Mobile App Localization for Japan

As the world’s third-largest economy, I could understand why you would be interested in entering the Japanese market. If you’re wondering how your app can successfully enter the Japanese market, then keep on reading to learn more about this!

Japan’s Mobile App Market

In 2018, Japan’s eCommerce market was worth $163.5 billion USD in sales. From 2012 to 2018 the Japanese eCommerce market grew from 3.4% to 6.2% of total retail sales.

International Trade Administration

Since then it has grown exponentially, especially with regards to the mobile app industry. Statista reported that last year, the mobile content market was worth 7.1 trillion Japanese Yen with about 99.3 million smartphone users as of March 2021.

The most active and widely used mobile app was the messenger service LINE, which is operated by LINE Corporation, a Tokyo-based subsidiary of Navier Corporation, a South Korean company. They have since diversified their portfolio to LINE Manga, LINE Pay, and LINE Music.

If you’re planning to enter the Japanese eCommerce and app market, you might want to consider localizing your app rather than translating it, which we will discuss in our next segment.

Why Your Localization Strategy Is Vital

Ofer Tirosh of Tomedes wrote an article about everything you need to know about creating a localization strategy to go global. He explained that localization is the process of developing engagement and connections with your target locale through creating customer/user experiences and products that are tailored to their cultural preferences.

Tirosh explained that when it comes to localization, you need to consider creating a strategy that would effectively localize your platforms, marketing channels, and products/services.

Martech Zone stated that if you’re planning to go global with your app, you need to localize it because about 72% of app users don’t speak English, and they gave Evernote as an example. When Evernote entered China’s market, they changed the name of their app name to Yinxiang Biji (Memory Note), which made it easier for Chinese users to recall the brand’s name.

But is it really necessary to create a localization strategy, if you’re planning to enter Japan’s market?

Well, did you know that in Japan Facebook, the world’s biggest social media website and app, failed to enter the market?

Techinasia reported that Japanese consumers value four things when it comes to the social network platform they’re using:

  1. Security
  2. High-Quality User Interface
  3. Public Perception as a popular platform
  4. Good source of information

Based on the survey of Techinasia, all of their participants answered that Facebook was less secure. Furthermore, they responded that Facebook’s interface was “open, bold, and aggressive” and not “Japanese friendly” because of how confusing and complicated it was for them to use.

And lastly, as a source of information, the participants stated that they much preferred using Twitter than Mixi (preferred online social media platform) and Facebook.

Facebook failed to create a localization strategy before making its social media platform available to the Japanese public. And they’re not the only ones to fail in localizing their online platform.

eBay launched in the late 1990s, however, by 2002 it had operations due to several factors, like Japan having strict rules of selling recycling or second hand electronics unless they have a license to do it. Another reason why they failed to market their brand abroad was due to not understanding that Asian consumers value trust. They failed to create a platform that allowed buyers the position to communicate with sellers to build trust with them.

It’s undeniable that if they had localized their platforms, they could have successfully entered Japan’s market. It makes sense because the target locale, Japanese consumers, have very different cultural practices and societal behaviors compared to western countries.

5 Tips When Localizing Your Mobile App for the Japanese market

Here are five considerations when localizing for the Japanese market:

  1. Find Professional Localization Experts – By collaborating with professional localization experts, you can speed up the process of creating a localization strategy because they will help you in researching your target locale, localizing your platforms and content, and more. When deciding on the localization experts, look at their customer reviews on websites like Trustpilot, compare them from other localization service providers on prices and quality of localization. You need to ask if they offer warranties and have the technology and expertise in localizing apps. This is to ensure that you’re getting the best localization experts as they play a big part in ensuring that you successfully enter Japan’s market.
  2. Understand Your Target Locale – As previously mentioned, the localization experts you will be working with can assist you in conducting local market research. Besides the linguistic and economic part of your research, you should take into account the cultural nuances. As mentioned, one of the reasons why Facebook failed to enter Japan’s market is because Japanese users prefer anonymity compared to exposing their identities. Martech Zone wrote a practical guide on how to market your mobile app that touches all of the essentials. You can incorporate their tips like identifying your local competitors and learning from them.
  3. Adapt to Cultural and Local Events – Another thing to consider is to research cultural and local events and tailor your app around them. In Japan, the changing of seasons is very important as a lot of their cultural events revolve around it. You can prepare ahead of time and create a cultural calendar. The Medium wrote that during long holidays, Japanese users spend a lot of time on mobile apps. These long holidays occur during New Year, Golden Week (last week of April to the first week of May), and Silver Week (middle of September). By knowing this tidbit of information, it can help you enhance your app’s UX and user interaction during these moments when users are most active.
  4. Collaborate with local social media influencers and stores – Japanese users value building trust with companies and brands. One way of marketing your mobile app is by collaborating and connecting with Japanese social media influencers. Because social media influencers have a good understanding of their viewers and the demographic that follows them, their insights about your app could prove valuable. But I suggest that you do your research as to which local influencers embody your company’s principles and goals. Another consideration is to collaborate with local shops and retailers as it will increase your app’s credibility and make it easier for your target users to incorporate it into their daily lives.
  5. Localize your Prices – One way to make your app’s UX immersive is by localizing the prices of your app. Simply because it’s frustrating to convert Yen to USD and vice versa. Conversion rates constantly change and so, it’s impractical to have your app’s currency not in alignment with your target locale’s currency.

Creating a localization strategy requires a strong team and network from hiring localization experts to collaborating with local influencers and retailers. And it makes sense because, unlike translation, what you’re after when localizing your app is to build a community of users who don’t only trust your app’s brand but also, become loyal to it.

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