Posts Tagged ‘discounts’

Daily deal sites tap into buying power in numbers

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Q:Pod is Japan's most popular daily deal site

Q:Pod, Japan’s most popular daily deal site

The idea of flash marketing websites, imported from the States in spring this year, has quickly proven to be a big hit with Japanese consumers looking to snag significant discounts on goods and services. Localized discounts are offered for a limited period and often in excess of 50 percent, for things such as meals in restaurants, hotel accommodations, beauty treatments and so forth. The key to the concept’s success is the use-it-or-lose-it approach to campaigns. An offer is withdrawn if the target number of takers isn’t met, thus guaranteeing a positive response to businesses, large and small.

Q:Pod, according to J-Cast, have already taken the lead in sales compared to their competitors, despite the fact they’ve only been operating for several months. According to Asiajin, their success spurred Chicago-based Groupon to buy a majority stake in the company, meaning that the company now dominate the daily deal market in Japan as well as in the United States.

A recent Q:Pod offer shows just how sweet the deals can be: 80 percent off the price of a ¥1,500  iTunes download card. The offer triggered a stampede of consumers applying to get their mitts on one of the ¥300 cards, whose numbers were limited to 10,000.

Other businesses have been jumping on the bandwagon. Recruit, for example, who already run Hot Pepper, a successful free magazine and website that offers discounts on restaurants, launched Pom Parade in July. The site offers daily deals on golf weekends, yoga, spa visits and meals out. In addition to Q:Pod clones, sites that specialize in particular products and services, such as Yaki Niku Pon, for fans of Korean barbecue, or Wotapon, for otaku (fancy a discount on a massage at a Akihabara maid cafe?), have begun to pop up.

Deals are announced to subscribers via e-mail newsletters, Tweets or Facebook updates, making it hard for consumers to keep pace with the vast number of offers available. Those who really want to stay ahead of the game can visit All Coupon, a website that aggregates information on daily deals across the board, saving you time searching out deals yourself.

Pulse Rate: ikyu.com

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Ikyu

While not exactly offering bargain basement prices, travel discounts can be found at Ikyu.com

In general there is a hesitancy in Japan to discount prices for goods and services. The price for a six pack of beer, for example, is same price as six individual beers. Landlords are wary to reduce rents even to fill up rooms that may be empty for a long period of time, and hotels rarely give price breaks – as reported by Yen For Living, even a drastic reduction in highway tolls did not increase overnight stays for travelers. The Internet, however, has at least helped consumers pinpoint the companies that have lowered their prices, which in turn has helped stimulate competition.

Recently the website 一休.COM (www.ikyu.com) made it to the No. 4 spot of  Goo keywords, perhaps because it was being inundated by visitors trying to take advantage of the site’s 10-year anniversary specials and other summer specials during the current summer vacation. While the site does provide discounted hotels, it’s not exactly targeted at budget travelers – some of the rooms go for as much as ¥33,000/night for two people. There is an English site to take advantage of (which even includes a frequently updated blog about Japan), but unfortunately it doesn’t appear to have the site’s full line of rooms, so using the Japanese side is recommended.

Budget travelers can look to Rakuten Travel for a larger selection of cheaper digs. Rakuten is also equipped with an English site, but if you can navigate the Japanese, you can take advantage of the full-featured search engine to narrow down housing by station, maximum price and distance from station. By searching strategically, you can find rooms at fantastic value. For example, a semi-double at City Hotel Hiroki at Kamata Station (a station that offers a decent amount of edible, drinkable and shop-able entertainment and isn’t far from central Tokyo on the Keihin-Tohoku Line) runs ¥5,400/night for two people this upcoming weekend. (If your name happens to be Hiroki, you can take advantage of the special discount rate of ¥5,000/night!)

Other websites are bringing down the price of goods. Kakaku.com has long offered significant discounts on a variety of different merchandise. For those looking to stay out of the sun while shopping for groceries, the bulk liquor store Kakuyasu has an impressive online presence that offers free delivery 365 days a year to Tokyo, Kanagawa and Osaka on any order, even if it’s as little as a single can of beer. Their prices are nothing to scoff at either – the Suntory Premium Malts costs a mere ¥220/can for a 24-pack, and Asahi Super Dry is ¥193/can. Although the bulk of the products are alcohol-related, there is a decent selection of snacks and basic foodstuffs. You can get your salsa and tortilla chip fix and, if you’ve got the moral and intestinal fortitude for it, try some whale curry.

Joshikai jamboree: Girls check in for a night out

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

No boys allowed. Hotel slumber parties for women only.

No boys allowed. Hotel slumber parties for women only.

Recently hotels across Japan have started offering special packages and huge discounts for weekday guests.

Having visions of a romantic getaway? That’s not exactly what the hoteliers have in mind. These deals are strictly for joshikai, women’s get-togethers. Credit for this trend should go to the second coming of those New York City ladies who brunch (“Sex and the City 2″ made almost ¥1.3 billion in Japan in less than a month) and marketing aimed at encouraging single women in their late twenties and thirties spend their disposable income. According to Yahoo Value Insight, there’s been a significant jump in the number of restaurants,  spas and hotels offering women-only services this year.

Some hotel packages have special themes. All the slots for the “Sex and the City” package at the Royal Park Shiodome Tower sold out. Rooms on this plan come with clothes inspired by the movie for playing dress up and taking pictures. The Sweets Stay at a triple room in the Akasaka Excel Hotel includes room-service delivery of a whole cake with seasonal fruits.

During office-party season in March and April, the Shinagawa Prince Hotel had a mid-week package for about half the regular price per person based on the selling point that it’s near the train station. “You work hard, why not enjoy a little luxury and then roll right into work the next day?” the campaign suggested.

The Royal Park Hotel in Nihonbashi has a Summer Skin Care package. A stay comes with a gift pouch of skin treatments including bath salts, and the room has three special este treatment machines from Panasonic’s NanoCare line: the Night Steamer, Ion Steamer and, er, a hair dryer. They also have a “woman traveler desk” set up in the lobby.

Tokyo Disney Resort has a package for mothers and adult daughters, with a choice of several nearby hotels and entrance to the park.

The Westin in Ebisu now has a Ladies’ Executive Plan that comprises a dinner, including the hotel’s own branded beef from molasses-fed cattle; use of the executive club lounge; and a luxe room with touches, like a marble vanity, meant to appeal to women.

At the cheaper end of the spectrum, Super Hotel City Kumamoto, way down in Kyushu, will guarantee two rooms next door to each other so groups can hang out and enjoy the on-site natural hotspring all together. They don’t mention too many fancy amenities, but prices start at under ¥2,500 per person per night.

Nozomi Hattori, a 37-year-old librarian living in Tokyo, spent a night at the Westin in Ebisu with two girlfriends. They got individual spa treatments at the hotel’s Le Spa Parisien, then ordered room service and watched DVD’s. “It wasn’t too expensive, but it was luxurious,” she says. “I felt like a celebrity.”

Drinks on the house . . . all around

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Recession hit restaurants and bars all over Japan are actually giving away free drinks and food, in a desperate effort to attract new customers. In the new penny-pinching climate, normal discounts just don’t cut it with many and customers are now looking out for free offers, half-price discounts or bars that charge only ¥300 per drink or dish.

Watami are offering 50% cash back this month

Izakaya chain Watami are offering 50% cash back this month

The free drink offer is becoming increasingly popular in izakaya’s (Japanese pubs) where a free glass of shochu can get evening rolling. Shochu is a clear liquor made from rice, sweet potato or barley; cheap for the establishment to supply, it’s fairly potent (around 25% alcohol) and is a good way to get customers to loosen their purse strings. However, there are places that offer other drinks. Wall Bar Dining are giving away free glasses of beer and Izakaya Kakumei in Ginza, which opened June 4, offers not only free shochu but sake and umeshu (plum wine) as well.

Unlimited free snacks are also a good way to attract new business. Standing bar Q in Ebisu is offering free tabehodai (eat all you can) homemade smoked bacon. As soon as you enter the store you’re given a large platter of the stuff and invited to pig out – pun intended. Steak Burger and Salad Bar Ken, which opened in May this year, offer limitless servings of curry for customers who order steak.

Half-price menus have also been popping up, with popular izakaya Watami offering 50% cash back for a limited period. We also recommend Il Chianti in Kichijoji, who give an amazing 50% discount on pizza and beer every Monday night.

Back in October last year we reported on the rise of the ¥300 standing bar, since then prices have been slashed even further. Kechi yasui izakaya, loosely translated as “pubs for misers,” which price any dish or drink at only ¥300, have been popping up all over the place. Nikkei Trendy reports that in April, izakaya chain Watami went one better by starting up a chain of ¥250 izakaya – amazingly this price includes sales tax.

Last month I went to a slightly more upmarket, ahem, ¥270 izakaya in Shibuya. Though the clientele were mostly in their 20s, my Japanese friend and I noticed that nobody had brought a date. She commented that anyone who tried to bring a girl here would definitely be dumped for being stingy. While the dishes were a bit on the slim side, the beer servings were a decent size and the atmosphere was cheap but definitely cheerful. We say, bring on the bargains!

Virtual versions map out real benefits of Tokyo localities

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

The beta virtual version of Asagaya went live last week

The beta virtual version of Asagaya went live last week

Virtual versions of Asagaya and Ogikubo in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward went on line last week as local information service Lococom launched beta versions of its newest project, Jimotonow. An extension of the service Lococom already provides, visitors can view tweets from local shops, get coupons for local stores and read shop blogs. Whereas in Locomo you chose the particular area and service you are searching for from drop down menu’s, Jimotonow gives the user more of a feeling of browsing the bohemian streets of these towns and is great way for people who live in the area or are planning to visit, to uncover an interesting little shop or find out about a local festival. The addition of tweets also means that the personalities of local shopkeepers come through.

Waribikiken (discount coupons) are very popular in Japan, and Jimotonow will be going up against already popular websites like Coupon Land and FooMoo. Tokyo-based FooMoo (also known as Hot Pepper) is usually the destination of choice for people looking to dine out; dedicated to restaurants, the site and sister print magazine offers a mind-boggling array of area-specific offers. Similarly, Coupon Land also has a magazine as well as a website and offers not only coupons on dining but also services aimed at women, such as beauty treatments, cosmetic surgery and evening classes.

Jimotonow definitely has the edge of FooMoo and Coupon Land in terms of the range of services on offer. We also like the fact that it has a friendly feel, offering a local flavor that its rivals lack. Many bargain hunters in Japan, however, still favor the old school system of clipping out coupons from a physical magazine and this is where FooMoo and Coupon Land stay ahead of the game by giving out free site-specific magazines at train stations.

Of course many towns already have their own physical guides to the area. In Koenji, for example, the local shopkeepers association distribute a small pamphlet that provides local news and discounts. However, it might make more sense in the future both for the environment and in terms of cost-cutting for local businesses to get on board with websites like Jimotonow.

Tell them Twitter sent you

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Looking for a bargain on past-life regression or new crystals for your fingernails?  Savings could be just a hashtag away. A mashup of the Japanese pronunciation of Twitter and the word for discount gives tsui-wari, anglicized to “twiwari.”

Searching #twiwari on a Twitter page or visiting twiwari.jp is like walking down a restaurant-packed street near a train station in any city in Japan on a Friday night: a non-stop stream of offers for all-you-can eat izekaya, half-price beers or a free dish of nuts to go with a happy hour cocktail.

Twiwari logo

Places that don’t usually post touts on the streets in sandwich boards are also getting in on the online action. Neighborhood businesses all across Japan are putting up offers on Twitter for services ranging from hair straightening in Hokkaido to pre-summer air conditioner cleaning in Kyushu.

For most of them, getting the discount is as simple as saying “I saw it on Twitter.” Say those magic words to the manager at Higonoya Yakitori, and get an entire ¥2380 bottle of shochu.

Steak House Texas ran a (rather complicated) one-day special where lunch customers could get free extra burgers depending on the number of followers they had. Too much math? They’ve since simplified to a free pint of beer or an extra 100-gram helping of meat to grill.

Dozens of national dry-cleaning chains have joined forces on Twitter to offer a 20% discount for the entire month of April.  The name of the promotion  – koromogae nau – is pure J-Twitterese, combining an old word for changing one’s wardrobe from one season to another with a snippet of Twitter-only slang that signals what the writer is “doing now.” But in a low-tech twist, the offer is claimed by printing out the coupon and filling it out by hand.

Continue reading about twiwari discounts on Twitter →

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