In the digital space, Japanese consumers behave similarly to Americans: they search on Google, shop on Amazon, and consume social media through Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. However, there are several key platforms that are unique to Japan, meaning that brands hoping to succeed in the market need a localized cross-platform digital strategy.
We took a look at four best-in-class luxury brands in Japan to see how their strategies paid off across the four main dimensions of digital:
Ralph Lauren (E-Tailers)
Ralph Lauren is among just 15% of brands that don’t offer direct-to-consumer e-commerce in Japan. Instead, the brand has equipped itself with a unique competitive advantage: heavily investing in e-tailer partnerships, particularly on Zozotown, which is a primary destination for fashion consumers. Ralph Lauren gains strong discoverability by taking full advantage of merchandising opportunities, including news content, UGC styling photos, and rich product descriptions. This fall, Zozotown started sponsored ads for search; Polo Ralph Lauren scored 2% share of sponsored products during the observation period, putting it ahead of rivals.
Coach (Digital Marketing)
Coach has a site that’s optimized for organic search. As much as 35% of traffic comes from organic search, which should enable the brand to save on paid search spend. Having said that, Coach makes sure to be visible for branded terms on Google. Otherwise, unofficial e-tailers competing for first-page results would divert potential customers from the official channel. Thanks to its paid search strategy on Google, Coach gained 100% and 40% of average visibility against branded terms for text ads and shopping ads respectively.
Coach also proactively buys branded terms on Yahoo, which is the second-most popular search engine in Japan. Just as on Google, those branded terms are bought by unofficial e-tailers, meaning that brands need to bid for the top positions.
Louis Vuitton (Social Media)
The brand boasts a strong presence on localized social platforms, besting its competitors. As Twitter’s Japanese user penetration is still relatively high at 45%, the brand’s localized Twitter account communicates about local events and local celebrity attendance at shows.
Louis Vuitton has also been strong on LINE, the dominant messaging app in Japan, where it has 630,000 followers. The brand engages with them by posting invitations to exclusive events, wallpaper giveaways, and videos with local celebrities. This fall, Louis Vuitton started to offer a chatbot service, with which customers can traverse relatively detailed service option menus to find stores, estimate repair services, and more.
Brooks Brothers (Mobile)
While online mobile sales are important, the online to offline bridge strategy for mobile is also a key to success in Japan. Luxury customers prefer to shop at B&M stores more than customers in the United States: the percentage of online shopping sales for luxury goods is 10.3% in Japan, in comparison with 15.3% in the US.
A critical function of mobile sites is as a tool to drive traffic to offline commerce. Brooks Brothers’ mobile site is well optimized: the site is equipped with a sophisticated store locator including mapping directions and click to call store functionality. Brooks Brothers also heavily invests in mobile display advertising. Its communication on the advertising creatives is clear and conveys local nuances by emphasizing sales and gifting.