More than a year after the earthquake and its following disasters in Japan, the country is starting to pick up speed again. As it gets back on track we are also witnessing its recovering ecommerce market, which unsurprisingly experienced a decline in revenue in the aftermath.
Despite these set backs, Japan is still the world’s top digital society. According to recent research approximately 100 million people, some 80 percent of the population, use the internet in Japan. Although the major Japanese b-to-c ecommerce players experienced a decline in revenue, people are starting to buy again—as evident by Rakuten’s financial results for the first quarter of 2012, which show a 20.3 percent sales increase on the same period in 2011 .The most popular items for Japanese online customers are books, followed by fashion, music and travel (source: ystats.com).
Being a mature ecommerce market, Japan also sets the standard for another rising business—mobile commerce. Whereas m-commerce, though gaining in popularity now, was slow to take off in Europe and the US, Japan has seen rapid growth during the past years and boasts the most advanced mobile environment in the world.
Interestingly, the rise of m-commerce in Europe and the US is highly linked to the boost of smartphones, compared to Japan where only 7 percent of mobile phone users possess a smartphone. However, this could soon change; most mobile phone users in Japan are tied to an operator-specific interface (for instance, from the provider Soft Bank) and often, different interfaces are not compatible with each other.
Now that smart phones allow consumers to access online content via a regular web browser, the trend for smartphones is likely to rise in Japan. If the country is at the start of a smartphone boom, this gives plenty of scope for new innovations concerning the m-commerce market, and an even better forecast for online shops.
Katrin Jahnke head of international business at FACT-Finder, an on-site search and navigation specialist.
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