It's well-known that Japan is different from the West in many ways.

The Japanese have developed a unique culture which includes..

..outrageous fashion...

(image via istolethetv)

...a challenging sense of design...

 ...and famously strange TV shows.

 

So what about digital?  In a world where cultures becoming increasingly alike due to digital media, does Japan stand out in any way?

Econsultancy's latest publication, The Japan Digital Report, aims to find out. In the report, we look at Japan's demographics, digital readiness, social media, search engines, and ecommerce sites to get a detailed picture of just where Japan is at, digitally.

We found that there are many fascinating aspects of Japan's digital culture.  Here are five things that you should know about first.

1) Japan has its own social network

Any meaningful discussion of digital in Japan has to start with its homegrown social network, LINE.

LINE rose to prominence during Japan's 2011 tsunami crisis as many used the network to communicate with loved ones when normal phone communication failed.

Since then, however, LINE has become ubiquitous in Japan providing its users with chat, voice and video chat, a personal timeline, games, branded channels, and many more features.

The network still enjoys significant growth quarter-on-quarter and it is commonly said that anyone in Japan who is 'on social media' is on LINE.

One testament to LINE's popularity is that the company IPO'd in the US and Japan in July 2016 and shares shot up 50% on the first day.

2) Facebook is popular, too, and used for business

Facebook was launched in Japan in 2008, but as of 2011 its reach, 2 million, was still relatively low.

The social network also came into its own during the 2011 tsunami. Because Facebook, unlike other social networks, requires real names, Japanese Facebook users could see that distant friends or colleagues were OK after the disaster without having to ask them directly.

Its popularity soared following the disaster and it has seen consistent growth ever since.

Now, Facebook is used in Japan for business networking as well as social networking.

Speculation is that Facebook has taken LinkedIn's place in this regards because it is unusual for the Japanese to post career accomplishments and ambitions as members are encouraged to do on LinkedIn. So, because Facebook has real names, the platform serves as a less obvious way of making and maintaining professional contacts.

3) Yahoo! Japan is still very much alive

As most are aware by now, Yahoo has been sold to Verizon in the US.  The site however, is not wholly owned by Yahoo and so Yahoo Japan will not be transfered to Verizon after the sale of Yahoo in the US.

Yahoo Japan has built up a strong independent brand and competes head-on with Google for monthly active users (MAUs)...

...and has more ecommerce traffic than any other site in the country.

Yahoo Japan also currently enjoys double-digit year-on-year growth in overall monthly active users.

4) Bots are already up and running in Japan

2016 has been a banner year for applications which provide a chat interface to an ecommerce or information service - commonly known as bots.  Most compaines, however, have yet to do anything at all on the various bot platforms and so bots may well end up to be the biggest vapourware story of the year.

In Japan, however, LINE already has a bot plugin for brands, a test network for developers, and a number of live bots already in use. 

Domino's Pizza Bot is one example which has taken a reported 100 million yen (around $1 million) in orders already. Those interested in building a LINE bot for Japanese consumers can get started by applying for access (in English) at the LINE partner site.

5) Virtual stickers are what's hot there, though

If you asked a typical LINE user about what was hot on LINE, though, most would say one word - stickers. Virtual stickers are similar to emojis in that they are used to share emotions in an unusual or fun way.

LINE, however, has capitalized on their popularity on the network and allowed brands to design their own custom stickers (for a considerable fee, of course!)

The benefit for brands, though, is that LINE stickers can both deliver the brand message and help their fans extend the brand message to their friends.

LINE stickers also have the added benefits of being short-lived and difficult-to-get outside of a campaign's home country.  This scarcity makes the stickers distribution even more likely by LINE members seeking cultural cachet.

So...

So, why do some Japanese dress outrageously and why do they have some of the world's most 'interesting' TV shows?  We are not entirely sure.

We do know, however, that Japan has a diverse media landscape and many opportunities for brands to reach their audience in the country digitally. The Japan Report will provide you will the base facts, statistics, and insights you need to start figuring out this fascinating country. 

If you'd like to know more about Japan, then Econsultancy subscribers can download the report here.

And if you're not a subscriber, then you can find out more about subscriptions here.

Jeff Rajeck

Published 28 July, 2016 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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