App Store Localization for Japan – Improve CVR & Drive Downloads

As the World’s 3rd largest economy, the Japanese market is an opportunity that should not be missed. However, marketing in Japan is hard because Japanese are much more selective when it comes to the foreign brands they accept.

If the Japan market is your next target, then you need to prepare your app to be marketed in the right way that will resonate with your users. 

Localization is absolutely critical when marketing an app in Japan. This post will focus on app store localization for Japan. Learn how to use ASO to improve CVR and downloads of your apps and games in Japan.

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Digital Marketing in Japan – Basic Info

 If you want to write your success story in Japan, you really should research the background of the market. How many people are there in Japan? How many of them are using a mobile phone? Which is the most popular social media app in Japan?

According to the Digital 2021 Report by Hootsuite and We Are Social, Japan’s total population is 126.3 million and the internet penetration rate is 93%. Meanwhile, 93.8 million people are active on social media, which is equivalent to 74.3% of Japan’s total population.

Japan’s population

  • Japan had a population of 126.3 million in January 2021.
  • 51.2% of Japan’s population is female, while 48.8% of its population is male 
  • 91.8% of Japan’s population lives in urban centres, while 8.2% lives in rural areas.
Digital Marketing in Japan

Internet users in Japan

  • There were 117.4 million internet users in Japan in January 2021.
  • Internet penetration in Japan stood at 93.0% in January 2021.

Social media statistics for Japan

  • There were 93.80 million social media users in Japan in January 2021.
  • The number of social media users in Japan was equivalent to 74.3% of the total population in January 2021.

Mobile connections in Japan

  • There were 201.1 million mobile connections in Japan in January 2021.
  • The number of mobile connections in Japan in January 2021 was equivalent to 159.3% of the total population.

Japan’s App Market Overview

Japan’s mobile app and games industry is considered one of the strongest contenders in the global market. 

According to Appannie, Japan is the NO.2 market that generate most revenue from apps and games in 2020.

Japan’s App Market

For games, from action to RPG (role-playing games), there are many popular titles that perform well in Japan. 

For Apps, Aside from the always popular productivity, tools and social/communication apps – shopping and entertainment apps tend to perform well in terms of downloads. 

Japan App Market

Despite the impressive numbers, it can be quite challenging for outsiders to wade into the Japanese app market. Therefore, you’d better work with a local agency when entering the Japan market. The right partner can provide you with expertise which will help you gain insights and understanding about the market and its consumers. This enables you to make informed decisions that help you to achieve your objectives in Japan.

App Store Localization – ASO Best Practices in Japan

1.      Japanese Language as the First Step in Localization

If you want to compete with the major domestic players in Japan, localization is essential. In particular, to develop a successful app for Japan, translation into Japanese is a must. Localized creatives also often outperform their English equivalents in both conversion rate (CR) and click-through rate (CTR) 

2.      Keywords: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji

Japanese language consists of three distinct alphabets; Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana use syllabic characters which represent distinct sounds, while kanji are more traditional characters that might symbolize abstract concepts, ideas or something else.

Japanese users often search with Hiragana because it is a typing character. However, when researching keywords, you’d better collect all types of written formats in Japanese language. Then, target high volume keywords that will lead to more views and downloads of your app. 

Most importantly, use your main keywords in title and subtitle.

App Keywords

3.      Highlight App Features

You can entice users by showing them what to expect when they use your app. Make use of characters or other unique features on your screenshots and videos to help them better visualize what your app contains. For example, a gaming app could showcase the game’s top characters and a dating app may display filter options. 

4.      Highlight Social Proof

Honor and reputation are highly valued in Japanese culture, so having both in your brand representation is crucial to in-market engagement.

So it is recommended to highlight social proof in the screenshots and description such as awards received, the number of players reached, the number of levels available and more as these elements increase users’ trust and value perception to the game/app. 

Highlight Social Proof

5.      App Icons – Show Special Occasions or Milestones

Many app developers also make their app store icon stand out by tweaking the design to mark special occasions, milestones, or big updates. For example, 200万 ユーザー (“2 million users”), ー周年 (“1 year anniversary”), 大型アップデート(“Major update”.)

6.      Crowded Design

In Japan, people like to have all the information they need gathered in one place. For this reason, you can design screenshots which look very busy, colorful, and bright. Don’t be stuck in the simple and minimalist design you have learnt in design school. What might seem professional and clean to you, can actually look unreliable and sloppy to the eyes of the Japanese audience.

When design screenshots for Japan users, you can follow the guidelines below.

  • Greater amounts of text and detailed information upfront
  • Less white space on page
  • Multiple scripts are used
  • Smaller and more frequent graphics are used rather than fewer large high-resolution images
  • Data, testimonials, and statistics are given more priority to build trust with the user
  • Several contrasting colors and design elements are often used within small spaces
Yahoo Screenshot

7.      Invest in Aesthetic Depth

Japan is home to a rich history of aesthetic traditions and heritage, often closely aligned with traditional aspects of nature and the physical world, such as flower arrangements (Ikebana), rock garden landscaping (Karesansui), and bonsai.

This, together with incredibly high standards for quality, has contributed to a highly refined approach to visual presentation, which extends into the world of brand communications and promotion.

8.      Manga Marketing

There is no denying that Manga has a strong entertainment, communication, and cultural power in Japan.

You can play into the captivating culture of Japan by winning the hearts of your target users by showing cute characters or mascots. Specifically, you can show these cute characters or mascots in screenshots or icon.

Manga Marketing

9.      Improve Reviews and Ratings

Negativity about your apps or games could be damaging because other people’s opinions hold a lot of weight for Japanese consumers. In fact, Japan is the only country where consumers view other users as a more reliable source of product information than the experts. 

10.  Take Advantage of Holidays and Seasons to Improve Revenue

Many Japanese employees receive annual bonuses of nearly $3,000 during the summer months, resulting in higher spending.

Christmas, New Year’s Day, and White Day (a second Valentine’s Day in March) are other important spending holidays in Japan. Similarly, spirits are high during cherry blossom season. Many brands opt for seasonal advertising to drive sales by encouraging consumers to consider their products.

Final Words

Japanese users tend to download and spend the most money on apps developed by large Japanese companies or popular (recognized in Japan) global companies. For many Japanese users, the app developer reputation is extremely important.

Though it is hard to build trust and reputation quickly for new apps and games, we should start now. The best approach to quickly build trust, engagement and brand loyalty is to strategically localize content that’s relevant to your Japanese target market.

You can follow the tips in this post to do app store localization for Japan. If you have any other insights about localization in japan and app promotion in Japan, leave your comments.

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