Research: How COVID-19 Changed the Japanese Online Market in 2020

Research: How COVID-19 Changed Japanese Online Market in 2020

Introduction

Despite the ongoing challenges facing the Japanese economy since the infamous bubble burst at the beginning of the 1990’s, it remains one of the world’s largest economies. Japan used to have the second-largest GDP in the world until China overtook it in 2018.

The Japanese GDP shrunk by 27.8% in the April-June quarter of 2020. Economists are arguing the details, but the most undeniable factor is the COVID-19 crisis. In March 2020, the Japanese government requested a nationwide lockdown which led many small businesses to close their doors. Economists argue that the Japanese economy was already struggling when the consumption tax hike was implemented in October 2019, which increased the consumption tax to 10%.

KOCHI, our digital marketing agency in Japan, looked into the demand change in the Japanese economy following the COVID-19 crisis by researching search volumes — a dataset that indicates how people searched on search engines such as Google. Search volume shows what keywords were used by Japanese people and so we can get an idea of what is in people’s minds. With this research, you will see what demands are surging in the Japanese market.

Summary Points

  • People searched for delivery and takeout services to enjoy their meals from home 6 or 7 times more than before the national emergency. This market has grown 2 or 3 times bigger even after the lockdown.
  • People are searching for ways to handle unemployment coverage more than in 2019, especially during the lockdown.
  • Remote workstyle became trendy in Japan and many people are searching for “what is remote work” and remote work job postings.
  • The Japanese housing market is rising. The search demand of homes for sale has doubled since 2019. Notably, the market became more than 3 times bigger in May 2020.
  • At-home entertainment has been surging, including streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Video games like Nintendo’s Switch and Sony’s PlayStation are becoming more popular as well.
  • 6 or 7 times more people were searching for information about respiratory-related symptoms in March and April, when Japan faced the first COVID-19 wave and declared emergency.
  • DX – the digital transformation, which is something that Japanese businesses were forced to implement, has been a major topic among people, especially after Prime Minister Suga announced his policy to digitalize his administration.

How We Researched and Why Search Volumes Matter

Google publicly shares the data that shows what keywords were searched by users to help advertisers identify what keywords to target in advertising for their audience. But how do you find these relevant keywords? Keyword Planner, the tool officially provided by Google, will help you plan there.

What does Keyword Planner do? It shows the data of a monthly search volume, which indicates how many times the keyword was searched. For example, if one keyword has 1,500 search volume last month, that means the keyword was searched roughly 1,500 times in Google.

Let’s do a quick exercise to understand keyword volume. For example, “害虫駆除,” a pest control service in Japan, had a search volume of 5000 in the summer season, and had 500 in winter. The query was searched more often in summer than winter because there were more insect issues in summer — you can get the idea that you should run most pest control advertisements in summer.

By looking into the search volume changes, you can get an idea of how the market is changing and what demands are happening in the market. Now, we will look into some keywords that are related to the COVID-19 crisis to figure out the demand change in the Japanese market.

Results

Delivery and Takeout

Delivery and takeout related queries

According to the Japanese Food Service Association, Japan has a 25 trillion yen food service market.

With the COVID-19 crisis, delivery and takeout demands had been surging, particularly in April and May — around the time that the Japanese government declared a national emergency and requested many businesses to close. The chart above indicates that the demand and market size of delivery and takeout related queries were changed since the COVID-19 pandemic started, around March 2020.

Compared to 2019, the demand had surged until May 2020. This indicates that if such a state of emergency is declared, people will start searching for delivery and takeout services to enjoy their meals at home during lockdown. It also indicates that even though the demand dropped in June, it is still 2 or 3 times bigger demand than what it was in 2019.

Japanese queries analyzed on keyword planner:

  • 出前
  • デリバリー
  • テイクアウト
  • 宅配
  • 持ち帰り
  • お 持ち帰り

Unemployment Coverage

Unemployment coverage related queries

According to stats published by the Japanese government, the unemployment rate was 2.4% in 2019 on average. Since May 2020, it has been around 2.8 – 2.9% — apparently, people are losing jobs more than last year. We looked into unemployment coverage related queries because they are the actual indicator to show if people are losing jobs. You need coverage until you find another job so you search for how to be covered and how much you can get.

Japanese queries analyzed on keyword planner:

  • ハローワーク 失業 保険
  • 失業 保険
  • 失業 保険 アルバイト
  • 失業 保険 バイト
  • 失業 保険 延長
  • 失業 保険 手続き
  • 失業 保険 扶養
  • 失業 保険 計算
  • 失業 保険 金額
  • 失業 手当
  • 失業 給付
  • 失業 給付 金
  • 雇用 保険 金額

Remote Workstyle

Remote workstyle related queries

One of the important things that happened worldwide during this COVID-19 pandemic is the drastic work style change among office workers, notably as a remote workstyle became more trendy in the world, including Japan. Here we can see a huge spike in those “remote” related queries.

Japanese queries analyzed on keyword planner:

  • リモートワーク
  • リモートワーカー

At-Home Entertainment

At-home entertainment related queries

Following the need to change to more sedentary behavior to avoid COVID-19, there are more people who are searching for streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Also, more people are searching for video games including PlayStation, Switch, and Xbox. There is higher demand for at-home entertainment as the chart above shows.

Japanese queries analyzed on keyword planner:

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • アマゾンプライム
  • PlayStation
  • Xbox
  • Switch
  • スイッチ
  • プレイステーション
  • プレステ

COVID-19 Symptoms

Having a cough query

People are worried about being infected by the Coronavirus. Here is the chart that shows that people were searching for cough symptoms, which is one of the major symptoms of COVID-19. As you can see, a lot more people were searching in May and April, when Japan faced the first wave of infection and declared a national emergency.

Japanese queries analyzed on keyword planner:

  • 咳 が 出る

Housing

House purchase related quries

According to an article by The New York Times, home sales in suburban counties had high demand.

There was a 44 percent increase in home sales for the suburban counties surrounding New York City when compared with the previous year. The United States is experiencing more demand for house purchases in rural areas due to people avoiding COVID-19 and the increase in remote work options.

New Yorkers Are Fleeing to the Suburbs: ‘The Demand Is Insane’ – The New York Times

Here in Japan, a similar thing is likely happening. There are more people searching for home purchases compared to 2019, notably in May.

Japanese queries analyzed on keyword planner:

  • マイ ホーム 購入
  • 一戸建て
  • 一戸建て 中古
  • 一戸建て 新築
  • 一戸建て 購入
  • 一軒家 中古
  • 一軒家 購入
  • 中古 一戸建て
  • 中古 不動産
  • 中古 住宅 購入
  • 中古 戸建て
  • 中古 物件
  • 住宅 購入
  • 家 を 買う なら
  • 家 中古
  • 戸建て 中古
  • 戸建て 新築
  • 新築 一戸建て
  • 新築 戸 建
  • 新築 戸建て

Digitalization

Digitalization related queries

Prime Minister Suga replaced Abe, former Prime Minister in September 2020. One of his initiatives has been the digital transformation (also called “DX”) of government administration. Following the COVID-19 crisis, many in the Japanese private sector are also trying to digitalize their acquisition channel and so more people are searching for ways to implement digital transformation into their marketing strategy.

Japanese queries analyzed on keyword planner:

  • dx
  • デジタルトランスフォーメーション
  • デジタ ライゼーション
  • デジタル化

Conclusion

Although there is a significant Gross Domestic Production loss in Japan since the COVID-19 crisis, there are also opportunities in many high-demand markets. It is not easy for businesses to follow market changes, but businesses that adjust themselves to what the consumer wants are likely to survive this crisis.

Some companies, such as Zoom, took a ride on this big wave. With the right digital marketing strategies, a business can overcome the COVID-19 crisis and grow more than before by following consumers’ behavioral changes.