Adam T. Sutton

Mobile Marketing and Commerce in Japan

As the mobile Internet steadily gains in popularity, the future of mobile commerce in the U.S. is anybody’s guess. However, countries with widespread mobile Web access might provide some clues.

“Japan had a more-advanced mobile market,” says Matthew Snyder, CEO, ADObjects, a mobile strategy consultancy and agency. “It’s debatable whether it is more advanced or not these days.”

Snyder has worked in mobile and consumer electronics for over two decades. He spent much of that time in Japan, where access to the mobile Web is above 90%, he says. In the U.S., 31.9% of mobile subscribers used a mobile Web browser in a three-month average ending in May 2010, according to comScore.

Widespread mobile Web adoption has created a variety of opportunities for Japanese businesses to reach consumers, and also a variety of opportunities for consumers to interact with businesses.

For example, “every single McDonalds in Japan is equipped with mobile payments,” Snyder says. “It started about two years ago. As of this summer, every single McDonald’s was equipped.”

Tools such as mobile wallets have not caught on in the U.S., due in part to our comparatively limited mobile Web adoption — but change may be on the horizon.

“Even though the analysts have said it’s going to take a few years before we see 50% mobile Internet penetration, my gut tells me that we’ll be in 70% to 80% over the next couple of years very rapidly,” Snyder says.

Even if the U.S. market adopts some characteristics of the Japanese and other well-developed mobile markets, the U.S. is likely to be unique in some respects due to the strong presence of branded apps.

“In terms of mobile usage and mobile marketing, Japan is much more advanced. In terms of what we’ve seen in engagement, rich media, applications, and brand penetration into the space, we’re seeing a lot more in North America through the iPhone and the Android,” Snyder says.

I spoke with Snyder for an up-coming article on tactics for testing mobile marketing as part of a team’s overall marketing strategy — not as a one-off, tack-on tactic. Keep an eye on our newsletters to learn more.

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