SEOUL: Online shopping is growing fast in Korea, with mobile now accounting for well over half of all sales value, new figures show.

According to a report from Statistics Korea, Online Shopping Trends in March 2017, online shopping transactions in that month were up 21.3% on the same period a year earlier and totalled 6.33 trillion won (US$5.57bn).

And transactions through mobile devices grew even faster, at 37.3%, amounting to 3.73 trillion won (US$3.28bn) and accounting for 59% of all online purchases – a record high.

"This was largely due to its fast and simple systems and promotional offers for mobile shoppers at online shopping malls," noted Business Korea.

And, given the growing number of one-person households in the country, the trend is expected to continue.

Koreans are also spending significant sums with online retailers outside the country: the total amount spent this way rose 20.5% over the first quarter, with US-based retailers taking the lion's share at 310.9bn won (US$273.68m).

Sales to consumers outside the country leapt 50.9% during the quarter to reach 771.6bn won (US$679.23m).

Lotte, a major Korean bricks-and-mortar retailer, reported that it sold goods worth US$1.25bn online during 2016 and had expected growth of 30% in 2017 but for recent diplomatic problems which have seen the group targeted by the Chinese government over the US THAAD missile deployment – a concern for a business that had seen Chinese customers buy more than South Koreans online.

Kim Te Ho, Managing Director of Lotte Duty Free's Merchandising Strategy Division, told TRBusiness that "the government limits merchandise that can be sold online – only perfume and cosmetics and some fashion items at the moment".

"Customers wanting luxury brands come to our offline stores, so we are researching the two sales channels," he added.

Data sourced from Business Korea, TRBusiness; additional content by WARC staff