2022 Japan Messaging Engagement Report
Your inside look into the email and SMS messaging preferences of Japanese consumers.
Our 2022 Global Messaging Engagement Report gave us a high-level understanding of how consumers’ communication preferences are evolving across the world. But, to better understand how geography and age shape consumer preferences, we’ve decided to roll out additional country-specific reports. In this 2022 Japan Messaging Engagement Report, we’re taking a closer look at how different generations of Japanese consumers want to hear from and engage with their favorite brands.
Whether you work for a Japanese company or have a large audience based in Japan, this report will help you better understand how your prospects and customers expect to communicate with your brand. This report includes powerful insights composed of quantitative and qualitative data that reveal how your business can build an email and SMS strategy to keep up with the ever-changing expectations of Japanese consumers.
We’ve put together this report using data we collected from both a quantitative online survey and qualitative ethnographic study. Here’s a closer look at our methodology.
To better understand Japanese consumers’ email and SMS preferences, we sent a 20-question survey to 800 Japanese respondents. Of those 800 respondents, 200 individuals fell into each of the following age groups: Gen Zers (18–24), millennials (25–35), Gen Xers (36–50), and baby boomers (51–65). This helped us better understand how a recipient’s age might impact their email and SMS preferences and behavior.
We also recruited 20 Japanese participants (5 per age group) to participate in a qualitative study to gain deeper insights into their email and SMS inbox preferences. Over the course of 5 days, we had participants track their email usage, answer short questions, film video responses, and share screenshots of their inboxes. At the end of the 5 days, we then scheduled a 30 to 45-minute phone interview with each individual to review their responses and learn more about their personal email habits and preferences. This helped us further flesh out our findings from the quantitative survey and gain even deeper insight into exactly what Japanese consumers like and dislike about branded communications.
Though the level of importance may vary from generation to generation, as a whole, Japanese consumers find email and SMS important communications channels. However, the usage and attitude toward each communication channel differ widely by age. Here’s a closer look at how these generational differences take root in Japan:
Email keeps its crown as the most engaging customer communications channel for yet another year. In 2021, 15% of Japanese respondents listed it as one of the communications channels they engage with the most. That number increased to 19% in 2022, proving email is a tried-and-true communications channel that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
It’s important to note, however, that this year, email won its No. 1 title by smaller margins than in the past. This could be due to the fact that many businesses are investing in new ways to reach and engage customers, and many consumers have adopted new digital behaviors since the onset of the pandemic. Whatever the cause, it’s clear that while email is still a reliable way to reach customers, new channels are growing in importance and winning over customers at an impressive rate.
Unsurprisingly, older generations of Japanese consumers were far more interested in email than their younger counterparts. Overall, these older age groups preferred email more than any other channel, with 17% of Gen Xers and 21% of baby boomers naming email as one of the channels they engage with the most. On the other hand, only 9% of Gen Zers and 14% of millennials listed email in their top 3 communications channels. These younger generations of Japanese consumers have made it clear they prefer to engage with video, audio, and web ads to hear from their favorite brands.
While our 2022 Global Messaging Engagement Report found that SMS was the second most popular communications channel worldwide, this was not the case in Japan. Only 11% of Japanese consumers listed SMS as one of the top communications channels they find most engaging—a figure that remains unchanged year over year.
Instead, most Japanese consumers said they actually prefer social media, video streaming ads, and even website ads over branded text messages. This was particularly true for younger generations who prefer to use apps like LINE and other social networking services. Interestingly enough, video streaming ads saw the highest jump in popularity of any communications channel, with only 6% of Japanese respondents listing it as their preference in our 2021 report compared to 14% this year.
While SMS didn’t top the charts this year, that doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon your text messaging strategy. Many Japanese respondents shared that while they don’t love receiving marketing updates via text, it’s a convenient and effective way to stay up to date on orders, shipping progress, and appointment reminders.
—Japan-based Gen Zer
Just because your subscribers have opted in to receive your messages doesn’t mean they expect (or even want) to hear from your brand every single day. In fact, over-sending is a top turnoff for many Japanese recipients, with 44% saying they’d unsubscribe if they received an email every day. That said, Japanese consumers seem more open to receiving frequent messages than last year—that is, if your brand sends valuable, unique content in each message.
In last year’s report, 38% of Japanese respondents across all age groups said they prefer to receive emails once a week, while 22% wanted daily messages and 18% just once a month. This year, only 30% of recipients were open to weekly emails vs. the 6% who wanted monthly emails. Even more surprisingly, 45% of 2022 respondents wanted daily emails from their favorite brands—a considerable increase from last year. This willingness to receive more frequent branded messages was even more apparent among older generations. In fact, 53% of Gen Xers and 56% of baby boomers said they now prefer to receive daily messages from brands. Our younger Japanese respondents didn’t agree, with only 32% of Gen Zers and 40% of millennials saying they’d be open to once-a-day emails. Instead, these younger generations were more in favor of receiving email messages once a week from their top brands.
We dug into this topic a bit further in our qualitative interviews, and Japanese consumers shared their willingness to receive more messages primarily depends on the content of an email or SMS. Messages that advertise the same sale over and over again or make fake claims of scarcity are big turnoffs that will push users to unsubscribe. On the other hand, Japanese recipients find messages with timely deals, personalized messages, and engaging content to be a valuable addition to their inbox, even if they don’t open or click every message.
The moral of the story: to create a successful email and SMS marketing program, your business needs to find a way to give your customers valuable content without annoying them. Finding that balance is key to improving customer engagement and increasing the return on investment of your client communications strategy.
While all generations of Japanese consumers felt strongly about email length, younger generations were the most opinionated—likely because of their tendency to check email on their smartphones. Most of our Japanese respondents agreed the ideal email length should be 2–3 scrolls for smartphones and 1–2 scrolls for computers and tablets. Although millennial respondents added they’d be willing to overlook longer emails if it meant brands would email them less often.
Beyond length, Japanese consumers felt emails should also maintain a good balance of text and pictures, with an average of 30%–40% images and 60%–70% text. This merely confirms that email visuals play a crucial role in making an email stick out to consumers, with a large percentage of respondents saying images, email layout, branding, and catchy content help make messages memorable. Of course, having some irresistible deals and promotions is another surefire way to attract your recipients’ attention.
As a new addition to this year’s global report, we asked consumers to answer the statement, “I would be willing to share more personal information with brands if it allowed them to send me more personalized emails.” While 27% of Japanese respondents said “no,” a surprising 51% said they would be open to helping businesses better personalize email content.
Younger generations were more receptive to sharing personal information with brands, with 55% of Gen Zers and 58% of millennials open to the idea. Even amid growing consumer privacy concerns, Japanese customers still have an appetite for increased personalization and are open to helping their favorite brands better understand their needs and interests.
We know that was a lot to unpack, so here’s the TL;DR version of the report:
While this report looks at how messaging preferences and behaviors vary by generation in Japan, our findings might not necessarily reflect the sentiments of your unique audiences. Still, we hope our findings and best practices encourage you to think critically about your email and SMS strategies and inspire you to conduct research to determine how your unique subscribers want to hear from your brand.
Leveraging your existing audience with email and SMS data to optimize your current and future campaigns is easy with Twilio. Our platform goes beyond measuring open and click rates to give you in-depth insights and analysis into how your audience segments interact with your messages. Armed with these findings, you can unlock the full potential of email and SMS to engage more prospects and customers every time you hit send.
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