1. Rakuten and the telco sector
Rakuten’s move to become an affordable mobile phone operator has serious implications for the three incumbents in a sector that has long got away with charging extremely high rates for less-than-remarkable service. Competition between brands is sure to intensify between now and Rakuten's 2019 launch target as the incumbents come under pressure to demonstrate their true value to consumers.
February will see the SoftBank-backed co-working space and networking company open three locations in Tokyo, which could increase to up to 20 according to reports. The concept of co-working is still relatively new in Japan, but demand is growing as people seek greater flexibility. We can expect to see some high profile branding efforts from a company that should be very good news for Japan’s startup community.
The US business chat and productivity application introduced a Japanese version of its service in November and recently launched an advertising campaign to build awareness and understanding of its service, which offers both free and paid options. The company sees Japan as key to its Asian expansion and is banking on the country’s reputation for early adoption of technology, but faces domestic competition from the more established ChatWork.
The innovative Japanese company grew dramatically in 2017 and enjoys extremely high awareness thanks to its distinctive TV advertising. At the same time, the company is looking to deepen its brand positioning to communicate that it is not just a weight loss and fitness service but a personal development company.
5. Home and bicycle sharing services
With a new law to recognise home sharing finally set to take effect in 2018, the sector is set to become a lot more competitive. Rakuten Lifull Stay in particular is already stepping up its efforts to compete against Airbnb’s short- term rental business through partnerships with HomeAway and Booking.com. The concept of home sharing is still not well understood, however, so more educational efforts will be needed for it to fulfill its potential. In parallel, we can expect marketing activity to increase in the nascent bicycle sharing sector, which now has multiple domestic and foreign competitors.