The upcoming Tokyo Olympics 2020 has opened doors to the global halal industry, in its bid to attract and accommodate Muslim tourists. The number of Muslim arrivals to Japan has been growing sharply since its government relaxed visa requirements for South East Asian visitors. The popularity of social media and low-cost air travel in Asia, have fuelled growth in Japan’s Muslim tourist sector. The Olympic Games is expected to further increase the number of Muslim travellers to Japan hence increasing the demand for halal food, products, Muslim-friendly guided tours, hotels and the availability of mosques and prayer rooms. There has been a massive change in Japan’s halal industry landscape in the past 10 years. However, there is still ample opportunity areas for growth.
What are the benefits of going halal for companies? Businesses can leverage on the global halal market worth more than USD2.1 trillion, enhance competitive advantage in the global market place, provide greater assurance to Muslim consumers, leverage on small investment cost with huge potential growth in revenue and boost company’s reputation in being able to meet varied customer needs¹. The current challenges faced by the local business operators include a lack of understanding for the religion, language and cultural barriers and no centralized direction regarding halal requirements or certifications. Having said that, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), has ramped up efforts to promote awareness about the availability of halal tours, services and facilities in Japan to attract Muslim tourists.
With the increasing demand for halal ingredients, products (both food and non-food) and other services – local businesses in Japan would seek partners or suppliers within the global halal industry to provide them with what they need.
This is a great opportunity for companies within the industry to showcase their brands through digital marketing.
Japan is infamous for its traditional business dealings (typically through word-of-mouth) but we predict a shift, due to the shortage of halal suppliers in-country. Case in point: A bilateral Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) on Halal Cooperation was signed between Japan and Malaysia on November 26, 2018². The key objectives in this MOC include strengthening trade and investment promotion for halal products and services between the countries, facilitation in the development of halal certification and assistance regarding halal expertise in the preparation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, amongst others.
A more targeted strategy is required when threading the digital marketing space with the Japanese. Understanding their heritage, business culture and general mannerisms would give your company an added edge.
Think Global, Act Local
Scale your website to suit the local context. Be diligent about the accuracy of your brand messaging and the appropriateness of the communication channels that you employ. The Japanese version of your online presence should be detailed and text heavy – to showcase your company’s offerings and successes. Work with designers, translators and digital marketing agencies who has experience with Japan & her culture. Establish relationships with these local contacts. They would be able to provide you with insights on the consumers’ psyche and relate experiences or thought processes that are unique to their culture. What works in your home country may not apply in Japan. Don’t assume, do your due diligence.
Leverage on Explainer Videos
YouTube is one of the most popular social media platforms in Japan. Post explainer videos in your website that story-tell processes. For example, if you supply halal food products – invest in a video production that showcase the preparation methods and the quality of your products. The Japanese advocates trustworthiness hence if your company has been established for a period of time, story-tell the history of your business from inception. This also makes a great conversation starter for your sales pitch.
When creating content for your digital marketing channels, an overbearing and persuasive article or video may not sit well with the Japanese. For the past decade, Japan has undergone a cultural shift due to economic downturns and natural catastrophes. Material wealth and experiences per se, are not star appeals. To win the heart of these consumers, allow the personality of your company’s culture to shine and offer products and services that are of superior quality, for authenticity cannot be ‘created’, it can only be felt or experienced. Showcase these qualities through content that are well-written.
Images, colours and layouts for a website or a product packaging are more than mere decorations. Designs can act as a driver of the consumer purchase decision and shape the consumer’s perception of a product. Visual cues draw attention subtly to areas of importance and help your visitors interact with your website. Use A/B tests for your website to see which designs work best – in gaining traction. Compared to consumers from other countries, Japanese consumers place a heavy emphasis on the overall appearance of products. They not only appreciate the content, but the external look of the product that they purchase³.
Strategizing a Digital Marketing Campaign
While the halal industry is a niche market and an opportunity area in Japan, marketing there may not be as simple. A successful digital campaign launched in your home country may not be replicated here. Greater sensitivity should be practiced in getting to know the business culture and consumers. Points to consider when strategizing a campaign:
- Relationships are imperative to the Japanese – even in business.
- Stickler to rules, adherence to authority and seniors (in terms of rank and age).
- Japan’s corporate culture places more emphasis on achieving goals as a team. Individually, each team member must contribute to the best of their ability.
- Predominantly risk adverse. Credibility and trust building are important.
- Their decision-making process may be multi-layered, cautious and slower but consistent.
Social Media Platforms to Gain Traction
Select appropriate social media platforms to launch your digital marketing initiatives. In Japan, consumers like anonymity that socials like Twitter and LINE (messaging app) can offer. Create conversations with your Japanese consumers on Twitter – with obscurity, they are most at ease being themselves. Market your products and services through direct messaging app like LINE to your customers directly (be it for B2B or B2C companies). Send your consumers or website visitors personalized emails for product updates, launches or events. Google and Yahoo! Japan are two leading search and portal websites in Japan. Make sure that both of them part of your digital marketing SEO strategy, to maximize your target audience reach.
- Genestre et al., 1995 p.24; Marber & Wellen, 2007, p.202
- Image Credit : https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/japans-2020-olympic-stadium-on-track-for-completion-this-year/BT_20190104_TOKYO4_3659362.
Freelance writer who (tries to) dabble with digital marketing and practises yoga in her free time.