Is the Digital Landscape in Japan Greatly Different to That of the UK?

The differences in digital marketing practise in Japan to that of the UK is a question that we are commonly asked, but it isn’t one that can be easily answered with a generalisation. It is possible to provide a concise summary of the landscape in Japan compared with that of the UK though.

Eventually the majority of modern marketplaces marry up in general terms when it comes to the significant role that the digital landscape plays, particularly in the field of digital commerce. After all, the rise of digital commerce and its integral role in growing economies is a global phenomenon. The real differentiator between the landscapes globally, which is also true of the digital landscape in Japan, is the speed at which progress occurs.

Japan and the Digital Marketplace  

Three or four years ago, we would have told you that Japan’s digital marketplace was a little behind ours here in the UK and that of the USA. Today though, it’s a different story with both the Japanese market and the average Japanese consumer now adapting to online shopping. This familiarity extends outside of the nation’s own boundaries and increasingly, we’re seeing a willingness to transact with international eCommerce sites.

Like all markets, this shift in attitude didn’t take place overnight. The pace of change has been slow in what is a deeply traditional society, with the Japan Times suggesting that in 2018, just 7% of transactions took place online. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed that pace of change into high gear, with some retailers reporting that they are struggling to keep up with demand. Various statistical sources would suggest over 75% of the market have now comfortably warmed to regular online shopping. It’s worth noting too that Japan now has the fourth largest eCommerce industry in the world, behind the USA, China and the UK.

Given the size of the Japanese market, for anyone planning on going into business in Japan these figures of ecommerce adoption will be very bright news indeed. It won’t be a case of growing with the market, rather approaching it in the right manner and being competitive from day one. While the consumer market is positively growing and gaining digital comfort, there is a lag for Japanese corporations.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a big trend globally but is bigger for markets who have only recently reached a digital landscape peak. Digital transformation is the acknowledgement and action from a corporation to completely embrace that digital is the future of business. Usually seen as a large scale project, it’s about bringing a business up to speed with digital best practises and ensuring the way that business functions, markets itself and ultimately does business, is fully digitally integrated as much as possible.

This trend is just as hot in Japan but there are some differences.

Japan’s corporate structures are typically highly hierarchical and as such, large scale changes within a business must undergo lengthy internal discussions which often require very senior corporate members to be digitally educated. Naturally as we had here years ago, the dinosaurs of industry will have issues and pushback when it comes to digital changes they perhaps don’t entirely understand.

Tags: eCommerce, Japan, UK, online retail, digital transformation

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