7 Lessons for Digital Marketers in Korea

April 2, 2019 Andy Dubickas, VP, Global Solutions, Nielsen

For brands looking for new markets to expand their business into, Asian countries offer huge opportunities for growth. While many companies target Chinese or Japanese consumers, fewer consider the potential of Korea.

Despite its relatively smaller size (53 million inhabitants), Korea is one of the most attractive and potentially lucrative markets in Asia, especially for brands doing business online.

South Korea has 40 million smartphone users, the fastest Internet speed in the world and 100% penetration for wireless broadband. While it represents a smaller overall market than other Asian countries, its hyper-connected population is primed to engage with innovative brands around the world.

As you know, expanding into a new market anywhere requires more than the desire to grow your business. It takes a sophisticated understanding of a country’s culture, language, consumer habits and preferences.

Digital channels and devices have changed the landscape for marketers around the world. Even native advertisers who are familiar with the culture need to get up to speed on the challenges and opportunities of digital marketing.

Digital Marketing in Korea

Last month, I spoke at the Digital Marketing Summit Korea about the challenges facing today’s marketers. The Digital Marketing Summit was created in 2015 to provide trends, insights, and practical tips for marketers in Korea as they master the rapidly evolving field of digital marketing.

Held at the COEX Convention and Exhibition Center in Seoul, the Summit convened experts in brand strategy, marketing channels, e-commerce, global marketing, digital lifestyles, data-driven marketing, marketing tech and AI marketing to share our expertise with attendees.

Ji Hoon, Nielsen’s Marketing Effectiveness Leader in Korea, and I co-led a 3-hour workshop: “On/Off Line Marketing Channel Performance: Its Measurement.” My presentation, “Marketing Measurement for the Digital World” addressed how brands can leverage digital marketing.

I focused on the need for new measurement approaches and especially the risks of legacy measurement solutions such as last-touch attribution, channel-specific metrics, and SALY budgeting.

COEX Convention and Exhibition Center in Seoul Korea

7 Lessons for Digital Marketers in Korea

I was able to meet with many of the Summit attendees and hear their questions and concerns. Here are seven observations from my trip to Korea:

1. Korean consumers are mobile and connected.

Most Koreans use their smartphones to access the Internet, so mobile-friendly websites are critical. South Korea enjoys one of the highest mobile internet penetration in the world at 82% (vs China 56%, Japan 66%, the US 80%). More than two-thirds of the South Korea population are mobile buyers.

2. There is opportunity for digital growth in Korea.

Korea is a hyperconnected market eager for new brands. Because consumers in Korea are very digital savvy, brands that have local knowledge and a solid digital marketing strategy can achieve a great return on investment.

3. Korea’s digital marketing landscape is different from the West.

The country’s search traffic is dominated by native search engines Naver and Daum, which control a 93% share of the market. Naver’s messaging, maps, banking, and other apps make it the largest digital publisher by far and it does not allow consumer tracking on its platforms. Recently, the rise of Android phones has led to a 200% increase in the use of Google, but the biggest digital players continue to collect and corral and most of the data.

4. Korean consumers outpace brands in digital.

In Korea, digital adoption by brands is slower than in some markets, and much slower than the pace at which the average Korean consumer has latched onto mobile. Many companies prefer to invest the majority of their ad spend in TV, with only a small slice in newer channels such as display, paid search, social media, or video. Brands are missing huge opportunities to connect with these consumers.

5, Brands must do their homework.

Continuous growth in the digital space and the proliferation of new channels and devices have dramatically changed how consumers interact with brands. But like any market, Korea is unique in many ways. Both Korean and brands from other countries must conduct audience analysis to understand the unique habits of Korean consumers.

6. Digital measurement lags in Korea.

Because of the hesitance to embrace digital channels, many brands are trying to measure with twenty-year-old techniques. Many marketers apply old-school approaches to a new-school digital world. In some cases, marketing executives have a traditional media background and lack the experience to establish an effective digital marketing program. In others, marketers are aware of the challenges posed by digital marketing, but they don’t realize that solutions exist.

7. New approaches exist for the digital era.

Digital marketers in Korea can implement multi-touch attribution for accurate and actionable measurement. Multi-touch attribution uses a privacy-compliant ID to stitch together user-level online and offline marketing touchpoints and conversion events for a holistic view of the customer journey. And because this insight is produced in close to real-time, marketers can capitalize on opportunities to drive engagement and site visits, encourage downloads and influence purchase decisions at each step in the buyer journey.

Learn More

To learn more about how you can be a better marketer in the digital era, download our ebook: Crossing the New Digital Divide: Your Guide to Marketing Effectiveness

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