For the past seven years, I’ve lived and worked in South Korea. As a full-stack developer who’s been creating digital solutions for companies in Europe and Asia for over ten years, I noticed some serious challenges when it comes to the Korean e-commerce market.
That’s why I developed Korea for WooCommerce. My plugin helps online retailers optimize their stores for Korean audiences by enabling them to properly collect shipping addresses, connect to preferred payment gateways, and more.
In this post, I’ll discuss the challenges of the Korean e-commerce market and why it’s worth it to put in the work to overcome them. Then I’ll show you how Korea for WooCommerce can help. Let’s jump in!
Understanding the Challenges of the Korean E-Commerce Market
For sellers in the U.S. and Europe, there are many barriers to breaking into the Korean e-commerce market. Even beyond translation, there are several factors that could prevent you from successfully attracting customers, including:
- Payment methods. NHN KCP is one of the largest payment gateway here, and mobile eWallet apps such as Naver Pay and Kakao Pay are also popular. Unfortunately, WooCommerce doesn’t support these platforms natively.
- E-commerce website localization. WooCommerce does not include Korean postcode recognition. You’ll also need to adjust the order of the address fields on your checkout page for Korean customers.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Following international SEO best practices is key. However, you’ll also want to ensure your products appear in the shopping consoles for popular Korean web portals such as Daum and Naver (which is sometimes called the Google of Korea).
- Shipping Processes. Setting up international shipping to reach Korean customers is a must. However, you may also want to provide order tracking information, which will require integrating Korean delivery companies with WooCommerce.
- Customer communications. Finally, you’ll need a way to send order status notifications to your customers, as well as support channels so they can reach you. This requires integration with popular Korean communication apps such as KakaoTalk.
As you can probably tell, getting your online store ready for Korean e-commerce isn’t as simple as it could be. That said, putting in the effort can lead to huge payoffs.
Why online retailers in the U.S. and Europe should consider Korean E-Commerce
Despite the hurdles Korean e-commerce presents, it also provides multiple opportunities for online sellers. For starters, South Korea has the fifth-largest e-commerce market in the world, as well as the third-highest online spending per capita.
With close to 90 percent of the country’s population online, there’s a huge pool of potential buyers. The availability of mobile payment systems makes mobile e-commerce particularly popular, with around 61.1 percent of sales taking place on smartphones or tablets.
The travel and fashion industries are especially well-positioned to expand into the Korean market, with over $13 billion and $11 billion spent respectively in these markets in 2018. Electronics are also popular with Korean shoppers because they can get lower prices on foreign technology.
Almost 50 percent of Korean international e-commerce is U.S.-based, and around 23 percent of sales come from European retailers. However, Europe is seeing higher growth rates, with a 38.9 percent increase in sales from 2018 to 2019.
As you can see, there are tons of opportunities for online retailers to do well in Korea – if you can get your website in shape to welcome your new customers.
How to optimize your WooCommerce site for Korean Audiences (5 key tips)
In order to help retailers tackle the challenges of Korean e-commerce, I created Korea for WooCommerce as well as several add-ons. All my solutions adhere to the coding standards for WordPress as well as those for WooCommerce. Here are four ways they can help you optimize your site for Korean e-commerce.
1. Localize Your Checkout Forms and Shipping Process for Korean Shoppers
Translating your site will help your Korean customers navigate content such as checkout forms. However, they’ll be able to complete purchases faster and more easily with Korea for WooCommerce’s postcode finder:
This feature enables customers to enter their postcode in your checkout form and then select the correct information to autofill in Korean. My plugin also reorders the address fields when South Korea is selected as the destination country so the form makes more sense to Korean customers.
Additionally, Korea for WooCommerce enables you to add Korean delivery companies to the WooCommerce Shipment Tracking extension. This will help keep buyers in the loop as to where their orders are, and it key for customer satisfaction and building trust.
2. Add Popular Korean Payment Methods to Your Site
I’m currently working on a WooCommerce NHN KCP Gateway add-on for Korea for WooCommerce. This will make it easy to add this platform as an option for your customers. Simply navigate to WooCommerce > Settings > Payments > NHN KCP and enter your vendor account details to integrate it:
Since mobile purchasing is so popular in South Korea, it’s also important to account for eWallet apps such as NaverPay, KakaoPay, PAYCO, and TossPay. I’m working on Korea for WooCommerce extensions for these systems as well.
With all these platforms, you’ll first need to create an account just as you would when integrating any other payment gateway with WooCommerce.
3. Protect Customers’ Personal Data With Secure Authentication Methods
In South Korea, online shoppers often use an Internet Personal Identification Number (I-PIN) to authenticate their identities and complete purchases. I’m working on an authentication add-on for Korea for WooCommerce that will enable you to add I-PIN support to your e-commerce site.
Not only is this useful from a logistical standpoint, but it should also help your Korean customers feel safe while shopping on your site. An I-PIN enables shoppers to keep their personal data secure while making purchases online, which is key to a positive User Experience (UX).
4. Implement Communication Channels So Korean Customers Can Reach Support
Providing high-quality support is vital if you want to retain customers. However, your Korean buyers won’t easily be able to pick up a phone and give you a call. For that reason, I’ve included integration with popular Korean chat platforms in Korea for WooCommerce.
My plugin enables you to connect Kakao Channel and Naver TalkTalk with WooCommerce out of the box:
I’m also working on add-ons for KakaoTalk and SMS integrations. In addition to providing multiple support channels, these platforms can be helpful for sending order notifications as well as marketing content.
5. Make Sure Your Products Are Listed in Korean Search Engines
Although it’s probably hard for Americans and Europeans to imagine the internet without Google, it’s not the predominant search engine in Korea. That title falls to Naver:
This platform is the first stop for many Korean online shoppers. It’s vital that your products appear in Naver search results if you want your e-commerce site to be successful in South Korea.
My plugin can help with this. If you navigate to WooCommerce > Settings > Integration > Korea for WooCommerce > Search Engine Page, you can enable Naver Shopping integration:
You can also enable integration with Daum Shopping, South Korea’s other primary e-commerce search engine. Note that for either feature to work, you’ll need to create a merchant account. The plugin links you to the proper pages for this.
E-commerce opens the door for retailers to expand their reach across the globe. However, there are many challenges that come with entering new markets. South Korea, in particular, poses many hurdles sellers will need to overcome in order to succeed.
To help you cater to the Korean e-commerce market, consider using Korea for WooCommerce to carry out the tips I outlined in this post:
- Localize your checkout forms and shipping process for Korean shoppers.
- Add popular Korean payment methods such as NHN KCP to your site.
- Protect customers’ personal data with secure authentication methods.
- Implement communication channels so Korean customers can reach support.
- Make sure your products are listed in Korean search engines such as Naver.
Do you have any questions about how to optimize your WooCommerce site for Korean audiences? Let me know in the comments section below!