Retail in Asia


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Korean online marketplace Coupang

Established in Seoul in 2010, Coupang is one of the largest e-Commerce companies in Asia, with a mission to revolutionize the everyday lives of its customers. Coupang offers a variety of services, including same-day and next-morning delivery of groceries and general merchandise, delivery of prepared foods through Coupang Eats, and video streaming through Coupang Play and it also invested in fintech through Coupang Pay. Coupang has offices in Beijing, Los Angeles, Seattle, Seoul, Singapore, Shanghai, Silicon Valley, Taipei, and Tokyo.

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Source: Coupang

In partnership with eTail Asia 2022, Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Gerald Hoe, Head of Global Marketplace at Coupang. Together we discussed the marketplace’s customer-centered culture, logistics network, overseas expansion and future plans.

Hoe will be one of the 70 speakers joining the 3-day live event in Singapore in June 2022 where he will be sharing insights on how cross-border sellers can tap into the 4th largest ecommerce market in the world. As told by Gerald, eTail Asia is a great opportunity to get more insight into the latest technological trends in the fast-moving e-Commerce space and hear about the experiences of other marketplaces. A big part of Coupang’s objective to bring the world to Korea is understanding global trends and issues faced by cross-border sellers. And they are, of course, looking forward to gaining more insight into how they could further enhance their awareness outside Korea which makes eTail an obligatory event with its attendance of both big and upcoming players!

RiA: Coupang aims to revolutionize the customer experience. Can you elaborate on Coupang’s “customer-centered culture”?

Gerald: Customers are the heart and soul of Coupang. After all, our mission is to create a world in which customers ask, “How did we ever live without Coupang?”. This ambitious goal informs every decision we make and we’re proud of the achievements we’ve been able to accomplish through our customer obsession. We put the customer first and foremost when developing new products or policies, paying extremely close attention to the customer experience and constantly A/B testing features to ensure we are delighting our customers.

RiA: Can you share more information about your user base?

Gerald: Our 2021 Q4 results show Coupang has over 17.9 million active users across Korea, a 21 percent increase from the year before. Coupang customers are also spending up big! In fact, spend per customer cohort since 2010 has grown over 30 percent or more, demonstrating the added value Coupang continues to offer. According to Wiseapp, Coupang is Korea’s most popular retail application across every single age group.

Out of these 17.9 million active users, Coupang has almost 9 million paid Rocket WOW members. Coupang Rocket WOW members receive all the bells and whistles from discounted prices, free delivery (incl. Jikgu), dawn delivery, free returns within 30 days, and access to Coupang’s streaming service, Coupang Play!

RiA: Can you tell us more about Coupang Global Marketplace? What are your bestselling products?

Gerald: Coupang Global Marketplace provides a platform for sellers across the world to sell and ship directly to Korea! We provide sellers with over 17.9 million active customers across the country while sellers offer high quality items and unbeatable service. As Korean consumer demand for overseas goods continues to grow, our Global Marketplace has grown alongside it and shows no signs of slowing. Fashion, food (including health supplements) and consumer electronics are the heavy hitters when it comes to sales and this applies to Singaporean items. Branded fashion products such as Charles & Keith are very popular on Coupang and our customers cannot get enough Kaya jam!

RiA: Korea boasts one of the world’s fastest delivery services. In 2019, Coupang introduced Dawn Delivery, where customers who order before midnight would be guaranteed a delivery by 7 a.m. that morning. The speed of Coupang requires an amazingly strong logistics network. Can you walk us through the end-to-end logistics network Coupang has built over the year?

Gerald: Coupang always strives to wow the customer and nowhere is this more evident than our speedy deliveries. We work to ensure we make good on the rocket icon emblematizing the rapid speed and brilliant innovation of the company. In 2021, Coupang was awarded the Grand Prize for Logistics by the Korea Supply Chain Management Industrial Awards. With over 100 unique fulfilment centers, covering 25 million square feet, 70 percent of Korea’s 50 million plus population live within 7 miles of a Coupang logistics center. In addition to this impressive coverage, we make sure we’re thinking ahead, literally, by using AI and machine learning to predict demand spikes ahead of time, then forward deploying products to our fulfilment centers. We also directly employ our drivers and frontline workers, unlike the standard industry practice, which gives us unprecedented control over the entire logistics and fulfillment process to the moment the product is delivered to the customer’s doorstep. This robust and innovative system allows Coupang to break the traditional customer trade-off, offering more choice, faster service, and lower prices.

Source: Coupang

RiA: SMEs form a critical component of Coupang’s business. How does Coupang support SMEs? Have you created programs specifically during the Covid-19 pandemic to support them?

Gerald: Small businesses are a big part of Coupang. In fact, SMEs make up a whopping 80 percent of Coupang’s total sellers and in Q2, 2021, they saw their sales increase 87 percent YoY while offline SMEs saw a 7 percent decline across Korea. Coupang comprised 43 percent of US Foreign Direct Investment in the first half of 2021, and these funds play an important role in our operations in Korea, including supporting SMEs. We provide our SME sellers with the famous Coupang WOW customer service by offering onboarding assistance and training as well as help with marketing and promotional activities to help their businesses grow. In order to help smaller-scale sellers overcome the hardship brought on by the pandemic, Coupang allocated several millions to the “Cheer Up, Korea!” campaign to help merchants join Coupang Marketplace and flourish.

RiA: Coupang has entered Japan, Taiwan and Singapore last year. Can you tell us more about your overseas expansion?

Gerald: We believe Coupang offers a one-of-a-kind experience to our customers, and we see a massive opportunity to provide Coupang’s unmatched combination of speed, selection, price, and convenience in these regions as well. We aim to use the experience and know-how we’ve gained from our operations in Korea to wow customers across Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and beyond.

RiA: Coupang listed in the US last year so what’s next for Coupang?

Gerald: Since Coupang listed on the New York Stock Exchange last year, it has continued to work tirelessly to achieve its mission of creating a world in which customers ask “How did we ever live without Coupang?” Fittingly, Coupang has a truly global mindset and we have been able to source the best people across Korea and beyond to ensure the platform is a seamless experience for both customers and, of course, sellers. WING, the Coupang seller management portal, for instance, is available in Korean, English and Mandarin. We recently launched the newer, upgraded version of our global seller website, which guides global sellers at every stage of their Coupang journey from those who have only just learned about our marketplace to veritable Coupang veterans! In 2022, we have also been running many promotions, heavily discounting sales commission rates, leaving sellers with even more in their pockets.

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RiA: What will you be sharing at eTail Asia 2022?

Gerald: We are looking forward to showing cross-border sellers how they can expand their business by selling to Korea with Coupang. Surprisingly, even many industry insiders don’t realize that Korea is an e-commerce behemoth, with the 4th largest e-commerce market in the world, and it continues to grow year after year. Korea’s appetite for international goods is particularly notable and the growth in this area demonstrates that there is still much untapped potential. Coupang Global Marketplace is here to help the sellers at eTail Asia leverage that gap by providing access to over 17.9 million customers on the country’s most popular shopping app. We’ll show sellers everything they need to know to join Coupang and how to use the many tools Coupang provides to promote their businesses.

Register for eTail Asia 2022 HERE