Japan’s Mobile Shoppers Pick Browsers Over Apps

Author: Jeremy Kressmann

March 31, 2017

Japan’s digital buyers are often hard to please, and the country’s online retailers often find themselves scrambling to adapt. This situation also extends to how shoppers in the country engage with ecommerce apps. Research shows that many prefer the mobile web to mobile apps as they access digital retail sites and complete purchases.

An October 2016 study by software developer JustSystems found that more than eight in 10 digital buyers accessed a retailer’s site on a desktop or laptop using a web browser. However, more respondents used a smartphone browser (43.2%) than a smartphone app (37.4%), indicating that a preference for the web carried over when the device being used was a smartphone.

The fact that digital shoppers in Japan prefer smartphone browsers over apps becomes even more important when considering the growing popularity of mobile commerce. Data from Criteo shows that Japan was Asia-Pacific’s leader as measured by retail transaction share in Q4 2016, with mcommerce accounting for more than half of all digital purchases.

However, the question of why consumers in Japan don’t use smartphone apps for shopping isn’t always clear. The number of apps that consumers use in Japan appears to be growing, with smartphone users accessing an average of 2.8 ecommerce apps in July 2016, up from 1.7 two years prior, according to data from Nielsen NetRatings Japan.

One potential reason may be that Japan has a long history of developing country-specific mobile devices and applications, a situation that has led many consumers there to prefer using feature phones that don’t offer the typical app experience.