As seen on

How To Win In Japan With Your Mobile App

Topic: Books, Mobile Apps | Author: Peggy Anne Salz | Date: April 14, 2014

Japan mobile gaming app ApponomicsJapanese users aren’t only big on apps; they’re the world’s biggest spenders,  according to app tracker App Annie. Growth in mobile apps spend —­ particularly on games —dramatically outpaces growth in the rest of the world. To help you crack the Japanese market, and succeed, here’s a simple checklist.

But first allow me to update you on progress and exciting developments around Apponomics: The Insider’s Guide To A Billion Dollar App Business (my second app book and the first I have written in partnership with InMobi).

Downloads of this comprehensive book (330-pages) are going through the roof, averaging 500 a week and hitting a whopping 3,000+ since this must-read [free] book was launched at Mobile World Congress.

In view of the overwhelming and positive response, there are now plans for ebook(s), mobile apps, webinars and much more!

The ‘new and improved’ Apponomics book will feature new content ­and exclusive interviews with super-successful app companies, such as Rovio and Spotify, that didn’t make it into the first run.

To support Apponomics — and its growing community — I will also take advantage of opportunities to write, speak and spread the word. (If you have a blog where I can contribute a column, or an event/meet-up where I can share the tips, tricks, advice and key takeaways contained in Apponomics, then please contact me directly­

First stop: ForumOxford: Mobile Apps and Technologies Conference (May 2, University of Oxford). ForumOxford is a highly interactive event/un-conference that promotes open communication and idea exchange. The afternoon panel, which I will chair with my colleagues, covers what you need to develop, launch, track and monetize your app. More about that later…

Now that InMobi fielded a survey through its global mobile ad network, conducted on-device across both Android & iOS smartphones.

App Usage: Japanese smartphone users are more likely to download a higher volume of apps, with 87 percent of smartphone users expected to download apps in the next 30 days. And their appetite for exploring new apps among the Japanese is high. A whopping 97 percent of smartphone users in Japan revealed they proactively search for new apps to download, with 15 percent searching on a daily basis.

App Discovery: Browsing the app store, recommendations from friends and family, and mobile websites are the top three ways Japanese users discover apps. Mobile advertising has also emerged as an important discovery channel, with 34 percent of respondents reporting they discover new apps via mobile ads. Also, rich media ads were preferred to simple banner ads, suggesting that users like to engage with ads that have richer content.

As you would expect in a market where app spending is exploding and freemium schemes are on the rise, opportunity is huge for western apps to hit it big.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Japan can be a tough market for foreign developers with its competitive market and marketers need to execute an effective and creative strategy with a clear focus on the product and involving necessary factors like translation, localization, customized promotions and customer support.

Winning with apps in Japan

Japanese app developers and studios know their stuff. Better than any other country, Japan’s homegrown app developers have cracked the revenue code with creative models that make sure each download counts and players stay engaged.

From virtual currency schemes, to offering prizes and perks for a limited time only, to tweaking the gameplay in real-time so users don’t defect when they enter a difficult level, Japanese app developers are masters of the art of persuasion.

Here is a checklist (excerpted from Apponomics) to guide you to your goal.

To compete — and win — you have to manage your app experience, not just develop it. Borrow a page from the play- book of market leaders like GungHo and use goodies and smart schemes to entice and engage your users. If you have the resources, you may want to hire some analysts. If this is too complicated, then you will want to ally with an ad network partner that has the capabilities to connect the dots in the digital breadcrumb trail your users leave behind as they connect with games (and advertising) on mobile devices and multiple screens.

Communicate — and show you care. Customer service is a highly developed art form in Japan, and is based on different concepts of the relationship between the buyer and seller. In the mobile app space this is no different. In fact, the virtual nature of the business relationship between you and your user means that delivering superior customer service can put you ahead of the competition. Remember service applies to everything you do around your app, but this dedication should also extend to how you react to input and feedback about your app. It’s important to acknowledge every communication (comment, email, tweet), and a simple “I’m working on it” is better than not saying anything at all.

Multichannel marketing can clinch the deal. Mobile apps are big in Japan because app developers are also shifting advertising budgets to balance between mobile and more traditional mediums like TV. In fact, the top two TV advertisers in Japan are mobile gaming companies. In addition to using TV to reach their users beyond the mobile device, these app studios also promote using giant billboards to spread the word. So mix it up when it comes to marketing. Use multiple channels to reach your users beyond the time that they are on their mobile device. Mobile advertising has many benefits (measurable results, real-time reporting, user interaction), but don’t be blind to opportunities in print, outdoor, and other media. If you have the budget, explore TV. Competition is tough and winning is all about putting marketing where your users are.

Don’t be afraid to show it off. One of the hallmarks of Japanese culture is aversion to risk. In order to win a new Japanese customer, you need to prove that you are not a risky choice for them. In the mobile app space this means it’s up to you to prove your app is a good choice. Show off your download stats and showcase any other evidence that your app is popular among their peers. And don’t be shy. Feature this information front and center in your ad creative to grab their attention.

Think big — and broad. The good news: iOS and Android phones are gaining market share so app developers for these platforms can skip having to list their apps in local app stores or on platforms run by local players. But this might not be the best strategy. Many mobile operators, although they have adopted iOS and Android platforms, run successful and popular app stores aimed at their user base. At the other end of the spectrum, top mobile gaming firms and social/messaging apps, such as LINE, promote and run app stores as well. Get more impact for your app by being aware of these local app portals and use them to optimize distribution and monetization of your apps.

Localization and customization matter. Localization is an important consideration for any app developer determined to be a success outside their home market. But don’t stop at language translation. Be sure to customize your app to fit with local culture and meet user expectations for a great experience. Don’t second guess your users — it’s a risky way to run your app business. Instead, partner with an ad network or agency that has the local knowledge and established relationships to help you make your app a success.

In Japan a freemium model with in-app purchase will pay dividends, as will an ad supported model. Make your choice, or create a combination of the two models to fit your own unique audience of app users. Whatever you choose, knowing your users is key to crafting the best  monetization strategy without compromising user experience, engagement or quality.

My take:

Japanese apps are going into the global market, global apps are coming to the Japanese market, and all mobile games are able to monetize everywhere. This checklist, excerpted from Apponomics, will help you tackle the tough Japanese market.

But even the best list won’t help you move the needle on your app business if you don’t choose the right partner.

For this reason, Apponomics also includes an in-depth interview with Ippei Fukami, COO of advertising agency CyberZ USA, Inc. Whether it’s establishing collaboration with major players to build products, or connecting with influential app review sites, or running frequent tests to optimize campaigns, CyberZ has built up the capabilities to help its clients crack the Japanese market — and shares this practical advice in Apponomics.



DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY OF APPONOMICS here and share your feedback. Is there a company or example you want to see included in the next release? Then please let me know! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *