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Internet usage and connectivity in Japan

Online Retail

Japanese Domain Names

The local domain name extension for business sites is .co.jp (more or less equivalent to the familiar .co.uk). Many of the references in this document site government sites, for which the extension is .go.jp (equivalent to .gov.uk). Domains are nominally the responsibility of the japan registry service. In practice there are few restrictions and Japanese domains can be purchased via many sources.

Theoretically Japanese characters can be used in domain names, but in practice this is not something you will need to worry about; certainly none of the retail or governmental sites referenced in this document do so, and take-up of this facility has been generally low in Japan.

Access

Japan has a very high general rate of internet access. By 2014, 94.8% of households had internet via mobile, and 81.7% by PC, and 101 million people were accessing the internet overall.

Smartphone penetration is somewhat lower than in many western countries, at 60-70%, partly due to a legacy of "high specification feature phones" which were common only in Japan and South Korea, and which function somewhere between a traditional feature phone and a smartphone as you would probably recognise them. The existence of this class of devices also accounts for the generally early adoption of connected devices in daily life in Japan – transactions which are only now becoming practical online in the UK have long been possible in Japan, especially in public locations such as convenience stores (of which more later).

A reasonable rule of thumb is that if it been available online back home for a while, it’s probably been online for longer than that in Japan.

Demographics of internet access

Internet penetration is skewed towards wealthier demographics (Figure 5):

        Figure 5 - internet penetration by wealth

Obviously this is generally helpful when considering selling online to Japanese consumers. Unfortunately, internet penetration amongst all those tempting pensioners is lower than in many western countries (Figure 6). The picture isn’t quite as bleak as it seems in the older demographics, however. Penetration grew by 6% in the 60- 69 age ranges in a single year from 2013 to 2014, and as we’ll see below, they are certainly happy spending online.

Combining this information with the economic data in the section above, if your target online audience is aged 40 to 59, you’re likely to be sowing onto especially fertile ground in Japan, with plenty of wealthy online consumers.

Usage

Internet usage in Japan varies slightly from the global average. The good news is that retail is one use where Japan significantly over-indexes (Figure 7):

You would be advised to read the section on social networking below before taking the final two data-points on this chart at face value. It’s one of the fairly few pieces of data in this report not taken from a Japanese source, and is partly included to demonstrate the potential hazards of relying on western sources for data about online Japan.

Summary

  Obtaining a .co.jp domain is straightforward if that’s your preferred approach for Japan.

Japan is a highly connected country. Internet usage at household level is comparable to the most developed European markets or the US.

Between ages 13 and 59 internet usage is effectively universal; from a planning perspective, you can assume this demographic is fully reachable.

There is a rapid take-up of internet usage in the 60-69 age range (partly of course, simply because the 59 year olds got older), making this also an accessible group.

The Japanese like to spend time – and, as we’ll see shortly, money – shopping online.

In summary, there are no economic, demographic or access reasons why you should not consider Japan as a good potential ecommerce target.

 

 

Japan's retail landscape

Japan's online shopping behaviours

Japan's competitive landscape

Marketing in Japan

Legal framework and regulation in Japan

Payment and Logistics in Japan

 

 

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