Japan has faced a significant shift in consumer behavior within the past decade, notably among the younger generation. Corporations hoping to grow their business within the Japanese market are compelled to recognize and adapt to the new, less materialistic attitudes of Japanese youth.
When it comes to businesses and brands, Japanese customers have a powerful preference for physical presence and establishment. However, with an understanding of the following principles, the difficulty of opening shop in Japan can be eased.
#1: Accept The Current Reality of Customer Dynamics
Until just recently, there were many tidbits of ‘understood wisdom’ concerning Japanese consumers: They buy domestic, they don’t spend much on in-home luxuries, they will pay a lot for quality. These were verifiable, unfailing truths. Unfortunately, they don’t ring so true anymore.
Due in part to recent economic trends, Japanese customers have become considerably more cost-conscious. Inexpensive and discount stores, such as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, have seen a marked boom over the past few years.
To avoid wasting money, Japanese customers are much more willing to shop around, going out of their way to visit difficult-to-get-to shopping malls, or simply purchase online instead of browsing their local neighborhood businesses. Additionally, they economize by going out less, making them more willing to spend money on TVs and other in-home luxuries.
#2: Pay Attention To Demographics
Japan has second oldest median age on Earth. The population of young people have a declining rate of marriage, and they spend a great amount of their free time online. It is worth considering adjusting a product to appeal to the older customers if you intend to work in Japan.
You must consider this generational divide when crafting your marketing materials in Japan. Whether you market to the older demographics or the younger demographics, be aware that the medium you use to reach those customers will have an effect on the values emphasized by your ads.
Tip #3: Print Still Matters
Japan, by population, is the tenth largest country in the world. It also boasts three of the five largest daily newspapers in circulation. An enormous part of this has to do with Japan’s aging population. Senior citizens are avid readers of physical papers and are intensely loyal to their selected newspaper.
It is estimated that 95% of Japanese newspapers are delivered domestically, and this native distribution network is what leads to their continued success. It, however, limits their digital growth as newspapers are afraid to emphasize any on-line segments out of fear of offending their physical distributors.
As a result, there is a sharp divide in media consumption between the young and old in Japan. Not only are the Japanese consuming media through entirely different mediums, but they’re obtaining their news from wholly different sources as well. Blogging prevails in Japan, and an upbeat, energetic blog is an excellent way to connect with younger demographics.
Tip #4: Build Relationships
One of the best ways to reach customers in Japan is to create and build relationships with both businesses and influencers within the country. One good way to go about doing this is through affiliate marketing networks.
Similarly, you should create your team from the bottom up. Find locals who understand your business or brand, and learn how to convey that message in an easy-to-understand manner that can connect with customers. A team of interpreters, copywriters, translators and designers will help bridge that cultural and linguistic gap.
Tip #5: Custom Build Your Website
Don’t let your Japanese language website be just a direct translation of your English language website. You need a site that can build trust with Japanese customers, interact with your audience, and rank high in SEO. There are a number of ways this can be done:
Don’t be afraid to be wordy. Japanese customers are more tolerant of huge chunks of text when compared to Americans and Europeans. Additionally, Japanese characters enable you to include more information into the same amount of space. A relatively long “About Us” section could be an effective way to list your company’s accomplishments and build trust.
Likewise, consider the written characters you’ll utilize on your website. There are three different sets of Japanese characters: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Some sites choose to write out certain words in the original Roman letters, however. Every choice, such as that, contains different implications regarding the tone, context and SEO. A skilled translator can assist you in understanding which choice best matches your intentions and desires.
When it comes to English, the Japanese people struggle! You wouldn’t believe the panic and dismay when they want to purchase a product, but give up at the sight of the English language.
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