Retail in Asia

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What are Korean retailers doing in regards to the rise of online communities?

Hyundai Livart

Retail companies are racing to form their own online communities so they are not so dependent on the likes of Facebook and Instagram.

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This is especially urgent as people spend more time indoors, “homebodies” increasingly looking to fulfill their needs for shopping and community from the comfort of their couches.

Furniture company Hyundai Livart refurbished its online mall with an enhanced community tab and revealed the face-lift. Under the theme of “untact” housewarming, members of the online mall can upload snapshots of their homes with furniture from Livart. The posts uploaded on the online community include information on the apartment as well, including the size and the member’s budget for the interior design. Writers of the posts are rewarded with membership points and other benefits, said Hyundai Livart. There is a separate section for interior design experts and influencers, where people share the specifics, such as the materials that went into the redesign of their homes.

Shinsegae’s Casamia opened in July, providing both content related to interior design and community interaction. People can shop for furniture on the website and view postings related to lifestyle, such as interior design tips and sleep. The company also runs a YouTube channel, uploading interviews with emerging designers, tips on picking the right mattress and yoga for sleep.

Danggeun Market, a community-based app where people mostly buy and sell secondhand goods, aims to create an online community where people share information about their neighborhoods. In September, it launched a feature called Neighborhood Living, which allows people to ask questions, which can be viewed by other members in the neighborhood. The questions range from restaurant suggestions, living and child care tips and part-time jobs.

“Neighborhood Living is fast developing as the main service that serves neighborhood communities. We will continue to create social value by connecting people facilitating exchanges in the neighborhood,” said Danggeun Market CEO Kim Yong-hyun.

The online communities focus on increasing the number of visits to their sites and lengthening their stay. They encourage spontaneous purchases, which can be made when customers are casually looking through the sites. The more frequent visitors come, the stronger the affinity, it is hoped.

This business strategy is similar to local online shopping mall Musinsa, which is a unicorn worth more than US$923 million. Musinsa became the biggest fashion e-commerce by gaining a reputation as an online community with a large number of photographs of shoes. The community members have become loyal customers after forming solid relationships in the community.

“The members that were there from the beginning of the online community 20 years ago are like management partners now, who offer advice whenever Musinsa launches new services,” said a spokesperson for Musinsa.

The coronavirus pandemic has been spreading, but offline stores are cautiously creating community spaces for their customers. Lotte Department Store is opening an offline community space on the first floor of its Yeongdeungpo branch in western Seoul on 17th Deccember. There will be a room for visitors to engage with creators popular among those in their 20s.

Homeplus opened a community market called Corners in its branch in Busan, filled with spaces for regional sports clubs, start-ups, flea markets and culture centers, on top of the retailer’s main grocery market.

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“Corners is a family community shopping mall focused on the region. will make it into a new space that gives the feel of a neighborhood marketplace,” said a spokesperson for Homeplus.