Recent changes to privacy rules surrounding user data has drastically changed the digital marketing landscape leading more advertisers to seek out alternatives to Facebook Ads in order to grow their brands in Japan.
In this article we cover some of the best alternatives to Facebook Ads in Japan for brands looking to branch out into other channels.
Why are brands looking for alternatives to Facebook Ads?
The number one reason most brands are looking for alternatives to Facebook Ads is due to the major impact that Apple’s iOS 14.5 has had on the Facebook Ads platform.
As a result of greater control over personal data, now requiring explicit user consent, Facebook has lost a tremendous amount of data and insight into user behavior that it had once used to deliver high-performing and high-converting ads. This has led to a drop in performance, experienced by many advertisers, that has been highly concerning to their bottom lines.
In some cases advertisers have seen their CPC’s (cost-per-click) double, or even triple, resulting in cost-per-conversions or cost-per-leads that are either unprofitable or unsustainable for their businesses.
Given the high volatility and uncertainty surrounding Facebook Ads at the moment, we are finding that more and more advertisers in Japan are growing frustrated and looking for alternatives to Facebook Ads to grow their brand.
For businesses that relied solely on Facebook Ads, however, this is proving especially challenging.
This is because in order to branch out beyond Facebook an advertiser has to not only become familiar with a new channel or platform, but also understand how to either integrate said channel within an existing strategy, or develop a totally new digital marketing strategy and media plan all together.
Still, it is essential to diversify and for those seeking alternatives to Facebook Ads in Japan, we’ve compiled a list that might help you get started.
Alternatives to Facebook Ads in Japan
Every country has a different media landscape, and Japan is no exception.
For advertisers and performance marketers especially it’s important to know what digital platforms or channels will actually be worth your time and investment.
For example, some advertising platforms that may be viable Facebook Ads alternatives in the US market, such as Snapchat or Pinterest, are not even relevant in the Japanese market.
Below we have listed a number of alternatives to Facebook Ads in Japan that may either become substitutes or meaningful additions to help you grow your brand.
SEO and Content Marketing
The first alternative to Facebook Ads in Japan is the tried and true combination of SEO and content marketing.
Search engine optimization (SEO) can provide a steady stream of traffic to your website or ecommerce store that stands in stark contrast with digital advertising, whose traffic stops as soon as you pause your campaigns or stop spending money on a given platform.
Content marketing, often in the form of blogging or thought leadership articles, typically goes hand in hand when discussing the topic of SEO. This is because in order to rank highly in search engines, one has to provide content which can be properly identified and indexed by the search engines that can then be served to users when they conduct a specific search query.
With organic traffic often cited as being better quality than paid traffic in terms of important digital metrics, including conversions, there is always a lot of interest from businesses seeking to improve their search engine rankings through SEO.
The downside to this method of growing a brand, however, is that SEO is not a quick solution.
Results for SEO can take up to six months or more, and in most cases the positive trend can only be observed by those businesses who are able to look back after implementing an SEO strategy and undertaking consistent content marketing efforts over a longer period of time.
Although the outcomes can be impressive, the resources required to utilize content marketing also present a substantial barrier for businesses.
While it is always important to implement SEO best practices, and it can prove to be an incredible competitive advantage in particularly crowded verticals to utilize content marketing as much as possible, the reality is that most businesses will choose other options first.
The cost of advertising on social media platforms such as Facebook has increased significantly in the past few years as a result of more businesses than ever taking part in digital ad auctions.
Coupled with the recent changes due to iOS 14, this has weakened the return from social media ads (i.e. ROAS) for some businesses.
At the same time, with potential customers still spending a great deal of time on social media platforms, it can be difficult to move totally away from social media.
Given this scenario, social media influencers can be be an attractive option for some advertisers.
By leveraging a social media influencer’s following advertisers can potentially reach individuals in their product or brand’s target demographic and the tactic may prove even more efficient than ads in some cases.
With the most prominent social advertising platform, Facebook, now providing much less visibility and detailed targeting options than previously offered, what once had been a major weakness to influencer marketing has been somewhat reduced and the playing ground for influencers to prove their worth has become a bit more level with other options.
For those interested in further reading on the topic of influencers, check out our earlier article on influencer marketing in Japan.
A quick note, if you are a D2C brand operating exclusively from your own webstore, then the following section is not likely the option for you.
For brands selling on Amazon Japan through fulfillment by Amazon (i.e. FBA), however, Amazon Ads will help give you an edge over competition by getting your products directly in front of prospective customers.
In fact, the volume that businesses can achieve from selling on Amazon in Japan is one of the biggest draws to the platform.
Not only that, but Amazon has also earned the trust of Japanese consumers–who are notorious for being hesitant to trust new and unknown brands–which drastically lowers the barriers to entry to selling in the Japanese market.
That being said there are some very significant downsides when it comes to selling on Amazon in general and running Amazon Ads in Japan, which are important to point out for those looking to grow a sustainable business in Japan.
First is the lack of control over branding.
On Amazon you have limits to how your product is presented, and the styling is standardized to Amazon’s specifications. This leaves little room for branding potential on Amazon compared to using your own website or storefront.
Second is the lack of insight into customers.
When you sell on Amazon, the person purchasing your product is not your customer, they are Amazon’s customer. This is a very important distinction to make.
Unlike with D2C ecommerce or your own online storefront you will not be able to establish the same sort of relationship with those who buy your products or get insight into user behavior when using Amazon. This can have major implications for digital marketing efforts that you undertake in order to grow a loyal customer base for your brand.
The critical issue when dealing with Amazon Ads, however, is that costs are even more important to consider than on other platforms.
With Amazon Japan already taking a percentage of every sale you make, when you factor in the costs of advertising on the platform as well, your profitability can easily fall if you aren’t careful.
LinkedIn has a significantly smaller footprint in Japan compared to other markets and is far more niche than North America or Europe. However, for certain B2B businesses LinkedIn Ads may prove to be a viable alternative to Facebook Ads.
The Japanese use that use LinkedIn in Japan tend to be internationally-minded, and speak English to a much higher level than the average Japanese person.
Therefore the businesses and brands that tend to do the best on LinkedIn in Japan will be ones aimed at Japanese companies that operate globally.
While the smaller user base in Japan makes LinkedIn a bit more difficult to use for advertising than in markets like the US, for the right business it can prove successful depending on your goals and objectives.
TikTok experienced enormous growth last year in the Japanese market, and has become one of the most popular apps among young Japanese.
That last part is an important distinction to make because this means that not all businesses will find their ideal audience on TikTok.
As of Autumn 2021, TikTok has still not expanded its footprint that far into other age demographics in Japan.
Furthermore, the TikTok ad platform still needs time to prove itself in the eyes of most businesses, before it can gain widespread acceptance as a true alternative to Facebook Ads.
For brands targeting a younger demographic, however, TikTok may be a viable alternative to Facebook Ads, but for those with an older Japanese audience other options in this article will likely prove to be a better fit.
Email marketing is notable for having some of the best returns on investment among any digital marketing channel in Japan.
The issue with running a successful email marketing campaign in Japan, however, is two-fold.
The first is getting people to give you their email address, in other words: email capture.
In order to use email marketing you need to get customers to give you their email address and there are real costs involved in getting individuals to a signup page, such as advertising campaigns with email signups as a conversion objective.
The second obstacle to conducting email marketing in Japan is in implementing your email marketing strategy, especially the creative elements relating to content and copywriting. It goes without saying that this needs to be done by a native Japanese speaker in order to see best results.
With the impending phasing out of third party cookies on search engines further compounding current difficulties in the digital marketing space, establishing an email marketing strategy is critical to growing your business and brand in Japan.
By far, the most popular alternative to Facebook Ads is Google Ads.
In contrast to Facebook Ads, which are based around social media platforms, Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords) is built around Google-owned services such as Google Search, Gmail, and YouTube.
Multiple options and formats are offered by Google Ads, and these include search or text based ads, Google Shopping Ads, display ads on the Google Display Network (GDN), as well as YouTube ads.
In most cases the offering that most advertisers will be familiar with is Google search ads, which is practically synonymous with search engine marketing (SEM).
Google Shopping Ads, for those not familiar with the term, are the image ads you may see that occasionally show up in search results, especially for physical products. These are also a great option for some advertisers as it allows you an opportunity to present your products visually to customers.
Display ads that run on the Google Display Network (GDN) are also available and can play an important role in driving traffic to your website as well.
Another alternative is YouTube ads, which allows advertisers to run video ads on the YouTube platform, and this can be managed within the same Google Ads account.
As you can see, the reason why Google Ads proves so popular is due to its numerous formats and the integration within Google’s various, widely-used services.
The biggest downside to Google Ads, for those coming from a Facebook Ads background, is that there is a much steeper learning curve. Not only can this be intimidating for those unfamiliar with the Google Ads platform, but there are no shortage of areas where newcomers can make costly mistakes.
That being said, when managed properly Google Ads has the most robust offering of ad types and formats, which can significantly improve your digital marketing results as part of a multi-channel strategy.
When considering the Japanese digital media landscape, domestic powerhouses Yahoo Japan and LINE cannot go unmentioned.
Yahoo offers search engine advertising (SEA) offerings somewhat akin to Google Ads, while LINE Ads offer ad options within the messaging app’s ecosystem.
However, these platforms–along with Twitter–only earn honorable mentions from our team when it comes to the best alternatives to Facebook Ads in Japan.
The reason is not because they are more “advanced” platforms (they aren’t), but because far fewer businesses can drive meaningful results (i.e. results that significantly move the needle) when compared to the other options outlined above. Therefore, when considering Yahoo Ads and LINE Ads for your business, usage must be carefully assessed on a case-by-case basis with someone familiar with Japanese advertising and media buying in Japan.
Yahoo Ads (above) and LINE Ads (below) are our honorable mentions when it comes to Facebook Ads alternatives in Japan
Bottom Line: Alternatives to Facebook Ads in Japan
Since the rollout of iOS 14.5 many advertisers are finding that Facebook Ads are either underperforming or are highly volatile.
Even for those brands that have been less effected, there is a growing realization that putting all their eggs in one basket, as they have done until now, is an inherently risky strategy due to increasing changes to digital advertising platforms that is being brought about by new privacy-focused legislation.
As more businesses and brands seek out ways to diversify their digital marketing and add new channels into their media mix, it is clear that there is a greater need for developing comprehensive marketing plans built around a multi-channel approach.
With many global businesses lacking the physical presence and resources that domestic, Japanese businesses have it’s even more important to optimize available digital channels in order to achieve results.
Businesses that are able to successfully integrate and use multiple channels will be the winners in Japan going forward.
Get in touch with us
If you are a brand looking for ways to grow your business in Japan outside of the Facebook Ads platform and need assistance then contact us to see how we can help.
At Plus Alpha Digital we specialize in helping global businesses navigate the Japanese market and can work with you to develop a multi-channel strategy that will meet your brand’s goals for Japan.