Chance for Foreign Companies in Digital Market


Consumer Lead Market Growing

Social media popularity has expanded in Japan, changing marketing strategies for business. We are seeing more and more Japanese mass media following social media, such as popular Youtube and Line, introduced in the news, etc. There is still presence of TV, newspapers, and offline shopping, with a gap of population who embrace the new media and others who are comfortable with the traditional, but that is gradually being bridged with penetration of smartphones.

To introduce the digital landscape, Japan ranks 2nd globally in terms of internet penetration, reaching 82% of its 127 million population. 58% use social media, where Twitter and Facebook experienced almost tripling number of user growth just this last 3-4 years. Mobile penetration is 94%, of which 51% use smartphones, and 75% of social media users are on mobile. Google and Yahoo control over 92% of search engine market. Online retail have reached 86%, one of the highest in the world, Rakuten and Yahoo Shopping being popular platforms.
Some unique trend in Japan; Japanese core users prefer to stay anonymous online, Japan has the most active bloggers with over a million blog entries a month, and twitter is bigger than Facebook. Culturally, the population is very quick to adapt new digital media, but its trend timeline is generally said to be always about two years behind from global trend.

Japanese Companies Slow to Adapt

APAC Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Per­for­mance Dash­board 2014

source: Adobe Sys­tems Incor­po­rated 2014

Companies do recognize that digital technology play a great role in customer touch points. But for business to experience a positive impact from digital marketing they have to implement various digital solutions as well as a process within their organization to achieve it efficiently and effectively. Recent release by Adobe revealed that Japanese marketers feel most strongly that IT support is essential to the successful deployment of digital marketing, yet they feel they are currently receiving the least amount of IT support. Additionally to organization and inter-divisional barriers, agencies and web marketing companies are more often classified to specialties and not up to speed with providing total solution on approaching the rapidly changing frontier.

Chance for Foreign Companies

It seems Japanese and Foreign companies have equal chance of reaching the market online, unlike before where for traditional mass media, business channels and customs would have been a difficulty for foreign companies to enter.



Recent example of viral trend is blue bottle coffee from California, which opened its Store in Tokyo February this year. Mass media and magazines also featured them, but amount of online and offline viral communication was definitely over the top in recent years. The story of its founder loving Japanese old cafes, how it is loved in California, and how the staff loves their coffee, was told everywhere. Perhaps the corporate culture of Blue Bottle Coffee on telling and creating story matched well with Japanese consumer’s emotional interests.

So how shall foreign companies enter digital market in Japan? Some basic things they would need to consider include, domain & hosting, keyword strategy, content, design, social engagement, etc. An essential plan necessary for making all these decisions is how much of your service and branding will you be localizing. We see companies and brand come and go when they did not localize enough not being accepted by the consumers, and oppositely companies localize too much working with partners and relying on agencies that they become more of a Japanese product and service, losing its originality and competitiveness, leaving only little profit as well.

Japan’s market is excited to see and welcome new good quality services and products from abroad. For companies, understand and find the best approach to digital market for your service and product, and develop contact point to listen to your users directly, to be successful with this opportunity.


ASK AN ADVISOR.  Teiichi Takenaka

Digital Content /Media business Executive & Strategist

“Social web physically connected us to 4 billion people around the world, but with the language, business, culture, and legal barriers, 80% of internet is closed to domestic networks and contents. My recent work focuses on creating new value through cloud and one to one network developments, to advance and open up this global network not only B2C but to B2B platform.”


  • TOJ (Takenaka Office Japan) Research, consulting and business development office.
  • MTV Japan, Inc President& CEO, MTVi Japan, Inc. General Manager
  • Columbia Music Entertainment,Inc – SVP of Digital Content Sales & New Business Development
  • @NET HOME,Inc. – Executive Producer, Senior Director of Content /Media Marketing
  • BMG JAPAN ,inc, YAMAHA Corp.. General Producer of digital business development
  • Stanford University CCRMA – Visiting Scholar of CCRMA ( Computer center for research of music and acoustics) and more…

Strategic business development;

  • Building totally new value and disruptive channel development utilizing human resource network (executive and talented) and ICT Strategy (digital audio/ video/ad distribution platform, cloud, mobile, streaming, KPI, OKR, digital rights for marketing, launching market, growth) to optimize for the each market.
  • Broad human network of both international and domestic of digital content, media industries Telecom, ISP, Third parties, artist ,talent , educational and government.


  • Marketing Partner of US social audio blogging Platform
  • Business development partner of US digital multimedia ad tech company
  • Marketing partner /Business development partner of Korean digital entertainment company
  • Launch marketing partner of Japan SMOD(Subscription Music On Demand) Platform
  • Concept Development of Japan Automotive Social network platform

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