If you want to know what trends are coming to the Japanese Influencer market, this is the right place. In the last year, we have seen the domestic influencer industry in Japan scale significantly with advertising spend moving away from traditional channels into the influencer sphere. As more people stayed home due to several waves of Covid-19 infections in Tokyo and Osaka, social media screen-time increased along with the value of influencers who can create content that truly resonates with them.
In 2022, the annual expenditure on influencer marketing in Japan is estimated to grow to 51.9 billion yen, which is 1.73 times higher than the spend back in 2019. Now that the industry has adjusted to the pandemic and how best to leverage influencers, it’s important to understand which trends to follow for effectively promoting your brand in the Japanese market.
Let’s get started and take a deep dive into our learnings from 2021 and our predictions for 2022.
Japanese Influencer Marketing Trends for 2022
- Which platform should you focus on?
- Short form videos
- The year of collaboration
- Live product launches
- The Shift towards Influencer Marketing
1) Which platform should you focus on?
You may think the answer for 2022 is Tiktok. After all, its contagious short-form videos and highly engaging content has led to the platform gaining recognition and popularity beyond teenagers and young adults in 2021. However, the number of influencers and influencer advertising in Tiktok remains low in Japan especially compared to Europe and North America.
The main reason is that Tiktok is considered as a platform for entertainment, whereas Instagram is the research platform of choice before purchasing items. According to a Japanese survey carried out last December, 52% of Tiktok’s core Gen-Z users answered that their number one reason for using it was to pass time or to watch something funny. Tiktok was also under the spotlight recently in Japan when news emerged last month that they secretly paid a total of 76 million yen to 20 influencers for posts over a period of two years. In Japan, this falls under the much despised “stealth marketing” category and will inevitably slow influencer advertising activity on the platform.
Our recommendation would be to work with creators who have reach across multiple platforms including Tiktok. Japanese influencers are now often active on several platforms with Instagram and YouTube being a popular combination. While they will favour one main platform, they have built up audiences who will interact and engage with them everywhere they appear. Naturally, these influencers are able to leverage platform features to best suit their purpose such as YouTube for easy-to-understand video explainers and Instagram stories with links to product purchase pages. @sara_parin’s post above is a good example where she introduces Shein Japan’s sale dates and a coupon code on her Instagram, and informs her audience she will go into more detail on her YouTube account where she has over 630,000 subscribers.
2) Short form videos
This was one of the trends that really dominated in 2021 and we foresee it gradually becoming a standard content format in Japan over the next year across all major social media platforms. Users simply love video content! Tiktok’s short video format led the way, but Japanese influencers have been getting creative and having fun with Instagram Reels and showcasing their prowess with YouTube Shorts too.
As we mentioned above TikTok is a platform for entertainment in Japan, so the videos you see generally are comedic or involve a dance routine. Over the course of 2021, we are finding more video content from cooking influencers or Japanese mums with tips on bargain household goods. These types of influencers covering everyday home life connect well with their audience and we predict future opportunities for brands looking to engage them.
Instagram Reels on the other hand are especially well-suited for fashion and cosmetic influencers in Japan. They make it easy for followers to see the attractiveness of their outfits of the day as they walk around their local area or can quickly show the appeal of the lipstick they are promoting from different angles. Reels also offer the chance for influencers to show their authenticity at home and their favourite places in an enjoyable bite-size format. Japanese influencers are known to be shy, but we can see that now they completely own Reels and are happy to regularly upload short form video content.
In the Reel above, you can see Rina Ishii telling her audience about the 30% discount on the Rina Duce dress she is wearing while walking around Arashiyama in Kyoto.
3) The year of collaboration
Japan is a society that has always been group focused, so it may not come as a surprise that collaborations between influencers and brand have been popular. As collaborations can effectively lead to additional exposure through a larger shared audience, it’s likely that Japanese influencers will be taking advantage of the additional Collab features available on Instagram. One will surely be the “Add Yours” stickers to boost story engagement which were first rolled out in Japan and Indonesia last November.
In 2022, we will see more collaborations among Japanese influencers, and in coming years, a high follower count and high engagement rate in Japan might not be enough to remain on top of feeds. As influencers who do not create collaborations with others may start missing out on promotional deals, expect innovative usage of the collab features from both aspiring and mid-range influencers.
One recent collab example is between fitness expert @hana.fula_diet, tasty dessert diet recipe creator @mao_recipe and wellness protein brand @koredake_official. In the reel above, Hana does a collab “remix” with Mao, where she follows Mao’s recipe for creating a Chiffon cake using a packet of Koredaka protein. You can see both Hana and Mao’s steps for making the cake side by side in the reel, and Hana is careful to write that she received Mao’s permission before making her video.
4) Live product launches
Throughout 2022, Live Social shopping or “Live Commerce” as it is called in Japan is likely to be used more frequently by brands. This is an extension from shoppable posts and stories where users can make immediate purchases during a live product launch, and provides fans the opportunity for real time interactions with their favourite brands and influencers. When carried out correctly, the outcomes can be truly impressive such as Momoko Ushie’s Live Commerce broadcast last November where all apparel products sold out just 15 minutes after she started.
When asked in a survey why they make purchases watching Live Commerce broadcasts, Japanese users say it gives them an idea of the product sizes and how they would look in real life. They also answered that it feels like talking to store assistants, which is an experience many are missing out on with the constant Covid-19 restrictions in Japan. There is of course, that feeling of exclusivity as product items can be limited to only those watching the live broadcast.
One thing to bear in mind is that influencers may be good at showing how attractive clothes are in post or short reels, but need to be equally talented when it comes to selling a product live and replying to live audience questions. In the post above, you can see celly_cecilia letting her followers know she’ll be doing a Live Commerce broadcast for Armani Exchange in a Valentine’s Day Special.
5) The shift towards Influencer Marketing
Before 2021, influencer marketing and affiliate marketing were often viewed as two separate channels. In the last year, we have seen Japanese brands come to the realisation that the two activities complement each other, and marketers solely relying on affiliate programs recognising the value of influencers in a world where video content is king.
Brands are now also aware they can track performance metrics from influencers in the same way they would with affiliate publishers. Creating long-term campaigns based on the number of influencer followers alone is no longer common, and advertisers want to see the incremental sales drive from influencers. With clickable links and stickers in Instagram stories, it’s now possible to see such results and influencers can highlight the quantifiable benefits they bring to brands. In a country like Japan where likes are often hidden on Instagram, this truly gives reassurance that targets are getting hit.
The other reason for a shift to influencers is related to privacy concerns. Paid social marketing on apps took a massive blow in 2021 due to the iOS 14.5 update and with 3rd party cookies being removed from major browsers including Google in 2022, we expect a further movement towards influencer marketing in Japan.
Above you can see an exemplary example of a personal testimonial from @megumi_kanzaki in a post for fashion brand Masaco Teranishi. Not only does Megumi give an authentic account of how she has always felt comfortable with wearing the brand’s dresses at events, but she also creates a Story where you can find a simple to click link to the Masaco Teranishi website. The resulting clicks can be tracked along with the uplift in purchases that can be attributed to the campaign. We foresee more platform advances this year that will make link building and tracking even easier.
This brings us to the end of our learnings from 2021 and predictions for 2022. We hope that it has provided crucial insights into the current Japanese Influencer market. For regular readers, rest assured we will be continuing with our series of top ten Japanese influencers in our upcoming articles.
If you are planning an influencer campaign in Japan and need help getting the right influencer for your brand, please reach out and contact us.