Asia Medical & Professional Research

Tips for Professional / B2B Research in Japan


Decision-Making Roles

In Japanese corporations, the decision-maker often is not the person with the highest position. Japanese corporations make decisions by group consensus. It is common that a mid-level manager is responsible for investigating a business issue and making a recommendation to the top management. So, in many cases, a mid-level manager is the person with the most knowledge and influence on a business decision.
  • TIP: Do not necessarily specify a top management role for recruitment. Identify the most appropriate person to interview based on the level of influence on the decision.
In-person vs. Telephone
Japanese professionals generally prefer to meet in-person rather than speak on the telephone for interviews. Japanese offices usually use open-office plans, so it is inconvenient for a professional to speak frankly at length on the telephone. In addition, non-verbal communications are extremely important in Japanese business culture, so in-person interviews are more effective.
  • TIP: Telephone interviews are effective and economical for short, quantitative interviews. For interviews that are more than 20 minutes or that require frank qualitative discussions, plan to conduct in-person interviews. 
Group Interviews
Professionals are sensitive to the social hierarchy of the business world. Professionals see big companies, people with longer seniority, and graduates of elite universities at the top of the hierarchy. In a group interview, the people at the top of the hierarchy are implicitly allowed to lead the discussion.     
  • TIP: Design groups to include people from companies of similar size or reputation.

Quantitative research works well online because there are excellent panel resources. Furthermore, qualitative research can be conducted successfully online, especially online bulletin board (OBB) type of research. An online research approach lessens the effect of the social hierarchy, so online is particularly effective for mixed groups. 
  •  TIP: Consider an online approach for qualitative group research as well as quantitative research.

Privacy Protection

Protection of private personal information is protected by law in Japan. Under the law, a person must provide informed consent prior to the sharing of personal information that identifies the person. In addition, the organization that sends or receives personal information is required to account for the management of the information.  
  • TIP: When using a private list of respondents, such as a customer list, ask the respondents for their permission before sharing the list with a research agency. 

Employee Research

Employees in Japan generally identify strongly with their employer and have long terms of employment. So, they have confidence to be cooperative and open when participating in employee research. Using the company's facilities for the research, rather than going to outside facilities  supports that confidence.  
  • TIP: Include multiple levels or functions of employees in order to support the respondents' commitment to the research as critical to the success of the company. 


Japanese professionals generally are less comfortable speaking in English compared to professionals in other Asian nations such as Korea or Singapore. In addition, the Japanese-language extensively uses unique polite and honorific expressions in business conversation. So, interviewing in Japanese is far more effective than interviewing in English.
  • TIP: Design research to be conducted in the Japanese language in all cases. 

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