8 key facts about South Korea e-commerce

Hi there,

Update in Mar 2019: since this post is quiet old (published in 2016), I wrote an updated post here 10 key facts about South Korea e-commerce landscape 2019.

Other updated content that may be of interest to you:

Again, this is part of my series about key facts about digital marketing & e-commerce in JP, China and South Korea. Articles before this post include:

If you want to download the presentation version of this post, you could try this Google drive link.

1. South Korea e-commerce market is the 6th largest worldwide (behind China, the US, UK, JP, Germany)

south korea retail ecommerce and digital travel sales 2014 2018

Please note that from eMarketer, Retail e-commerce sales includes products or services ordered using the internet via any device, regardless of the method of payment or fulfilment; excludes travel and event tickets; converted at the exchange rate of US$1=KRW1,053.3. Also, eMarketer benchmarks its South Korea retail e-commerce sales figures against Statistics Korea, for which the last full year measured was 2014

Digital travel sales includes leisure and unmanaged business travel sales booked via any device; converted at the exchange rate of US$1=KRW1,053.31

2. There are 25M digital buyers in South Korea, 58.3% of the total population (South Korea penetration is higher than China, but lower than the US, UK, Germany and JP)

south korea digital buyers and penetration in total population 2015

3. South Korea has the second highest percentage of retail m-commerce sales in the total retail e-commerce sales world wide

south korea retail mobile commerce as a percentage of retail e-commerce in south korea china us and uk 2014 2018

As you could see from the chart above, in 2016, about half of all retail e-commerce sales in KR would happen on mobile devices. This is the highest rate worldwide, behind China only.

4. In South Korea, female are more likely to buy online than male (57% vs. 50%) and close to 80% of respondents between the age of 20-40 year old have purchased online in the past year

Demographic Profile of Digital Buyers in South Korea 2013-2015

Methodology: Data is from the December 2015 Korea Internet & Security Agency (KISA) and Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) – South Korea report titled “2015 Survey on the Internet Usage – Executive Summary.” 63,218 respondents ages 3+ from 25,000 family households in South Korea were surveyed face-to-face via home visits during August 1-October 15, 2015.

5. Travel, home electric appliances and clothing are the top 3 e-commerce categories in terms of sales in South Korea and digital buyers are increasingly purchasing them on Mobile devices

B2C Ecommerce Sales in South Korea, by Channel and Product:Service Category June 2014 June 2015 v2

6. South Korea is, however, behind other developed markets like the US, UK or China when it comes to payment systems with many digital buyers are still using direct debit or bank transfer using ATM

Leading Payment Methods Used for Digital Purchases by Digital Buyers in Select Countries in Asia-Pacific June 2015 v2

Comment from eMarketer in the report “Global e-commerce platform 2015 “: “In fact, it was not until March 2015 when the government ended its requirement of Microsoft’s archaic ActiveX software to pay for goods and services online. A few large companies in South Korea, including Daum Kakao (which owns messaging app Kakao Talk), search engine Naver and electronics company Samsung, have announced their own online payment systems.”

7. Similar to other markets like China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Social commerce is getting big in South Korea with 2/3 of internet users participating in it. Also the device of choice is smartphone

Brand Shopping-Related Social Media Activities Conducted by Internet Users in Select Countries in Asia-Pacific June 2015 v2

Primary Device Used for Social Commerce According to Social Commerce Users in South Korea by Demographic Oct 2014

8. Gmarket, 11st.co.kr, Auction.co.kr are the top 3 e-commerce sites in South Korea in terms of unique visitors

top 5 retail ecommerce site in south korea in terms of unique visitors 2015

That’s it from me. Thank you very much for your time and any comments are welcome.

If you want to download the presentation version of this post, you could try this Google drive link.


P.S: in another unrelated topic, I recently published a book about team management on Amazon so feel free to check it out.


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