What can Japanese social media bring to the luxury industry in 2016?

[Estimated reading time: 4 minutes]

The luxury goods industry in Japan is at a 15 year all time high. Department stores sold a whopping 333 billion yen worth of high-end goods including jewelry, watches and artwork in 2014. This is a 2.6% increase from 2012 due to the influx of foreign tourists and Japan’s online presence.

Japanese users spend more time online than China and the US at 2.9 hours per day. There are over 50.7 million social media users in Japan and 34% of these users are under the age of 35.

Japan is both a tech savvy nation and the world’s second largest luxury market. This correlation speaks for itself in terms of the potential for digital/mobile marketing and ecommerce. Even though the luxury industry has been slow to exploit this potential, this is now beginning to change as more brands start trying to engage consumers on social media through activities like storytelling and after-sales tips and advice on beauty care products for example. This latter approach allows Japanese consumers to feel part of the brand in a culturally anonymous way which is important in Japan.

Local social networks lead the way


Local social media platforms are more popular in Japan than Facebook:

LINE: 36 million Users

Line is an anonymous way to text and call online as well as share links and photos. From a brand perspective, they were able to monetize the platform by motivating users not only to follow brands but to take action. This has made the platform very popular with luxury brands and retailers in general. In 2015, the British Fashion brand Burberry used the LINE platform to live-stream the launch of their autumn/winter collection. This specific social media action allowed Burberry fans to feel part of the runway show without actually being there. It also allowed them the possibility to share and comment on the show all of which dramatically increased Burberry’s reach for this event.

MOBAGE: 40 million Users

Mobage is a gaming platform specialised in virtual, interest-based and social gaming.

GREE: 29 Million Users

Gree is also a social gaming platform that has over 190 million users worldwide.

TWITTER: 30 million users

Japan was the first country to have a Government Twitter account allowing the government to inform citizens in times of trouble. 96% of Japanese brands use twitter but 60% do not engage with their followers.

MIXI: 25 million users

Mixi is Japan’s equivalent to Facebook. It allows users to post photos, links and comments as well as discussing themes in forum format.

AMEBA: 40 million users

Ameba is a popular Japanese blogging and social networking website.  In 2014, Ameba reached 40 million users and had more than 1,9 billion blog posts published.  

FACEBOOK: 16 million users

Facebook has more of a business feel in Japan and has become very popular for job hunters and university students.

However, despite a strong growth rate, Facebook is still one of the less popular social media platforms. This is probably because Facebook has a ‘real name policy’ , which is not well adapted to the Japanese cultural preference of anonymity. Perhaps this also explains the relative success of Twitter which does allow users to be anonymous. In fact, Japan has become the only country in the world where Twitter is more popular than Facebook.

Overall, social media users in Japan are using a combination of both western and Japanese social media platforms. While western platforms such as Facebook initially struggled to find their audiences, it can be argued they are now becoming much more popular. Instagram, for example, is growing significantly with 4% of Japanese internet users using it on a daily basis.

Mobile & Micro-blogging are very popular

Japan enjoys a special relationship with technology and digital. The country has the 3rd largest blogging population in the world posting 1,000,000 blog articles each month. Blogging is extremely popular with 80% of Japan’s online population visiting at least one blog per month. What’s more, 40% of Japanese blogging is done on mobile phone through platforms such as FC2 Inc., Livedoor-blog, Ameblo.jp, Seesaa, Yahoo!, Blog and Youtube, and articles are often extremely brief compared to western style articles: micro-blogging.

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An overview of the FashionPost‘s blog

But western style blogs are also becoming much more important

While micro-blogging carried out by short-form content social media platforms like Line and Twitter are undoubtedly very popular, a growing number of huge blogs are also grabbing the limelight. Famous lifestyle blogs such as TokyoDandy, Fashionpost, or Droptokyo are benefiting from thousands of readers each month and are already working with luxury brands.

Japan is a particular country with a distinctive culture. Social network users find it intrusive to talk about themselves too much and bloggers often write in Japanese which is a language with its own unique characteristics. Blogs and influencers are arguably the best way to communicate and reach online communities without fearing the risk of being impolite.

What’s clear is that an increasing number of luxury brands will be making Influencer Marketing an integral part of their PR and Digital Marketing strategy for this market in 2016.

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