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Japanese Audiences Are Moving to Smartphones and Facebook

  |  August 15, 2011   |  Comments   |  

Report findings: Consider these three takeaways that are impacting search and Internet culture on Internet user behaviour in Japan.

Impress R&D has published its annual white paper with the latest Japanese Internet data. It shows the Japanese market is shifting from PC to mobile devices even more rapidly than we thought and it's changing the search and Internet culture. More businesses are utilising cloud services. The smartphone market has bloomed, and people are paying attention to the various tablets and other mobile devices. Here are some notable results from the 2011 report.

Twitter and Facebook Gained Market Share in Japan

Twitter, which had rapid growth last year, continues to grow this year. It became one of the important communication tools after the earthquake and tsunami disaster in March. The overall user base of microblogging services including Twitter grew by 6.5 points to 16.2 percent. The report says that 36.2 percent of tablet users and 31.4 percent of smartphone users actively use microblogging services.

On the other hand, social networking services (SNS) users grew by 10.8 points to 32.1 percent with mobile device users showing higher usage of SNS sites. More than 40 percent of SNS users access the sites using only a tablet, only a smartphone, only a mobile phone, or mobile and PC combined.

It had seemed that the SNS market in Japan had hit a plateau last year with popular SNS sites posting slower growth. That changed after the earthquake and tsunami disaster. Mixi's active user level and the number of posts both have increased significantly since the disaster. Mixi was again the winner of Japanese SNS market gains with 84.1 percent. However, Facebook surprised many with a healthy growth in Japan with 25.7 percent of users indicating they have a Facebook account.

To the question "What SNS services do you use most?" more than 53 percent responded  "to read posts and diaries by others" was the number one reason to return to a SNS site, followed by "to read micro blogging" (45.2 percent), and "to read posts on communities and groups" (40.6  percent). It is clear that "communication" is the main reason Japanese use social media. The apps and gaming services also had a good market share with 41.1 percent using some type of social apps.

More People Access the Internet via Smartphones

Perhaps, one of the most important facts in the white paper for search marketers is that Internet access by smartphone users grew from 3.6 percent to 14 percent year on year. Mobile search marketing has been a big part in Japan's Internet marketing since the 90's, but those were WAP phone users and not smartphone users as the target audience. The smartphone users grew especially among males between their 20s and 40s and females between their 20s and 30s. If your target audience fits in these age groups, you should include smartphone search marketing into your Japan Internet marketing mix immediately.

Internet user share by devices:

  • PC: 27.3 percent
  • Smartphones: 14 percent
  • Mobile phones: 13.6 percent
  • Tablets: 1.7 percent
  • Other devices: 4.2 percent
Also note that the time people spend on the Internet at one sitting has become shorter as more people move onto smartphones and other mobile devices.

Seventy-six percent of tablet users said that they use the iPad, which made it the leader in the tablet market by far, followed by "Galaxy Tab" with 10.9 percent.

Smartphones Win Over Tablets for E-Books

The report showed 42.9 percent prefer smartphones compared to 29.4 percent prefer tablets for reading e-books. Unfortunately, the frequent news of another traditional publisher closing down and their publication being discontinued has become pretty common in Japan. It's becoming clearer every day that people are moving away from printed publications. Currently, about 18 percent use e-books including e-magazines and e-newspapers. Fifty-one point seven percent of them are tablet users, and 39.6 percent of them are smartphone users. Seventeen point five percent of Internet users said that they'd like to use e-books in the near future, and that they'd prefer to read it with PC (58.6 percent), smartphones (42.9 percent), and tablets (29.4 percent).

This change in consumption habits has significant impact on your business's content strategy as well as the online advertising programs. Your audiences may already be changing their devices for accessing the Internet requiring a shift in your strategy. Has the migration already happened with your customers? You should be able to identify the shifts in traffic by device type and in the analytics data.

More information about the whitepaper in Japanese here.

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Motoko Hunt

Since Motoko established AJPR in 1998, she has been providing the online marketing services targeting Japan and Asia to companies from around the world, helping them to enter the regional market using the Internet. Her search marketing consulting services with her extensive knowledge of Asia and Japanese market have been highly valued and made big impact on some of the world's popular multi-national brands' search marketing campaigns.

A number of her articles have been published on industry websites and printed media including Multilingual Computing and International Journal of Localization. She also writes about the Japanese online market on her blog and Multilingual-Search.com. She's a frequent speaker at search marketing conferences globally, and gives seminars and trainings about search marketing targeting Japan and Asia.

Prior to entering the online marketing industry in the mid 90's, she worked as a senior marketing manager at a traditional marketing and trading firm, marketing U.S. products to Japanese government and heavy industries.

She believes in giving back to the community and volunteers her time for industry organizations. She served as a member of Board of Directors of SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), and is a Chairman of SEMPO Asia-Pacific Committee. In March 2009, she received the first SEMPO President Award for her support and dedication to the search industry and SEMPO organization.

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