in the Japanese market, our bilingual digital marketers will be able to assist you with any video creation. Whether it be video ads or video content for social media, contact us today! 

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