First of all, you must understand the traditional “Japanese Consumer Mindset”!
Anyone shopping or retailing in Japan will quickly spot Japanese specificities (compared to Western standards) impacting the Japanese consumer behaviour, lifestyle, purchasing habits, preferences of merchandise, design taste, response to marketing campaigns and service expectations.
Some of these differences originate in the Japanese culture and society:
- Japan is a country with strong cultural context: the Japanese retain a wealth of information on people and maintain, through an extensive network of friends, colleagues, customers, suppliers, close personal relationships. “Relational maintenance” includes the purchase of gifts.
- The ideal communication is indirect (subtle hint), non-verbal (if not, suspicion) and emotional (often used in commercials). A present might sometimes tell more than words.
- Key concepts in traditional Japanese culture might influence the extent of the “Relational maintenance”: 1) collectivism & group spirit; 2) a strong hierarchy, often based on seniority, synonymous with experience and wisdom; 3) a strong division of gender roles: although the situation changes; 4) a monochronic culture, where individuals generally do one thing at a time.
- Population in Japan is aging much faster than in most other developed countries, due to one of the longest life expectancy and one of the lowest birth rate. Consequences for retailers are a clear switch to the “silver market”.
- The “bubble crisis” of the nineties and the following “lost decade” have impacted the way younger generations consume. Another consequence of the crisis is a wider gap between regular workers and non-regular workers (bi-polarized society), source of differences in spending power.
- The Life cycle is another important factor to consider:
- Two positive phases in consuming are the [22, 26/29 years old] segment (from graduation till wedding) and the [50, 60 years old] segment (kids have graduated , 2 incomes are available)
- Two negative phases in consuming are the [29, 50 years old] segment (single income and raising kids) and the retirement segment.
All those specificities draw a specific Japanese mindset and impose specific service and marketing implications for any company willing to retail in Japan.
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