Table of Contents:
- Overview of South Korea
- Affiliate marketing in South Korea
- Adapting your affiliate programme to market nuances in South Korea
South Korea has a total population of just over 50 million, and it is Asia's third-largest retail market with an internet penetration of 96% and a smartphone penetration of 96%. Consumers are tech-savvy, and in 2019, 97% of South Koreans in their twenties used internet shopping.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused internet shopping to increase further due to concerns over health and safety, with more consumers now shopping online .
The affiliate marketing industry began in the early 2000s, with local affiliate marketing networks launching in South Korea, including, Linkprice and ILikeClick. Leading local affiliate networks, similar to subnetworks in the UK and US, have played an essential role in shaping the industry across South Korea and are the fastest way for global brands to enter the market.
South Korea's online landscape is primarily driven by smaller, user-generated content partners. While mass media exists in the form of news publications and magazines, most South Korean consumers prefer using social networks and trusted influencers to inform their decision making. This has led to the growth of café communities which are interest groups sharing their reviews and tips, bloggers and social media influencers that influence South Korean consumers more than large content affiliates, cashback or voucher sites. Local affiliate networks allow brands to leverage this growing network of user-generated content partners that may be difficult to work with directly.
One of the main reasons why South Korean consumers prefer online shopping is convenience. As a result, mobile shopping has established itself as a key channel due to the high usage rate of smartphones in the country. In 2019, mobile transaction value accounted for around 64.5% of total online transaction value, attesting to the importance of mobile in eCommerce. Any brand looking to expand their affiliate marketing programme to South Korea should always keep the user journey on mobile top of mind, with mobile-friendly websites and mobile payment solutions as a starting point. Affiliates like Lastsave or Payco with mobile apps help integrate affiliate marketing into the mobile customer journey while reaching out to a large user base.
Whether it be age or business title, hierarchy influences several aspects of social and business interactions in South Korea. Everyone has a different role to play based on hierarchy. For example, the most senior often foot the bill at a gathering, while juniors do legwork like making reservations or pouring drinks. Koreans are more comfortable interacting with someone of equal status, preferring discussing business with those on the same seniority level in the organisation. When making introductions via email or a call, do state your role or title in your organisation, so the other party does not have to ask questions or assume. To save time in discussions, you should target the decision-maker for an effective outcome.
While Koreans do have a degree of exposure to English, especially among the younger generation, Korean is still most widely spoken and used in discussions. Local language support is essential when managing your affiliate programme and communicating with affiliates. Formal Korean (jondaemal) is the form of speech used for all business communications, which is a uniquely Korean concept that in English translates into 'more polite language'.
It's also important to ensure you have creatives and promotions translated into Korean. Localising your website and creatives into the local language and currency have significant effects on marketing strategies, enhanced visibility and brand recognition. Before entering the Korean market, we encourage conducting a competitor analysis of affiliate creatives and websites to understand what kind of creatives and messaging can attract the attention of Korean customers and increase engagement. Korean audiences do read and understand some English terms like 'Sale' or '30% Off', while more detailed copy and call to actions should be in Korean.
To gain brand awareness, create affiliate marketing campaigns that focus on market-specific eCommerce dates and events. Some events to keep in mind for eCommerce in South Korea include:
- Valentine's Day (14th February) - Exchanging flowers and gifts with loved ones
- White Day (14th March) - Exchanging reciprocal gifts with the people who sent gifts on Valentine's Day
- Silver Day (14th July) - Exchanging silver jewellery or rings with the meaning of promise of the future
- Korean Thanksgiving (Chuseok) (September to October) - Major harvest festival and three-day holiday celebrated based on lunar calendar
You can find out more about global holidays and observances to promote via your affiliate programme in our global guide.
As affiliate marketing grows in popularity across APAC, South Korea offers an excellent opportunity for brands. Any brand looking to expand their affiliate programme to South Korea should focus on localising strategies to be set up for success.
If you're planning on expanding to APAC, get in touch with our team to see how we can help.