Hi everyone! As promised, here is part 2 of the series I am writing about B2B Marketing in Asia Pacific Japan. In the last edition, I talked about China. This time, we will cover Japan and Korea. Let’s dive in!
Japan is a country with a population of nearly 126 million people and the second-largest developed economy in the world. It has one of the largest and fastest-growing consumer e-commerce markets globally, ranking third after the US and China, and a massive B2B e-commerce industry exceeding 370 trillion yen, with wholesale accounting for the largest share of the market.
Digital Platforms to Know in Japan
When it comes to digital platforms in Japan, LINE, and Twitter dominate the market, and interestingly enough LinkedIn is not prominent. Twitter’s audience is young and unlikely to be the right platform to reach decision-makers, while LINE is the most popular social media platform in Japan and allows businesses to reach a vast majority of the internet population, making it a suitable choice to supplement PPC campaigns. However, high bounce-back rates and low conversion rates make it often inefficient for B2B advertising.
Surprisingly, Facebook is the right choice for Western brands as it is seen as a more professional network in Japan and is used for business networking by young professionals. Though its B2B audience targeting is not as granular as LinkedIn’s, first-party data and working with data enrichment providers such as Clearbit and Bombora are critical to successfully powering audience strategies.
Japan’s latest player in the B2B advertising landscape is a local platform called Eight (8), which is a professional social media network built around scanning business cards and storing information. Eight is one of the best places to do B2B marketing and reach the right audience as exchanging business cards is a huge part of Japanese business culture.
Yahoo! Japan is still one of the largest portals in Japan, with seven million monthly active visitors and holding 18% of the search market, and should be included as part of your lower funnel strategy. However, Yahoo! Japan’s recent B2B offering providing granular B2B audience lists can only be accessed directly through the Yahoo Display Network (YDN) platform.
Considerations for Japan
Localizing keywords into Japanese is challenging due to the unique characteristics of the language, with three different writing systems: Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. Local marketers who understand the industry must strategies to localize the keywords correctly by working with locals, may it be local staff, partners, or marketing agencies.
In-person events have a striking zero drop-off rate in Japan, and webinars gained popularity, especially after COVID. It is important you make use of these tactics.
Marketers and brands need to take a locally nuanced approach to advertising in Japan rather than cost-cutting. The media mix described above should not be taken as guidance, and each case should be examined through the prism of the target audience and their internet habits.
Trust is a crucial factor for doing business in Japan. Japanese businesses place a great emphasis on building and maintaining long-term relationships, where trust is the cornerstone. Additionally, Japanese companies are generally more risk-averse than their Western counterparts, which means that they are more likely to do business with companies that have a proven track record of reliability and stability. To establish trust with Japanese businesses, it is very important to have a local entity in place to provide support and guidance and help establish credibility. Having local references that can vouch for the quality of your products or services is a powerful way to build trust and win over new customers. However, unlike in Korea, Japanese companies also appreciate Fortune 500 global references.
South Korea is one of the world’s wealthiest countries and is known for its strong economy. In fact, it often ranks in the top 15 countries by GDP. The country also ranks in the top 10 countries for eCommerce spending, and its B2C E-Commerce market contributed nearly a quarter of the country’s overall retail sales in 2019, making it an attractive market for foreign companies.
Digital Platforms to Know in Korea
Naver is one of the most popular search engines in the country, and it is often referred to as the “Google of South Korea.” However, it is much more than just a search engine. Naver incorporates news, email, videos, and blogs to provide a one-stop shop for web users. It is the 5th largest search engine in the world, but it is relatively unknown outside of Korea.
Daum is another central portal for the web, similar to Yahoo, where users can access email, contribute to forums, search the web, browse blog articles, read the news, and connect with the world. Digital marketing plays a significant role in this space, and both Naver and Daum sell premium slots on their result pages in a similar way to Google.
Note that there are significant differences between SEO techniques for Naver and Google. While Google ranks web pages fairly, Naver uses more obvious bias. Blogs and community content are given priority on the results page above general web content. In fact, Naver treats Blog content and Web content quite separately. With Google, many people use SEO techniques on their Blogs to improve the general ranking of their entire site. With Naver, however, Blog related SEO techniques will help your Blog ranking, but they will have a negligible effect on your main site. This separation is so serious that only sites beginning with the word Blog, e.g. blog.abc.com, will be ranked in the blog section.
There are several other Naver sections, including Naver Encyclopaedia, Naver Café, Images, Maps, Blogs, etc. Building content in all these areas will help you rank higher. These two issues combined make it extremely hard to crack the market just with SEO, and paid advertising will likely need to be undertaken to ensure strong visibility for brands.
Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are all extremely popular in South Korea and offer a way for international brands to start breaking into the market. However, to build strong local relevance and accelerate brand growth, it is recommended to adopt local social media sites into your social strategy. Kakao/Daum is one of the most popular social networking and messaging services available in Korea. In some ways, it is similar to WhatsApp, but it is much more feature-rich, like China’s WeChat. Kakao includes a lot of the standard features you would find on Facebook, such as photos, posts, stories, and news. A lot of this data is provided by partner Daum.
Kakao also offers a range of innovative services such as online banking, taxi services, as well as food and gift ordering services. For many South Koreans, Kakao is their primary gateway to the internet. BAND is Naver’s answer to instant messaging, social media, and collaboration. Messaging again has a strong focus, but the concept of teams is more prominent. Whether that be groups of friends, clubs, schools, online gamers, or even military units, BAND provides a platform for staying connected, planning, and facilitating the activities of the group.
Considerations for Korea
Like Japan, trust is also a crucial factor in building long-term relationships with South Korean businesses. Therefore, having a local entity, local partners, and local references is just as important as in Japan. South Korean companies value relationships built on mutual trust and respect, and this should be reflected in your marketing approach.
In addition, one of the unique aspects of South Korean culture is the importance of influencers. Influencers are highly regarded on social media and can play a significant role in shaping consumer perceptions and purchasing decisions. To succeed in South Korea, businesses should consider partnering with influencers to promote their products or services. An agency with local experience can help identify influencers with the best fit for your brand strategy and audience and know how to open doors and negotiate a mutually beneficial partnership.
Another important consideration is the use of technology. South Korea is known for its advanced technological infrastructure and digital landscape, and businesses that want to succeed in this market must leverage digital channels effectively. This means having a strong online presence, using social media to engage with customers and prospects, and adopting emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality to provide innovative solutions.