Understand Japanese digital habits to improve your sales in new markets.

As a Japanese business owner or marketer expanding overseas, you have likely noticed the difference in people’s internet habits in other countries. But have you considered how these habits fundamentally impact your marketing and sales approach? You could be missing valuable customers.

The methods and platforms that have driven your business success domestically will likely not succeed internationally, or at least they will be a smaller proportion within your marketing mix. Noting this difference is just the first step. Putting anecdotal evidence aside, let’s take a look at real data to pinpoint the differences and understand what actions you should take.

Japanese internet use.

Internet usage in Japan varies dramatically compared to the rest of the world. Source: datareportal.com
This chart compares the reasons why Japanese internet users were motivated to go online compared to the global averages. Areas where Japan indexes higher such as filling up spare time or researching for travel are noteworthy. However, it is where Japan indexes negatively that is most intriguing.
The standout point is Japanese users are 78.5% less likely to go online for business networking compared to the rest of the world. This is a staggering discrepancy. But what does it mean for your Japanese brand when expanding overseas?
It is likely that you and your team are undervaluing the use of the Internet to grow your business relationships with overseas partners. This could mean you are not making use of business networking sites such as LinkedIn, not investing enough in your website and SEO for lead generation, or underutilizing online events as a way to connect with industry leaders. These are spaces that businesspeople outside of Japan expect to build relationships and that means it is where you need to be found too.

Language barrier.

Japan indexes incredibly low for use of translation tools.
The Japanese language makes up less than 4% of the internet as a whole, compared to over 50% in English. This does not need to be an obstacle. Over 30% of internet users on average use translation tools to access content in other languages. Japan however indexes very low for usage at only 10.2%.
With the vast majority of marketing resources and strategy educational materials written in English, it is likely that Japanese professionals such as yourself are missing out on key findings. This lack of local knowledge could be seriously hindering your efforts to grow in key territories overseas.
On the opposite side of the issue, we can see key English-speaking markets such as Australia, the UK, and the USA all indexing below 20%. These users are used to the internet catering to their language needs. This means if you are aiming to succeed in these territories, it is essential to translate and localize your content into English to reach new customers. 

Social media preferences.

Japan has wildly different social media preferences to other countries.

It is clear from the data above that the dominance of LINE skews the appetite for social media in Japan. In fact, the only platform that shares a similar market share is Twitter, AKA “X”. As a result LINE has become the major player in social media marketing in Japan but is essentially nonexistent in most overseas markets. This means new strategies are required.

“Most Japanese use LINE for quick and easy social media communication. As it is only commonly used outside of Japan in Taiwan and Thailand, this tends to inhibit easy international communication with people outside of these two countries and with people who are not Japan aficionados.”

James Yellowlees. President at Pacifica

But what platform(s) should you prioritize? This is going to depend on a huge number of factors such as:
  • Your business sector
  • Target territory
  • If you are B2B or B2C
  • Audience demographic
  • Budget
The one thing you must avoid is spreading yourself too thin. Generic content spread across 5 platforms is going to be far less effective than highly focused content catering to a specific audience on one target platform. In the B2C space, this might mean focusing on Facebook or Instagram. In the B2B space, it could mean ramping up your efforts on LinkedIn, where usage in the USA for instance is over 10 times higher than in Japan.

What actions can you take now?

If you’ve read this far then you must be serious about your overseas business. As for the next steps, it is worth checking out our advice on how to grow sales in new markets. It will involve a lot of research, adapting your product or service offerings, and crafting a tailored strategy for the specific market you are targeting.

If you want to accelerate this process, we can partner with you to bring our expertise to your business. Get in touch for a free initial consultation where we can discuss your goals and how we can work together to achieve them.

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