Japan recently became the first country in Asia to get a local version of Facebook Deals, called “Check-in Coupon” here, and Facebook announced the move with an event in Shibuya. (No one who covered the outdoor event could resist giggling at the irony of the local PR staff asking the audience not to take or share pictures.)
The location-based coupons work the same here as in other cities where the service has been implemented. On a smartphone running the Facebook app, the Places feature shows nearby sports where the users can “check in” (i.e., announce to Facebook friends where they are). Shops offering coupons have a yellow icon next to the name. Click on a place with a coupon, and the coupon details appear. If you click again on the shop’s details to check in, you will simultaneously get the coupon displayed on your screen (which you can later show at the register to get your discount) and send a message alerting all your Facebook friends about the coupon. The idea is that it’s a win-win-win: You’ve saved money, the store has gotten a little advertising, and all your friends can congratulate you on your savvy shopping.
That last bit could be where it gets tricky. How many of your coupon acquisitions will your friends comment on before they get annoyed and hide your activity or even defriend you? While anonymous group buying through PomPare and Groupon have proven popular in Japan (though not without great big stumbles), will the Japanese preference for online privacy thwart the extroversion on which the check-in coupon thrives? Of the initial deals offered by the roll-out partners, none is anything we’d risk alienating friends for.
Lawson convenience stores are giving half off a five-piece order of Karage-kun chicken nuggets. The Adidas shop in Harajuku is offering limited edition t-shirts on a first-come, first-served basis. Unlike Family Mart, which says on the coupon that its free cup of iced coffee goes to the first 10 customers to claim it each day, Adidas doesn’t mention how many t-shirts are up for grabs. None of the Gap stores listed seem to have any “deals” up yet, including the flagship store in Harajuku, near Adidas.
Fashion retailer Sly in Shibuya has 10% off select items at two shops. Domino’s Pizza is giving 25% off of take-out orders. (Despite a recent upgrade to the website that enables ordering in English, its profile doesn’t come up in the search unless it’s entered in katakana.) Is half off of heat-lamp chicken a sweet enough deal to get people to alert their friends?
The NYT reported in January that under 2 million people, less than 2% of Internet users in Japan, were on Facebook this past January. The latest estimate by Social Bakers puts the number closer to 3% at 3.6 million. While this is still a fraction of the number of users on Mixi, it’s a big jump in a short time. (Many people reported an anecdotal surge in the number of Japanese friends-of-friends appearing on the site soon after the movie “The Social Network” came out here in January, though Social Bakers shows a jump at the beginning of this April.)
If a 500-person survey translated on What Japan Thinks is any indication, Deals might have a few strikes against it. Only a third of people who answered said they access Facebook from a smartphone or tablet, which is a necessity for using the service. Almost two-thirds of respondents agreed or somewhat agreed that Facebook “doesn’t suit the Japanese culture of anonymity.” At the same time, Social Baker’s stats show a decent boost in new users this month, so it could be that people have joined to see if they can save some money.
Uniqlo’s viral Lucky Line last year saw millions of Twitterers happily announcing that they were standing in a virtual line for a small discount. It will be interesting to see if people are as willing to advertise their real-life bargain-hunting adventures.