Online marketing has been a staple of the internet ever since it was opened to the public nearly 20 years ago. The exponential growth in smartphone and mobile device adoption in the past few years has only served to accelerate the trend, with companies all busy looking for ways to leverage the internet’s ability to reach out to current and potential customers.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Japan, which has adopted smartphones (Keitai) and mobile marketing ahead of many developed countries. There, various online-to-offline (O2O) implementations — for instance QR codes — translate virtual eyeballs and page views to walk-in customers for many Japanese retailers.

It is this vibrant mobile marketing space that Yuki Ohata, CEO of Reginaa, aims to bring to Singapore. With nearly six years of experience working in collaboration with NTT DoCoMo on mobile marketing, Ohata believes that many local retail firms have yet to unlock the full potential of reaching out to customers in the mobile space.

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Founded in November 2011, Reginaa has been helping Japanese retailers in Singapore with mobile engagement and marketing, promoting their deals and offers to new and returning customers alike. While Reginaa’s efforts have been a boon to retailers seeking to capture and retain customers, building separate platforms for different brands proved to be a barrier to scaling and expanding.

“We were spending too much time and effort developing the system for different retailers,” Ohata said, adding, “With a common platform, we can save on our development costs, doing away with the need to build a separate system for each individual client.”

In addition, feedback from retailers also pointed towards the need for a common mobile marketing platform. “Many clients wanted to collaborate together to tap on each others’ pool of customers, and you couldn’t do that with separate systems for each client. You need a unified platform.”

As a result, Reginaa came up with J Passport. Launched in December 2013, with over 50,000 local users currently, J Passport’s stable of 20 participating outlets includes famous Japanese brands such as Keisuke Ramen and Francfranc. Customers are invited to  sign up with the service when they are making their purchases at the cashier. Once they are signed up with J Passport, retailers can push exclusive promotions to them via the platform, encouraging repeat customers and creating brand loyalty.

The benefits to retailers do not stop at merely greater customer engagement, though. J Passport also provides retailers with data of the customers who redeem promotions and deals, letting them know which of their promotions are most well-received, enabling them to tweak their offers accordingly. Ohata shared some interesting data, “We found out that 1-for-1 deals are most popular, making up 25 per cent of the redemption; free food and drinks are slightly less popular at 8-12 per cent and 4-6 cent respectively.”

Interestingly, J Passport is offered as a mobile website, and not an app. “With a website, we remove fragmentation issues caused by developing for both, iOS and Android, and at the same time open our market to Windows and Blackberry devices,” Ohata explained.

Right now, only Japanese retailers and brands are represented in J Passport. “Many Japanese shops in Singapore are branches from the main stores in Japan,” Ohata elaborated, “most of them already have experience running mobile marketing campaigns in Japan, and so they are more receptive to this.”

In the future, Ohata hopes to open J Passport to local retailers. “In six months, we plan to target large, luxury brands in Singapore. By 2015, we hope to expand regionally, starting with Japanese retailers with branches in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur,” he concluded.

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