Shumito Club: DeNA’s social network for seniors in Japan



The Japanese goverment expects that by the year 2035, one in three people will be over the age of 65, accounting for 33.4% of the country’s total population. DeNA (TYO:2432), a company we typically associate with the mobile gaming industry, made a pretty smart move back in 2007 when it launched a social network targeted at this so called ‘silver’ segment. It’s called Shumito Club, which roughly translated means ‘Hobby Club’.

Shumito Club began as a joint business between DeNA and Club Tourism International, the latter of which has over 3 million members. The 290,000 members of the social network are in their 40s and 50s but the site has 920,000 monthly unique users, and monthly pageviews exceeds 260 million. The site provides standard social networking features such as blogging, messaging, photo albums, and communities. It also supports the creation of events, and over 2,000 events are created each month.

Atsushi Masuda who leads the team behind Shumito Club explained why DeNA launched the website in the first place:

Before Shumito Club was launched in 2007, DeNA had a good service portfolio for people in their 20s and 30s such as Mobage and DeNA Shopping (known as Bidders back then), but not for people older than that. As we expected the market would eventually grow, we wanted to leverage on our social network and e-commerce expertise for the unexplored market segment.

ShumitoClub-topMasuda describes the users of its hobby-based social network as people over 50 who see a clear distinction between themselves and those who are generally considered ‘seniors’, a term that can often mean people over 70 in Japan. Once when the site displayed a photograph of an old person on its front page, it offended some of its users.

In terms of user interface (UI), we should not treat them too special. People ask me if we make the fonts bigger but that would be a bad idea. Many Shumito Club users are highly intellectual and read a lot of books and newspapers, so big buttons with big fonts would simply look like we are dumbing it down.

Of course, considering that the service’s provider is DeNA, the site has games as well. Shukaku Village, which can be translated as ‘Harvest Village’, lets users plant, water, and harvest virtual vegetables and flowers in their garden. The game is designed to foster communication between members to help each other in the game. Surprisingly, 20 to 25% of active members between the ages of 50 to 59 enjoy play the game.

Here are some interesting metrics about the network’s members.

  • Gender distribution is 41% female and 59% male.
  • Over 40% of all members go on trips within Japan more than five times a year.
  • Almost half of all members go on trips outside Japan every year.
  • 25% of members shop online once a month, and 18% shop twice a month.
  • The average purchasing amount is 3,000 to 5,000 yen (about $32 to $52).
  • 43% own financial assets worth over 10 million yen (about $105,000).

In short, the audience is older people who are relatively well-off, but with some time on their hands. Shumito Club is one of the best place for businesses targeting the older generation to advertise, and that seems to be how the social network makes its money. These days the younger generation can be seen migrating from Mixi to Facebook as they begin their careers, and in the not so distant future, they could very well be moving on from Facebook to Shumito Club.