While K-pop may be bringing Korea to the world, Coupang is bringing the world to Korea. Earlier this year, Coupang made its IPO debut, a testament to its position as one of the leading e-commerce platforms in Korea and as a major fixture in the global online retail landscape. Even prior to its public offering, sellers from all corners of the globe began flocking to sell on Coupang, begging the question, why Korea and why Coupang?
First, why Korea? As the world’s second fastest growing e-commerce market, the real question is why not? Korea is a country built for online retail. Sure, the pandemic has boosted e-commerce sales across most of the world, but Korea’s love affair and aptitude for online shopping runs deeper, beginning with its technological prowess and internet penetration.
Even among OECD countries, Korea is renowned for its high internet usage rate, with 99.2 percent of households having internet access via PC, mobile, or another device. With so many eyeballs on screens, it’s no wonder that online business is booming.
By November 2020, Statistics Korea reported that almost 30% of all retails sales took place online, excluding service-related transactions. In addition, over 68% of Korea’s online sales occur on mobile devices, which bodes well for e-commerce sellers as it means Korean shoppers are ready to purchase goods anywhere and at any time.
Korea’s tech-savvy citizens also happen to live in densely populated cities. Seoul, the capital city and home to approximately half of the country’s residents ranks as one of the world’s most densely populated cities. While such settings can make for a painful rush hour, it is ideal for speed with shorter distances and more deliveries making for supreme efficiency.
It’s estimated that 70% of Koreans live within a 7-mile radius of a Coupang warehouse. How’s that for a Snapple cap fact?
That brings us to Coupang. Founded in 2010 by Bom Kim, Coupang, Inc. aims to create a world where customers ask, how did we live without Coupang? It’s this customer-oriented approach that guides Coupang’s modus operandi and the more customers discover they can’t live without Coupang, sellers will find they can’t do business without it.
One of the images most associated with Coupang is its emblematic rocket. Spaceships are particularly du jour with prominent figures embarking on exciting adventures and the combination of this dynamism and speed perfectly embody the Coupang spirit. From Rocket Delivery pioneering free next-day delivery in Korea and Coupang Fresh offering groceries by dawn, the platform’s signature is speed.
In line with Korean shoppers’ tendencies to purchase on mobile devices, Coupang is king when it comes to mobile shopping apps across all age groups.
By June 2021, Coupang comprised a whopping 52.9% of total time spent on the top 10 retail applications. Coupang offers both customers and its sellers a clean, user-friendly experience. Sellers can readily access Coupang Wing, the platform’s sales management portal, from their mobile device.
This user-friendly approach extends to Coupang’s support for overseas sellers. In other words, Coupang’s cross-border e-commerce is optimized by its cross-border mentality and company profile, where its relentless quest to collect the best talent pool has given Coupang a global outlook. Coupang goes above and beyond to ensure overseas sellers are supported so that they can feel at home while selling in Korea. The platform even provides a dedicated team of multilingual support staff, a true gem in Korean e-commerce. So, even if you don’t speak a lick of Korean, you can speak fluent Coupang. Of course, entering a new market requires due diligence and it can be overwhelming to know where to begin, which is where Coupang’s handy Service Provider Network comes in - this enables sellers to search for translators, storage, shipping companies and more.
Coupang’s usage of PingPong as a payment provider further enhances its compatibility for international sellers, allowing a seamless payment experience so that Korean WON can be accepted and converted to USD at the best rate possible. PingPong enables Coupang’s global sellers to mitigate the cumbersome and oftentimes excessive nature of conversion fees.
So by now, you may be scratching your head and wondering what can I sell? Or more importantly, what do Korean shoppers like to buy? While a shrewd businessperson can sell anything under the sun (barring restricted items), Koreans show strong demand for US food products with a particular emphasis on health supplements. As an increasingly health-conscious population, Koreans favor established US brands with internal surveys at Coupang showing US supplements taking the lion’s share of consumers’ preferred brands. According to the latest figures, the US comprises approximately 73% of Korea’s overseas online food purchases. Not only is this a dominant category, its average growth rate has clocked in at over 21% over the last 4 years.
Of course, no conversation around e-commerce can overlook fashion. Brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, GAP, Nike, Ralph Lauren and other notable American apparel companies are in high demand among Korean consumers. Branded sneakers, for instance, are some of the most popular clothing items among Coupang’s customer base, indicating Korean preferences for trendy, hip aesthetics from the US. This sporty predilection extends to Korea’s obsession with its unofficial national past-time, golf. Golfing has weathered if not experienced a boon from the pandemic’s restrictions on dining and other indoor activities.
This leads to another significant advantage of using Coupang – information about which products are performing well and which need a pick-me-up are right at your fingertips. Coupang’s dashboard showcases your product performance at a glance and allows you to choose where you need to dive deeper. Its automated pricing system is another feature to ease the burden of manually updating product pricing. Instead, Coupang does the work for you by adjusting to the optimal price where your product has the best chance at exposure.
In short, Coupang is working hard to innovate and grow alongside South Korea’s exciting e-commerce market and there’s only one question left to answer: if you’re a global seller and you’re not in Korea, what’s stopping you? To find out more about opportunities to sell in Korea with Coupang, head to Coupang Marketplace.