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Impulse drives Korean m-commerce

News, 07 May 2015

SEOUL: Two thirds of Koreans have shopped via mobile, with many buying on impulse rather than spending significant amounts of time deliberating their purchase, according to new research.

Consulting firm McKinsey noted that every year since 2010, South Korea's mobile-commerce market had more than doubled in value, to the point where it now accounts for almost one third of all Web-based sales.

But it added that achieving success in this channel required more than just an app or an optimised website. "Although all digital channels might share the same backbone infrastructure, such as order management and logistics, m-commerce requires fundamentally different approaches to identifying, reaching, and satisfying consumers," it said.

And a particular feature of m-commerce, its research revealed, is that shoppers are driven more by impulse than price or product features.

This is in part because smaller screens make it more difficult to compare product details. More than half of mobile consumer decision journeys, from considering products to purchasing, lasted just one day, compared with 36% for desktop.

This has "enormous implications" for retailers, said McKinsey, allowing them to, for example, reduce the number of SKUs carried on mobile shopping platforms.

Smaller screens are also a factor in the desire for convenience – cited as a top priority by more than 60% of South Korea's mobile shoppers, compared to 44% of online shoppers – and intuitively easy navigation.

Quick delivery of products was important for many regular mobile shoppers, especially when buying groceries and other staples. At least one retailer now operates a mobile-dedicated warehouse to ensure timely delivery.

The demographic profile of mobile shoppers in Korea leans towards women, who account for 60% of all transactions. And while there has been an assumption that busy working mothers are most likely to take advantage of this channel, it appears not to be the case.

This group spends its time in front of a desktop – full-time housewives and women at home with young children turn out to be most likely to shop on mobile.

A separate survey by the Ticket Monster social commerce site confirmed this general picture, although it also highlighted an increase in women in their 40s buying groceries via mobile.

Retailers also have an opportunity to lock in mobile customers, with coupons and points, as they tend to shop at fewer outlets and to go straight to a particular site or app.

Data sourced from McKinsey, Inside Retail Asia; additional content by Warc staff