Japanese eCommerce Market & Social Media Usage
Japan is one of the largest eCommerce markets in the world.
According to the World Retail Congress Global ECommerce Market Ranking 2019 report, Japan was the third largest eCommerce market by revenue, behind China and the U.S. Growth has been steady despite the pandemic and the eCommerce market in Japan is predicted to be worth $135.5 billion by 2024.
While it goes without saying that social media is a great marketing tool for eCommerce, it is interesting to note that 82.57 million Japanese are social media users, which is just over 65% of its 126.3 million population. This figure is similar to China’s 64.6% social media usage, but noticeably less than the 82% social media usage for the US population.
LINE: The Multi-Purpose Super App
LINE, a messaging app with its own payment system, is the dominant social media platform in Japan, followed by Twitter and Instagram.
Twitter and Instagram really need no introduction at this point, but LINE is much less known in the English speaking world, since LINE seems to be ignoring the North American and European markets for the time being by focusing on the Japanese, Taiwanese, Thai and Indonesian & Malaysian markets. Whereas multi-purpose super apps are relatively unheard of in the Western world, they are the norm in Japan (LINE) and China (WeChat).
LINE has over 400 Million downloads and close to 85 million monthly active users (58.5 million of them Japanese), this means that over 46% of the ENTIRE Japanese population uses LINE.
In addition to being a messaging app with its own payment system, LINE also serves as a digital wallet, news streaming service, digital manga distributor and mobile game marketplace.
But there is one feature that’s almost a dream come true for eCommerce brands looking to break into the Japanese market, and that’s the “Official Account”. It's arguably LINE’s most attractive feature for business, as you will see in the overview below!
The Official Account
For those who are familiar with the Chinese market, the LINE “Official Account” is not very different from WeChat’s “Public Account”. It’s essentially an in-app profile for brands or businesses to provide their followers with original content, updates and customer service, as well as for sending promo messages and coupon codes through direct messaging.
However, what makes the LINE Official Account stand out is its high message open rate. Nearly 70% of LINE users read messages from companies and many users take positive actions like using coupons from the company, visiting the websites, and joining promotional campaigns.
Businesses can send messages to users who have followed their official account. And since followers get notifications whenever they receive messages on LINE, LINE messages are more likely to be seen compared to other feed-based social media like Twitter and Instagram. Depending on your marketing strategy, businesses can send regular texts (including URLs), images, and videos through messages.
And just like Facebook Ads, LINE allows you to segment your followers by setting parameters according to the following factors:
Residential area (Prefecture-level)
Operation System (iOS, Android)
Time since a user followed your account
But before you start salivating and drafting your first promo message in Japanese, know that there are certain conditions businesses have to meet before they can benefit from the promotional features on LINE official accounts.
Verifying Your Official Account
To start, there are 3 types of Official Accounts: Premium account, Verified account, and Unverified account.
While all of these accounts come with the same business functions, ONLY the Premium and Verified accounts are searchable in the LINE app. And your account needs to meet certain qualifications to be verified and acquire Premium account status.
There are over 20 types of verifications that you can get for LINE Official Accounts (and requirements vary slightly for all of them). For eCommerce stores, you would need to fill out a form detailing various business info, as well as employment status of the individual applicant, and provide the following documents:
(1) Link to Your Official Website,
(2) Business Registration and
(3) Identification indicating applicant’s relationship with the applicant business.
Once you’ve filled out the form, you also need to dish out for a small fee (less than 40 USD) for a dedicated Official Account ID that uses your brand name, as opposed to the random combination of letters and numbers that the average ID consists of.
After you’ve completed the steps above, the application is submitted to LINE for review and they’ll get back to you in approximately 10 business days or less (sometimes more).
While this process may be a bit of hassle to some, but businesses should really take the time to go through with it because (unless you’re planning to manually add your followers by hand and curate the most exclusive official account on LINE), no one is going to be able to find your account otherwise and you’ll be severely limiting the reach of your outreach efforts on LINE by staying unverified!
Japan is the third largest eCommerce market by revenue, behind only the US and China.
LINE is THE social media app to be on in Japan.
The Verified Official Account is a MUST HAVE for eCommerce businesses on LINE.
And yes, LINE began as a disaster response.
In March 2011, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami severely damaged Japan's telecommunications infrastructure, forcing employees at NHN Japan (Tokyo-based subsidiary of Softbank Group and Naver Corporation) to rely on Internet-based resources to communicate. The company's engineers developed LINE to make this happen, and the company released their app for public use in June 2011.