Japan’s love affair with Valentine’s Day is going through a rough patch and marketing chiefs are holding out hopes that a fresh interactive experience will get their mojo back.

Valentine’s Day offers a huge opportunity for chocolate brands and retailers to entice consumers and to showcase their wares, but recent signs in Japan suggest demand for chocolate is slowing and retailers have turned to marketing solutions to turn things around.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is traditionally a day when girls and women give chocolates to boys or men as a means of expressing love. Chocolates are also sent to male colleagues as a courtesy – and possibly even as a social obligation.

Valentine’s Day sales down in 2018

Yet, despite this custom, Valentine’s Day related sales in Japan declined in 2018, compared to 2017, suggesting sales growth have become sluggish, according to the Japan Anniversary Association.

Understandably, sellers need to generate new customers, and a key marketing strategy for in 2019 is to encourage consumers to buy chocolate, not just as gifts, but to satisfy their own appetites.

Instagram-able pop-up shops where customers can take selfies or enter marketing campaigns via social media are currently on-trend. Eat-in stores are particularly fashionable with department stores setting up pop-up stores that offer chocolate eating spaces to encourage impulse consumption and buying chocolates for gifting.

Kintetsu, Takashimaya and Daimaru Kyoto department stores

In Osaka, Kintetsu Department Store’s main store Abeno Harukas is running the Chocolate Collection 2019, an event featuring over 150 brands. One of its key attractions is to offer delicate sweets that customers can only consume at the event itself. These offerings include over 30 menus to encourage multiple store visits by customers.

Also in Osaka, Takashimaya department store has tripled the size of its eat-in space in its pop-up area. The venue has a bar where customers can enjoy selected chocolate paired with wine and unique eat-in menu items include a “chocolate fresh cream burger”.

In Kyoto, Daimaru Kyoto store, in a bid to appeal to Instagram-generation consumers, offers a customisable soft ice cream that customers can decorate themselves.

Chocolate marketing around Valentine’s Day in Japan has evolved to include an interactive experience as a way to connect shoppers emotionally with brands and products which retailers hope will translate to success in this highly competitive retail space.

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