Japan Mobile Phone Internet Marketing  (Part 2)
Japan Mobile Phone Internet Marketing (Part 2)

Japan Mobile Phone Internet Marketing (Part 2)

Japan Mobile Phone Internet Marketing (Part 2)

Last December, professor Philip Sidel of the International University of Japan served up some nasty lessons for believers in location-based marketing strategies (WWJ video here). Last week, Sidel and professor Glenn E. Mayhew presented their latest findings on mobile Internet (MobileNet) usage in Japan, and have come up with a new set of surprises, some nasty… and some nice. At a lecture at the American Chamber of Commerce Japan’s e-Business forum, the Sidel/ Mayhew team again cut swaths through several layers of hype and slashed up several misconceptions marketers might have. In our recent Viewpoint article, we noted how surprised some European consultants were about the lack of business apps in Japan’s MobileNet. Now prepare for some more; data gleaned in their most recent study shows that less than half of Japan’s MobileNet users plug in to keitai Internet for more for more than 5 minutes a day, and, perhaps, only a quarter of users are willing to pay for content and this is just the beginning.

In a massive survey carried out last October, involving 14,169 reponses from 47 prefectures and wards across Japan, across all age brackets and professional categories, the Sidel/ Mayhew study has found that:

With MobileNet Spending

— Only 26% of respondents pay extra for MobileNet

— Over 60% pay less than 500 yen ($4.27) per month

— Plain old vanilla e-mail chat is the “Killer App.” A staggering 73% of respondents said this was their number one usage.

We have actually bothered (whoosh) to compress the major results of the study below. But Sidel/ Mayhew’s most recent findings show startling similarities between European and Japanese attitudes to MobileNet usage, adding to weight of evidence that values and attitudes toward technology are more shared than some marketers believe.

“Many outside Japan suggest that Japanese MobileNet users are somehow different from users around the world others around the world. But research shows otherwise,” they say.

A recent study, MobileNet Perceptions: Europe & Japan, conducted for a masters thesis at IUJ, examined similarities and differences in MobileNet perceptions of European and Japanese users. The study, based on 90-minute interviews of 15 business school students at EM Lyon (8 European nationalities, 6 women, 9 men, 21-25 years old with 1-8 years of cellular phone use) and 15 business school students at IUJ (7 women, 8 men, 27-35 years old, with 1-9 years of cellular phone use) showed many more shared than different attitudes.


— Screen size too small

— Slow connection speed

— Key pad difficult to use

— Limited content

— Preference for PC Internet


— Look forward to solutions to frustrations above, plus more cost-effective services

— Anticipate the future generation of improved MobileNet services

— Have positive feelings towards the benefits the MobileNet MobileNet can offer


— Europeans are more sensitive (re: both data transfer and monthly service charges)

— Europeans disillusioned by WAP’s failure and inconsistent pricing plans

— Service providers in the EU and Japan offer different pricing models

— Wireless standards are not [quite—WWJ observation] compatible (GSM / W-CDMA)

— Japanese society seen as more technology oriented, resulting in quicker adoption and availability of new technologies new technologies


European and Japanese users are very similar:

— “They think of the MobileNet as a real-time, convenient, fast communication tool, enabling ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to information.”

— “[They] are interested in communication-based content that provides an innovative medium for human interaction.”

— “They share the same dream: a mobile network that embodies fast, comprehensive coverage, access to cost effective and practical content through userfriendly handsets, ultimately enabling people to build and maintain relationships.”

(Source: Lara Klingman, MobileNet Consumer Behavior: A Comparative Study of Europe and Japan, IUJ Masters Thesis, June, 2003.)

Let’s look at things in more detail in the Sidel/Mayhew Report.

The Telecommunications Carriers Association (2003) reports i-mode had a 60.6 percent share of the Japanese MobileNet market as of 28 February 2003 and in May last year (now a bit out of date, we recognize) DoCoMo rated its i-mode subscribers as of the end of November 2001 as 4 percent under age 20, 34 percent age 20 to 29, 23 percent age 30-39, 38 percent age 40 or older, and 1 percent unknown


The Sidel-Mayhew method used four versions of the survey developed for four locations; home, work/school, commute, and leisure time locations away from home, work or school. Each version had 17 questions, with all surveys including a group of 13 questions regarding general usage of the MobileNet and four location- specific questions. Respondents were mostly male (71.6 percent) and young (83.3 percent less than 40 years old, 39.4 percent less than 30 years old). About a quarter of the respondents were not employed.


Minutes Per Day

The first surprise they noted was that despite the relatively high MobileNet penetration in Japan, usage is probably still relatively low for most users. In fact, 53.9 percent of respondents use the MobileNet for less than five minutes per day. Only 14.7 percent use the MobileNet for more than 20 minutes a day. The survey found that 56.1 percent of men and 48.3 percent of female use the MobileNet under 5 minutes a day!!!

Location: Women use MobileNet at home, men at work

Respondents were asked where they access the MobileNet, with a broad division of usage time between home, work/school, commute, and leisure time. Results were:

Home: average usage share 29.4 percent

Work/ School: 28.6 percent

Commute: 24.9 percent

Leisure: 23.9 percent

Women had a much higher percentage of their access at home (women: 42.1 percent; men: 24.4 percent), while men have more of their access at work/school (women: 20.0 percent;men: 32.1 percent).

— Looking at home use, about a third of men (32.8 percent) said they didn’t not use the MobileNet at home (versus 17.4 percent for women.) The percentage of those who do not access the MobileNet from home increases dramatically with age, from 17.7 percent of those under 20 to 35.3 percent of those 40 and older.

— In fact, 10.7 percent of women say that home is the ONLY place they access the MobileNet. A much larger proportion of women than men do not use the MobileNet at work (women: 43.6 percent; men: 25.9 percent). Men also show higher proportions of use during commute, although the numbers (women: 16.8 percent; men: 21.0 percent) are not as dramatic as those for home and work/ school.

— The ‘teenager on a train’ scenario is not as representative of MobileNet usage as ‘woman in the living room’ or `man at work,’ they concluded.


Sidel and Mayhew found that locations where people spend the most time, home and work/school, have higher than average primary use of the content giant, email/chat. Ringtone/ picture downloads at home are more common as primary content than they are overall, and are less common in all other meta-locations.

— Primary use of news/information is especially light at home, as is traffic/ transportation information. Not surprisingly, traffic/transportation information is more heavily accessed from commute and leisure locations.

— Entertainment content has heavier use at home and in leisure venues. This is not surprising, but one might have expected it to also be high during commute time or to be low during work hours, which is not the case.

— The conclusion they reached was that MobileNet users do not vary their content choice substantially by location, but a lot during the evening at home and a lot of the time at work in the afternoon.

Usage at Home

Of the four locations defined, the report found that home had the highest overall usage rate. The most popular location for MobileNet access within the home is the living/dining room (49.9 percent) followed by the bedroom (35.4 percent)

Content Most Accessed

— As with MobileNet usage in general, email/chat is by far the most popular content. 80.1 percent of home users say it is their primary content. In fact, ringtone and picture downloads (8.1 percent) is the only other content type that is most used by more than about 3 percent of respondents.

Usage at Work and School

desk or workspace (45.0 percent)

break rooms or lounges (23.1 percent)

outside (12.6 percent)

Interestingly, a large number indicated they use the MobileNet “anywhere that I can be alone,” many also saying that MobileNet access at work is discouraged or prohibited.

Commuting Content Most Accessed

The overwhelming majority of users (76.7 percent) say email or chat is their most used content while commuting.

The next most common primary usage content is ringtone/picture downloads (4.2 percent).

News and information (3.9 percent) and traffic and timetables (3.7 percent) are the only other content areas that garner more than about 2 percent response.

Usage While Commuting

For commuters, the most common access micro- location is the train/subway (30.4 percent),

“waiting to board” (21.7 percent),

walking (18.6 percent)

automobile (14.8 percent)

Train or Subway

Those using the MobileNet most from the train or subway are more likely than commute users on average to have their highest access in the morning or evening.

They are more likely than average to have primary access of content in the areas of News/information (7.3/4.8),

Entertainment (3.3/2.4),

Not surprisingly, traffic information and transportation timetables (6.1/4.6 percent). They are less likely than average to have peak access of ringtone or picture downloads (1.5/2.2 percent).


Primary usage of email/chat (81.3 /76.2 percent).

Banking/trading (1.9 /1.0 percent).

It is less likely to be news/information (1.9/4.8 percent), traffic/ timetables (2.2/4.6 percent) and entertainment (0.9/2.4 percent).

Usage in Leisure VenuesLeisure venue access is most common while sitting outdoors (48.0 percent)

Restaurant usage is also common (19.7 percent).

Perhaps the biggest surprise here is the relatively low number of respondents who offer “bar or club” as their most common leisure access point (1.2 percent).

Content Most AccessedAs with all locations, the content that enjoys the highest level of primary access is email/chat (73.8 percent).

Traffic information and transportation timetables (5.1 percent),

News and information (4.6 percent),

Other (4.2 percent),

Ringtone/picture downloads (4.0 percent),

Entertainment (3.1 percent)

Summary— Those looking for patterns of usage by time or specific location within the home will find very little, they conclude. There is a more prominent spike in evening usage at home than in other locations. Usage anywhere but the in the living/dining room or bedroom is uncommon

— There are very few differences in content by home micro-location, the most dramatic being the relatively high rate of ringtone/picture downloads from the bathroom!! Overall, however, these results offer relatively little actionable insight, especially given that home is the leading access point.

Bottom Line: Access occurs most where people spend the most time.

— The survey noted that almost half of respondents say their desk or workspace is the primary access point for the MobileNet. With respect to content, desk/workspace access is very similar to access in general, overwhelmingly email/chat. The same is true for the next largest group, those with primary access from a break room or lounge.

Usage: women love e-mail/chat, kids love ringtone/picture downloads The Sidel-Mayhew study also clearly showed that:

— Women are higher than expected primary users of email/chat (78.3/75.7 percent) and ringtone/picture downloads (7.4/5.2 percent). They also have higher than expected primary usage of entertainment content (2.6/2.2 percent).

— Ringtone/ picture downloads drop with age, from 14.1 percent listing this as their primary content in the younger than 20 group to only 3.0 percent for the 40 or older group. Users who are under 20 years old have lower primary access of email/chat.

Content: e-mail and chat the king and queen of content: Respondents overwhelmingly indicated that email/chat is their most heavily used content (75.7 percent)

Next was ringtone and picture (screen background) downloads with only 5.2 percent!

No other content category exceeded 4 percent.:

Paying Extra for Content: Most respondents (61.4 percent) do not pay for content!!!

Paying extra for content has a statistically significant interaction with gender and age, but the patterns are that mobile games have been played for much shorter periods of time and whilst “on the move.” Paying extra for content becomes less common with age, with the amount paid increasing with age for men but having no clear pattern for women.

For those who pay for content, most spend little (61.0 percent spend no more than ・500 per month) (23.1 percent) that pay over ・1000 per month.

Men’s spending patterns are more extreme, being higher than average at both the “less than ・250 per month” level (30.5/29.1) and “over ・1000 per month” level (24.3/23.2), but the differences are quite small

Women are the opposite, with higher than average spending in the ・250-1000 per monthrange, with the differences from average being somewhat larger (・250-500: 35.5/31.9; ・501-1000: 18.7/15.9).

Spending of ・501 to ・1000 per month shows a clear pattern of decline with age. One cannot generalize that spending drops with age, however, as the proportion of those 40 and older who spend more than ・1000 per month is higher than in any other

Most Liked Attribute of the Mobile Phone: People LOVE CONVENIENCE

In response to the question of what they like most about their mobile phone, the most common answers were:

“Convenience” (46.9 percent)

“It keeps me in touch” (30.0 percent) and

“Helps me pass time” (10 percent)

No other response category exceeded 4 percent.

“Convenience,” note authors, emerges as the favorite attribute for older people, increasing dramatically with age, from 38.6 percent of those younger than 20 to 53.1 percent of those 40 and older.


Ringtones are also especially popular for those who pass time with their phones but that Ringtones are less popular than average with those who use the phone for convenience and communication.

Heavier usage of the MobileNet is associated with categories other than communication and convenience, such as “passes time,” “keeps me informed” and “expands social life.”

The same is true of payment for content, which is most common for “passes time,” “keeps me informed” and “helps me fit in.”

This pattern follows through to how much is spent for content, with higher spending levels being associated with “passes time,” “keeps me informed,” “expands social life” and “helps me fit in.” In general, greater use of the MobileNet and greater use of the non-email content of the MobileNet are strongly associated with those who look to their phones for information and entertainment, and those for whom the phone has a social function or meaning other than simple communication.


Sidel-Mayhew found that it’s rather pointless examining consumer usage of the MobileNet from the perspective of time and location, but noted the overwhelming predominance of email/chat as primary content. They suggest that that future researchers use separate questions to investigate the “non-web” aspects of the MobileNet (em
ail/chat) and more world-wide-web-like content (e.g. news, entertainment, shopping).

We’ll quote Sidel/Mathew straight through here as a flag to marketers interested in learning about Japan’s mobile Internet:

“As academic and business researchers delve deeper into MobileNet consumer behavior, they should look past the popular notion that the consumer’s location in time and space is a major determinant of behavior. It is time to look seriously into affective components of MobileNet usage. This is true not only from an academic perspective, but from a business perspective as well. If one wants to affect how people use the MobileNet, or use the MobileNet as a marketing tool, it is critical to understand the basic drivers of MobileNet use. It appears quite likely that time and location are not the primary influences on usage that some have suggested.”

“Marketers must move away from the view of the MobileNet as a tiny ever-present billboard and learn what it is that people want from the MobileNet. The overwhelming popularity of email would suggest the MobileNet will be a communication platform more than anything else. Content that enables, enhances, or replaces current communication tools will probably have the greatest chance of success. If marketers want to move beyond this limited area, they need to gain a clear understanding of the context of MobileNet usage.”

— Paul Kallender