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Three Social Trends in Japan for 2017

A mere three years before the highly anticipated summer of 2020, we identify several emerging social trends expected to influence wider consumer behavior in Japan.

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The Growth of Ultra Flexible Artisan-like Businesses

In 2017, consumption will likely focus around small customized transactions. The growth of social media has created consumers who, having learned how to express their likes (i.e., preferences), now wish to obtain preferred products and services in preferred quantities at preferred times, regardless of brand or producer. Online stores run by up-and-coming creators using their spare time to produce original handmade items in lots as small as one, catering to individual preferences and available via the web or smartphone apps, are already very popular. Recognizing these creators’ potential impact, influential retail buyers are already enlisting their creativity.

Like trends in creating and selling goods and services, we see a similar movement in teaching and learning. Beyond regular courses requiring tuition or ticket system lessons, services satisfying immediate, momentary “want it now” preferences are gaining traction. Now, anyone can be teacher or student, as we move from an era of sharing products and services to personal development. One no longer need meet established qualifications to teach. Anyone can flexibly leverage skills, specialized knowledge or know-how, or offer lifestyle tips that address preferences. Such small flexible businesses are now poised to become a major trend.

Gamification and a Sportech Revolution

Moved by international sporting events, the number of people who want to play or watch sports is increasing. While the three main elements of sport are said to be playfulness, competitiveness and physical training, a number of non-competitive activities, from picking up trash to literal shouting matches, are being gamified. While the idea of creating opportunities for experiences is heavily touted as an effective policy for communicating with consumers, gamified experiences allow consumers to engage in fun, friendly physical competitions marked by status and achievement. As gamification grows as a way to create strong impressions, one should not overlook the evolution of technology. As new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), are increasingly employed to open sports to greater numbers, expanding sports participation and advanced technologies will combine to create an irrepressible Sportech Revolution.

Growing Interest in Experiencing a Different World

Riding the wave of local economic vitalization created by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, the unique charms of provincial destinations have become the focus of increased regional development across Japan. Sites offering authentic small-town experiences take on new value, as public baths, shopping streets, traditional old houses and other places where visitors can feel like a local become important points of contact between local towns and the outside world. If local towns can transform everyday life experiences into different world experiences normally inaccessible to outsiders, such experiences may become local town resources. And as visitors share memorable conversations and experiences with others, these small towns may be transformed into local area attractions.