How to Connect with Software Buyers in Japan

April 29, 2022
Contributor: Dylan Woodham

Optimize your marketing strategy with insights on the Japanese B2B buying journey.

Japan is a lucrative market for software and SaaS providers seeking to expand their global reach in a new region. The country’s software market, estimated at $26.8 billion in 2021, has an expected CAGR of 10.3% through the next four years. While there are tons of opportunities, expanding into Japan’s software market isn’t easy. 

Building a market entry or campaign expansion strategy that includes the Japanese market requires a thorough understanding of the country’s software buyers. SaaS and software marketers should take the time to understand the top concerns and business priorities in order to maximize their efforts and ROI in Japan.  

In this post, we share insights about software buyers in Japan and how to best engage and convert them with a strong marketing strategy.

What are the top concerns for Japanese software buyers?

Before developing a go-to-market strategy for Japan, you must first understand what the top concerns are for Japanese software buyers. Here are the most common software investment triggers, according to Gartner Digital Markets’ 2022 Global Software Outlook survey: 

Top 5 software investment triggers

The No. 1 investment trigger for Japanese software buyers is the need for productivity improvements. We recommend outlining exactly how your solution provides productivity gains in marketing collateral, such as user testimonials and case studies that show impact on productivity. 

What should you know about software buying behavior in Japan?

Digital marketing in Japan has changed over the years, providing many more opportunities for software providers to connect with customers than ever before in the region. It’s crucial to understand what Japanese buyers really value during the research process to best connect with them and show how your solution will address their challenges. During the purchase process, 29% of software buyers in Japan spend the most time identifying which system is the best to solve the problem while 27% spend most of their time determining which vendor is most appropriate for their business. In many cases, Japanese companies want to make sure they are spending their money on the exact solution to their problem before starting a conversation with sales. 

B2B buyers who are confident about their purchase decision are 3.6 times more likely to complete a high-quality deal (download the white paper). 

To start marketing in Japan, you should consider creating top-of-funnel thought leadership content, such as a blog, to answer software buyers’ research queries. Keep the focus of your Japanese marketing strategy on helping them better understand how to solve their business challenges with your solution. This personalized content will help address the software buyers’ needs and ensure that you’re reaching them at the right time.

What are the trusted software information sources in Japan?

When it comes to making software investments, 35% of Japanese companies prefer providers they’ve already worked within the past. Meanwhile, 49% of Japanese companies prefer to work with well-established software brands. Of these preferred providers, the majority of them are Japan-based software providers.

Preferred channels to obtain info about a software solution

Non-Japanese providers, however, shouldn’t be discouraged by this. For software companies crafting a digital marketing strategy for a Japanese audience, there are many ways to get your software in front of prospective buyers.

  1. Video calls with sales representatives. This is a great way to show off what your software can do in real-time with prospective customers. Practicing situational awareness during these calls will ensure that the conversations will continue between the buyer and the provider.
  2. Software ratings and reviews sites. This includes user reviews on third-party research websites. Leveraging review websites where customers post testimonials can give buyers more confidence in your product and generate interest–this is especially helpful if you’re just getting established in the region!
  3. Provider websites. Think of your website as an extension of your product profile. Taking a strategic approach to your landing pages’ design will ensure that your website only displays relevant information to your target audience.
  4. Personalized emails by providers. This is an effective way of reaching prospects. Properly targeting customers through email marketing is a great way to source leads and get the word out about your product.
  5. Social media. This is an easy starting point for many providers starting out their international marketing. By posting relevant and helpful content on social media, you can become a thought leader and start to establish your brand’s presence. Make sure to keep time zones in mind when posting!

How can you differentiate your offerings in Japan?

To differentiate your offerings in the Japanese market, software marketers should identify attributes that play an important role for Japanese buyers in the qualification of a software tool compared to the alternatives. In Japan, the most influential factors in the software purchase decision are price and ease of use, according to the Gartner Digital Markets’ 2022 Global Software Outlook survey.

Most influential factors in the software purchase decision

You can also use reviews as a way of differentiating your product from the competition. Verified, recent reviews are great for building buyers’ trust and confidence, especially for providers trying to establish their brand in a new region. 

Another way to differentiate your solution from competitors is highlighting features that are most important to them. The top software features Japanese buyers look for concern IT: More than half of survey respondents said the most important software features were automation, AI, and machine learning, as well as cybersecurity and data privacy. 

We recommend crafting a value proposition focused around these issues to better connect with your target audience. Build your digital marketing strategy around featuring the latest technology developments relevant to the software buyers and their industries, while also updating buyers about how your solution addresses those needs or capabilities. 

Global Software Trends 2022

Understand software buyer preferences and behavior.

How can you keep customers engaged during software adoption?

The onboarding process is critical for customer marketing in Japan and keeping clients engaged. B2B software and SaaS providers can avoid post-purchase regret by providing support services, training, in-language content, and a positive onboarding experience. Japanese software buyers noted that access to customer support was the most valued factor in the onboarding process at 21%, with personalized training as the second most valued factor at 17%, according to the 2022 Global Software Outlook survey. 

One method for keeping software buyers engaged and building client confidence post-purchase is to provide them with change enablement content. This type of content will help new clients navigate the post-purchase changes; it breaks down the tasks related to the change and strategies for moving through the tasks.  

Another method for keeping software buyers in Japan engaged is by providing them with content that’s been translated to their native language. Translated materials offer the benefit of conveying the same message to your target audience without any confusion. We recommend preparing some translated materials, such as landing pages and product details, prior to implementing your go-to-market strategy.

Ready to reach software buyers in Japan?

The Japanese market is growing rapidly. While there are plenty of opportunities to connect with B2B buyers, it’s important to understand their behavior and preferences to target them at the right time with the right information. Download our report on Japan’s software market to gain more buyer behavior insights and craft an optimized marketing strategy.

Ebook: Japan Software Market Landscape

eBook: Japan Software Market Landscape

Position software offerings more effectively in Japan.

Dylan Woodham

Dylan Woodham is a Senior Manager leading Japan-focused initiatives at Gartner Digital Markets. He was born and raised in Japan and has been with the Digital Markets team for four years. With his strong track record in sales, Dylan leads an experienced team both in Barcelona and Tokyo. Connect with Dylan on LinkedIn.

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Survey methodology:

Gartner Digital Markets 2022 Global Software Outlook Survey

Results presented are based on a Gartner Digital Markets study to understand business challenges and approaches to technology and software investments. The primary research was conducted in October 2021 among a total of 2,501 respondents in the following countries: United States, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, Colombia, Belgium, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Germany and France.

Respondents were screened for having recently purchased technology and decision-making authority. Respondents were required to be responsible for making decisions on purchasing technologies for their organization. 

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