Japan’s Consumer Segments

Meeting Japan's Consumers Face-on

Quick: guess which age group among Japan’s consumer segments is referred to as Parasite Singles? (see below)

Silvers – aged 65+, this first group will make up 30% of the nation’s population by 2025. The revered generation, they’re seeking health- and fitness-related products, and practicality when they spend their yen. Community parks and recreation centers are being retrofitted to accommodate the social and fitness needs of Silvers, since there are so few children in most neighborhoods. More self-responsibility for retirement planning is underway here, as well as in the second set…
Dankai Generation – Japan’s baby boomers, now pushing 60 years old. Pursuing health and fitness to prolong and maintain life, as with their Silver parents; plus hobby- and travel-related spending.
Dankai Juniors – the third age set falls in the late 30s… children of boomers. Working, raising one or no children, seeking child-focused, in-home entertainment, leisure items.
Parasite Singles – 4th of 5, these are singles who work full-time yet still live with their parents. Primarily women, number about 8.3 million consumers. Value luxury, travel, socializing, fashion.
Fuyu-so – last but not least, Japan’s very own jet setters. This upper crust is growing and it even has a new name: fuyuso, the free-spending super-rich. But let’s face it: jet-setters, it’s a case of “same planet, different worlds.” Accordingly, product marketers and selling teams need a unique solution for this thinnest of slivers in the consumer segments.

Top of mind for all global market planners should be this: the fact that, by the year 2050 the nation of Japan’s population will decrease drastically. Now pegged at 127 million, the nation will count just 95 million in 40 years. That’s a whopping drop within a span of just 1.5 generations. Ensure you focus on product features such as intuitive interface, comfortable fit, and sustaining healthy, mobile lifestyles. How about honing your company’s solutions for outsourcing professional services? There won’t be enough native-born, entry- and mid-level workers to ensure highly-personalized finance, insurance, and accounting services.

(Photo courtesy Wired Magazine, Sep-07.)

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Japan’s Online Mall Rakuten Makes Global Bid

Japan’s largest online shopping mall is making a bid to become the leading global online shopping mall. With 7 million+ registered members in Japan, Rakuten already has a beach head in the US (they own buy.com with its 12 million members) and the EU (just bought France’s Price Minister with 12 million members) On the way to their planned 27-country expansion through end of 2012, they’ll bump up against eBay and amazon and myriad regional power e-tailers.

The world of online retail is fragmented and de-centralized, with neighborhood boutiques jostling alongside Rakuten and those other behemoths. I foresee success for Rakuten in enabling a highly personalized “shopping bubble” experience, wherein each of us are in constant contact with our own personal shopping mall; but in the form of an anonymous back-end engine. That will mean a complete absence of a Rakuten brand, in favor of a “[Your name here]’s Store” approach… even bypassing the home page banner that we now see on eBay, Buynow, or other sites.

Remember the “We’re Beatrice” campaigns of the 1980s? Sometimes, when a conglomerate tries to step out front and win brand loyalty, it comes back and bites them. Annual sales of Beatrice, mega-holding company, were roughly $12 billion by 1984. It was during this year that the corporation ended advertisements for its products with the catchphrase “We’re Beatrice”; the red and white “Beatrice” logo would simultaneously appear in the bottom right hand corner. It was determined that the campaign alienated consumers, calling attention to the fact that it was a far-reaching multinational corporation, and the campaign was pulled off the air. (read more here).

Channel leaders and brand marketers can succeed in the online shopping mall by maintaining focus on brand personalization. That means direct-to-consumer promotions that goose shoppers toward Rakuten-driven, personalized shopping malls. If you’re a brand manager for a consumer manufacturer, you don’t worry so much about who owns and runs the shopping mall, as who its tenants are. By the same token, you’ll continue to focus on reaching consumers through personalized online shopping portals with little regard to the Rakuten engines running in the background.

Can any one provider ever really claim title as The World’s Online Mall? If anyone can, Japan can. I feel Japan’s expertise in in-home shopping will push them to the front of the pack — already, Japan Travel Bureau offers vacation souvenirs for sale and delivery to its travel customers BEFORE they leave on their trip.

Of note, Rakuten has become the first significant Japanese company to nominate English as the official in-house language, including among staff in Japan. CEO Hiroshi Mikitani states that this will be practice by the end of 2012… which coincides with the company’s ambitious expansion plans. Read more at a blog post on this topic.

Let's Shopping! 🙂

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