Predicting 3 Business Trends in Japan in 2016 / 2016年に注目を浴びる3つのビジネストレンド(By Kelvin)

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11/28/2015 By Kelvin Ha

(Japanese follows. 和訳は英語の後にあります。)

Because of where I work and where my family is, I get to travel frequently between US and Asia. In turn, these experiences allow me to bridge different perspectives, and recognize distinct patterns in how cultures approach business problems. As the year of 2015 concludes, I believe more Japanese companies will transition to dedicate increasing resources in the following areas. No matter if you are an entrepreneur starting a new business, or an innovator from within a company, these are the three trends I think are beneficial to be prepared for.

Demand Generation experts will be in great demand

The Abe administration has been pushing different measures relentlessly to ensure spending occurs at the household level. Classic Keynesian economic theory argues spending kicked start from the government will eventually flow to families, initiating a subsequent multiplier to revitalize the economy. Additional policies from Abe, including quantitative easing, have been in place as well.

The caveat here is that Japanese citizens have a higher propensity to save than consume. Japanese businesses and the government have however been smart to encourage purchases. From limited edition items to time sales, to even “premium merchandise coupons” which many have lined up to purchase, we see Japanese responding favorably to time and quantity restricted tactics.  

To ensure household spends the yen, businesses have to transition from one-off based stimuli to around-the-calendar planning. In the US, there are companies with whole teams dedicated for the function of demand generation. If you consider a customer purchase journey, the function should be baked around and across the funnel.

In the wake of economic recovery, Japanese businesses which dedicate resources to demand generation can strategically position themselves to first share the result.

Companies will dedicate more time with the 2Ms (message and metric) as brands transition from selling products to experiences

As part of the attempt to generate more demand, businesses are transitioning from selling just products, to instead a lifestyle, or experience. Various American brands have seen success, including Patagonia, Airbnb, and Nike. When consumers ring at checkout, they are not just purchasing a down jacket, a night of stay, or a pair of shoes. They are buying into part of the ecosystem, which combined with other products in the portfolio, weave into a higher aspiration of a lifestyle. To brands, this would mean enhanced upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Walking around Harajuku this summer I observe more clothing stores no longer just sell clothes. Coincidentally, they start selling coffee, furniture, and household items. Brands like BEAMS, JOURNAL STANDARD (BAYCREW’S GROUP) are now aspiring you to not only buy their clothes, but also into their crafted ideals of life.

Bloomberg quoted Fred Thompon, retail practice leader at marketing company LoyaltyOne, in saying millennial consumers are “increasingly responding to blended retail and entertainment experiences.”

Brands should consider two things as they contemplate to expand their offerings. The first is reason to believe. From existing products, what makes the original quality (composed of both tangible craftsmanship and intangible service) transferrable to the new areas of the portfolio? In particular, customers may already believe you manufacture superior clothing, but simultaneously they also know clothing and furniture making ask for very different skillsets. A clear messaging strategy has to be in place. Just because other industries, or brands experience success, your portfolio may or may not be optimized to make this change.

Apart from messaging, metrics is another area these brands should focus on. The transition to include furniture and coffee in an existing clothing store may mean implications on margin and turnover. What, therefore, will the new metrics be to monitor success?

Messaging and metrics as the 2Ms will accompany businesses as they consider transitioning to sell experiences with the start of 2016.

Space sharing in traditional retail environment will continue

Land prices in Japan has only gone up higher in recent years. To combat, we see companies beginning to embark in space sharing. TSUTAYA and Starbucks, as well as Uniqlo and BIC CAMERA have been starters in Shinjuku.

While traditional one building approach provides a one-stop shopping experience, with even extra spaces for exhibition and interactions, space sharing in central locations enlists immediate cost-savings and an increased exposure.

The above approach is itself a double-edged sword. As two brands converge, impressions from one extend to influence the other. Picking which to partner with will be a strategic decision as brands go back to examine their value proposition. What brand, when positioned together, can generate synergies greater than the sum of both? Are there characteristics from a certain brand which juxtaposed to yours will serve to complement what you are selling? What can your brand share with the other in return?

The intention of space sharing may originally be for rent sharing. Yet, companies should pivot the discussion to also consider opportunities. While a more competitive real estate market can be a challenge, how can you create synergies through this very constraint in the first place?


About Kelvin Ha

Kelvin Ha started a web-based boutique marketing studio “Spreat” at fifteen, helping partners including Unicef, Usher’s New Look, and MTV Show “The Burried Life” tell their stories to millennials like himself.

Now part of the Brand Strategy and Innovation division at Adobe, Kelvin uses creativity, data and research to support product brands in the Creative Cloud ecosystem, from Photoshop to mobile app Capture CC.

Outside of work, Kelvin values time building non-profit programs, with “311JEA,” “The Boston Bean Project,” and “Books For a Cause” as interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, BostInno, and HKBN. With Binnovative, Kelvin is launching the San Francisco chapter in 2016 as continuous effort to foster entrepreneurial exchange between Japan and Silicon Valley.

Kelvin now travels between San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Japan. Learn more about his thoughts at

*Views above my own and do not reflect past or current employment.












私がこの夏原宿を歩いていて気がついたのは、多くのアパレルショップが、洋服以外の商品を売っていたということである。店頭には、コーヒー、家具、またその他家庭用品が並ぶ。BEAMS、JOURNAL STANDARD(BAYCREW’S GROUP)などのブランドは、消費者に対して理想のライフスタイルそのものをプロデュースしようとしているのである。












ケルビン・ハは15歳の時マーケティングスタジオ「Spreat」を設立し、これまでにUnicef, Usher’s New Lock, MTV Show「The Burried Life」などを支援した経歴を持つ。

現在は Adobeのブランド戦略・イノベーション部門に所属し、クリエイティビティー、データ分析、調査を生かしたPhotoshopやCapture CCなど自社製品のブランディングに携わる。

プライベートでは、311JEA、The Boson Bean Project、Book For A Causeと共に非営利プログラムの立ち上げを行い、ウォールストリート・ジャーナル、BostInno、HKBNから取材を受けた。2016年にはBinnovativeサンフランシスコ拠点を立ち上げ、起業文化における日本とシリコンバレーとの協力を強化させることを目指す。