How Can Companies Grow Their Businesses in Japan and the Asia-Pacific Through Digital Marketing? We Asked an Expert.

How Can Companies Grow Their Businesses in Japan and the Asia-Pacific Through Digital Marketing? We Asked an Expert.

Outside Japan, many people may not know about Yahoo! JAPAN services, which widely differ from those of other Yahoo!-branded services around the world. For the unfamiliar, Yahoo! JAPAN is Japan’s largest online platform, logging more than 79 billion monthly page views and offering around 100 integrated services.

The power of the LINE messenger app in Japan shouldn’t be underestimated, either, with 94 million users in Japan, and 176 million when adding in Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia, with users that range from teens to seniors. LINE also has a network of more than 100 services integrated into its app.

For companies outside Japan looking to reach customers in Japan, running digital marketing campaigns on Yahoo! JAPAN and LINE are great platforms. But they may not know where to start.

How can they learn more about Yahoo! JAPAN and LINE and gain insight into the markets of Japan and other Asian countries? To learn more, SoftBank News spoke to Joanna Pawlowicz, a Digital Marketing Manager at SB Telecom Europe, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434).

Joanna Pawlowicz

Joanna Pawlowicz
Digital Marketing Manager
SB Telecom Europe Ltd.

After working as a Marketing Manager and Area Manager in London for the Japanese restaurant chain Ippudo, Joanna joined SB Telecom Europe to work as a digital marketing manager.

Meeting the growing demand for Digital Transformation and Digital Marketing in Asia

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you joined SB Telecom Europe.

I joined the team back in March of 2022, and it’s been a great experience ever since!

I grew up in Poland, but I’ve always been fascinated with Japan - its culture, history, and customs - to the point that when it came to choosing a university, I decided to get a degree in Japanese Studies. I had the great pleasure of living in Japan for a while and then continuing my education at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where I got a master’s degree in translation.

Apart from being interested in Japan, I’m also captivated with the digital world, and still trying to get my head around the power of social media. Prior to my current role, I had experience with B2C and content marketing, so joining our team at SB Telecom Europe was definitely challenging, but also rewarding at the same time. We have a great crew of highly-motivated, smart individuals whose work ethic and dedication have truly impressed me.

There’s been a lot of conversation around the differences of B2C and B2B marketing approach, but I believe that, in the end, it isn’t businesses that make the purchase decisions, but people! This is why I think that showing the ‘human’ part of your business is a great way to connect with clients and build mutual trust.

Fun facts about me? I have a black belt in Taekwon-Do and my favourite food is ramen:)

What businesses are SB Telecom Europe involved in?

Formerly known as Japan Telecom UK Ltd. and SoftBank Telecom Europe Ltd., SB Telecom Europe Ltd. was first established back in 1998 in London, UK. We are a wholly-owned subsidiary of SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434) in Japan.

Our office initially served Japanese companies with branches in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), providing them with services such as system integration support, network connectivity, and other related services in the realms of IT. This is something we have done for many years, and continue to offer to businesses across the UK and Europe.

Meeting the growing demand for Digital Transformation and Digital Marketing in Asia

In more recent years, our company acquired YJ Marketing, a Yahoo! JAPAN subsidiary in London. Since then, our services have grown to include Digital Marketing and Digital Transformation (DX). Guided by SoftBank’s corporate philosophy of “Information Revolution – Happiness for everyone,” we’re expanding into the areas of AI, IoT, and Digital Marketing to create novel and innovative business values with our existing clients, as well as new ones.

Our competitive advantage comes from the fact that we have a strong IT and communications backbone and diverse product portfolio coming from our relationship with companies in the SoftBank Group, SoftBank Corp.’s parent company, thus being able to provide the most cutting-edge technology and solutions for businesses. We provide our clients with online marketing solutions and digital transformation support, so that they can succeed by unleashing their full potential in any market.

As the demand for the digital marketing services grows constantly, by expanding our partner network and acquiring clients across various industries over the past 3 years, our digital marketing team drove 186% sales growth.

You’re working on DMFA - Digital Marketing for Asia. Could you describe this service?

DMFA is your one-stop for digital marketing solutions across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region and is operated jointly by SB Telecom Europe and SB Telecom America, also a subsidiary of SoftBank Corp.

As part of the SoftBank family, DMFA offers support and partnership opportunities that help businesses expand in new markets. With offices in London and Los Angeles, we’re here to guide customers outside Asia through any challenges that come with entering a new market with peace of mind.

We believe no two businesses are the same, and pride ourselves in being a trusted partner. Always one step ahead of the game, we’re the solution to our customers’ problems.

Seeing our clients and partners thrive in new markets is what makes us happy. Our mission is to bring the West and Asia closer together using the power of digital technology, local knowledge, specific expertise and close-knit relationships to help brands expand and grow globally.

Awareness of cultural differences key to a successful digital marketing campaign

Awareness of cultural differences key to a successful digital marketing campaign

What are the main challenges your clients face when entering the Japanese/APAC markets? How are they different from the digital marketing landscapes of Europe and North America?

New market entry is, for any business, a very challenging time! Especially with such a unique market like Japan. From what we could see, when working with our clients, there are three big ones that come to mind:

    • Language barriers

Translating Japanese is a tough task, and there are many challenges that must be overcome to write effective ads and landing pages in the language.

First, it's important to note that the Japanese consumer is extra sensitive to the level of politeness and use of vocabulary in ad copy. What’s more, there are three alphabets – hiragana, katakana and kanji.

In addition to these challenges, there's also the fact that Japanese characters use a double-byte system as opposed to English, which uses a single byte per character. This means that every character will take up twice as much space when translated into Japanese than it would for an English speaker.

Therefore, it’s essential to have a native Japanese speaker go over your campaign and landing page content before launching any campaigns targeting this market.

Language may be an obstacle not only when creating a landing page or ad content, but also when setting up an advertising account on local platforms like LINE or Yahoo! JAPAN, where support in English is available, however limited.

    • Cultural differences

Cultural differences are also important when it comes to marketing in Japan. You’ll find that people in Japan are generally very quality conscious. Visitors to Japan will note the high quality of services and products. This quality consciousness translates well online where attention to detail is key to gaining Japanese customers.

A well-designed marketing calendar is a tool that helps with planning content and campaigns. I think it’s needless to say, but every market should have its own calendar because each country has different holidays, seasons and events depending on the region.

For those promoting their business in the Japanese market, they should be aware of Japan’s seasonality and unique set of holidays, celebrations and events that are very specific to the market. This is important in understanding how to plan marketing activities and allocate budgets accordingly.

    • Platforms

Understanding which online platforms are most popular in a target market is a huge part of any brand’s success. As in Europe, or in the US, this may be quite universal across the board, with likes of TikTok and Instagram reigning over social media, and Google being the king of search engines, but this is not necessarily the case in Asia. The classic examples would be Yahoo! JAPAN and LINE.

We all know what Google is, and chances are people have heard about Yahoo, but they might not be familiar with Yahoo! JAPAN. Not many marketers in the West may know the difference, as, despite the common name, it is not Yahoo that the rest of the world is familiar with.

Yahoo! JAPAN was established as a joint venture by SoftBank back in 1996, and is strictly in Japanese, made for a Japanese audience. It has over 100 services and many mobile apps such as Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Shopping, Yahoo! Weather - the list goes on. In addition, Yahoo! JAPAN services are linked with credit cards and PayPay, Japan’s no.1 cashless smartphone payment system.

With 79+ billion monthly page views (that's almost 90 million pages per hour!), an evenly distributed demographic of users, reaching up to 64% of PC users and 83% of smartphone users in Japan - it’s a great platform to run ads in Japan.

I also mentioned LINE, which started as a simple messenger tool and now has over 100 services available to users. LINE is hugely popular not only in Japan but also other parts of Asia. Over the past years, it grew to be Japan’s most popular social media platform.

People use it for messaging, games, reading manga, shopping, keeping up with the news and more. Similar to other social media platforms, it also has a timeline feature where users can update their friends (similar to Facebook wall). There are also LINE stickers featuring popular characters that can be used in marketing campaigns.

How much is LINE used in Asian countries outside Japan?

As I mentioned, LINE is Japan’s most popular app with over 94 million monthly active users. It’s a great platform for digital marketing campaigns, giving businesses a chance to reach a wide demographic. With a LINE Official Account, it’s truly a marketing powerhouse, and many Japanese and overseas brands are utilising it to improve brand awareness and drive sales.

While LINE is not so well known in Europe or North America, it’s also quite popular in Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia, and there are 176 million LINE users in Japan and those three key markets. In 2021, LINE generated much of its revenue from advertising, and it is the 2nd biggest messenger app in Asia, after WeChat, according to Statista.

LINE is much more than a simple messenger app, and offers so many other services giving users access to news, music, blogs, payments, NFTs, and much more.

Why do people choose LINE in those countries? Because it’s convenient - one app can fix the majority of your problems, from access to news, music and blogs, making payments, shopping, trading NFTs, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, and much more.

Helping clients navigate the digital marketing landscapes in Asia

How do you help your clients?

DMFA is operated by SB Telecom America and SB Telecom Europe, US and UK based subsidiaries of SoftBank Corp. Our team offers a wide array of digital marketing support services to help effectively expand our clients into Japan and the APAC region, and localize their solutions to local audiences. We work with an extensive network of trusted partners to provide our clients with solutions across the digital marketing and new market entry spectrum.

Whether you are at the early stages of planning international expansion into Asia, or want to boost your online presence and solidify your position within a new market - DMFA is here to help.

We offer a wide array of digital marketing support services to help you expand into new markets and localize your solutions to local audiences. We are your one stop for digital marketing solutions across APAC.

What digital marketing trends do you expect to see in Japan and APAC for 2023?

What digital marketing trends do you expect to see in Japan and APAC for 2023?

It’s a very interesting question and I’m excited to see what the future will bring, as the digital marketing landscape is always full of surprises!

For starters, I think we can expect to see increased digitalization of payment systems and more cashless transactions. While credit cards are still the preferred payment method for many, the recent emergence of apps like PayPay will accelerate the process. As the demand for e-commerce and cashless payments in Japan continues to grow as more people choose to buy online rather than offline, the data shows that cashless payments have become an integral part of any modern successful business in Japan. I guess the final question for any modern nation is not if, but when its economy will become fully digital. Japan still has a long way to go, but it’s moving toward that direction.

I’m also very intrigued by the virtual space that’s been growing in size. The metaverse and other AR platforms are becoming more common than not, with first businesses purchasing advertising placements in those parallel ‘worlds.’ I don’t think it will happen this year, but I think we can expect a huge shift from digital towards virtual marketing.

SoftBank has also pioneered the way in this realm by setting up its very first virtual shop on ZEPETO last year, so I’m excited to see what’s next!

(Posted on February 8, 2023)
by SoftBank News Editors

Digital Marketing for Asia

DMFA is a digital marketing agency operated by SB Telecom Europe that specializes in Japanese online marketing, helping businesses to successfully enter the Japanese market. Services range from online advertising and social media marketing to SEO and website localization.