[From December Issue 2013]
In addition to birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, in Japan there are many opportunities during the year to give gifts to show your appreciation to somebody, including ochuugen (midyear gifts in summer) and oseibo (year-end presents).
It used to be common to deliver items by hand or to send them by post, but new styles have become popular. Recently, more people are giving “an experience.” The range of content varies, from a voucher for a meal in a restaurant, to a horseback riding experience. Since 2010, more and more websites exclusively dealing in these experience-based gifts have appeared. One of these sites called “expe!” is run by “Felissimo,” a mail order company that deals with fashion items and other miscellaneous goods.
“It is said that people in their teens to twenties these days are not particularly attached to material things. On the other hand, if you’re talking about people of the bubble generation, they are more satisfied with possessing material objects and know how to enjoy spending money. We believe that both generations are able to accept experiences rather than material objects,” YUMOTO Kyoko of expe! operations department says, giving her analysis of the current popularity of such experience-based gifts.
Ever since the website was established last July, the most popular gifts have been relaxation experiences, such as beauty treatments. Besides this there are options that allow the person receiving the gift to choose an experience which appeals to them. Options include working as a bus tour guide, or a shrine maiden; the fact that many people rewarded themselves with these kinds of personal experiences drew a lot of attention. Future products in the pipeline include gifts for men and gift plans that are suitable for ceremonial occasions, such as weddings, coming-of-age days and celebrating a new job.
A new style of giving gifts has also been invented. Even if you don’t know the address of the recipient, it’s possible to send a present through Facebook or other SNS sites. Dubbed social gifts, this service started out around 2010 in Japan. Though they specialize in easily sending small gifts like a 300 yen cup of coffee, depending on your purposes there’s a wide variety of services to choose from, so it’s also possible to have products delivered.
All About “Utilization of Mail Order and Net Shopping” guide ENDO Namiko says, “Because we can find out the birthdays of friends and acquaintances that we did not know about before by friending them on Facebook, there are more opportunities to celebrate these occasions. Also, from looking at people’s statuses on SNS, for example when they write that they’ve completed a big task, there’s been an increase in opportunities to give casual gifts to mark occasions other than birthdays, so we can give them a beer for a ‘job well done.’”
According to a certain survey, only 5% of Internet users have given a social gift. “Currently social gift services are run independently from SNS, so this may be a hurdle. If a service run by an SNS that suggested products to commemorate friend’s birthdays were introduced, this might facilitate things,” speculates Endo.
A social gift service run by Facebook has already been launched in the United States. In addition, the Japanese version of “Wrapp” – a Swedish enterprise that provides free or subsidized products sponsored by companies as social gifts – is in the pipeline. When this service launches, the Japanese social gift market will surely undergo a drastic change.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo