Today I want to talk about something that plays a major part in Korean families and in their day-to-day lives, an experience that may not be easy for non-Korean residents to experience directly while in Korea: home shopping.
Home shopping in Korea is mostly done through cable TV channels and telephone. Cable TV shopping channels, launched in 1995, at first adopted the U.S. television shopping system with its products and infomercials, but these reported poor sales in Korea. A more creative product lineup and accumulated experience in marketing, however, turned the industry into one of steady growth.
Not only the scale of the industry has grown, but content has also been diversified. Some sales are even now streamed live, and broadcasts go beyond mere infomercials, for example, by providing shopping tips and sharing the latest fashion trends. Shopping channels nowadays have expanded their business into neighborhood markets, exporting the channels.
Why did the industry successfully grow in Korea? Personally, I believe that Korean society and Korean families are behind the growth and success of the television shopping industry in Korea.
First of all, Koreans watch a lot of TV. Not every family, but TV affects a bigger number of families than you expect. Indeed, many families leave the TV turned on, as if TV programs were background music, and a significant part of a person’s day-to-day conversation in Korea is about TV shows and celebrities.
In addition, most shopping stations are on channels that are located between public broadcasting channels. For example, if channel 7 and channel 9 are public TV stations, channel 8 would be a shopping channel, which is why most of Korea’s TV audience is inevitably exposed to shopping channels.
This environment gives TV shopping channels and television shopping better access to their customers than any mere shop window.
Second, cable TV’s penetration rate in Korea is high enough so that there’s no difference between public TV channels and cable TV channels. Not only that, but the entire shopping process, including ordering and delivery, doesn’t take too long. Due to that, TV shopping clients don’t feel any more particularly inconvenienced when purchasing through TV, and it’s even better for them since there’s no limit on number of things a shopper buys since it will all be delivered directly to their doorstep.
Finally, a major share of TV shopping clients are women who work in the home. In most Korean families, women who work in the home are the family’s main financial decision maker. They tend to spend more time at home and are more exposed to TV shopping. Also, they seem to care more for their families than other family members.
I’ve often heard, “I bought it for my children,” or, “My mom bought me this on a shopping channel,” from my friends and acquaintances when I was in Korea. Television shopping has been able to earn huge successes in Korea due to considerate mothers caring for their families even more than they do for themselves, combined with shopping channel marketing teams that understand such maternal tendencies.
Daria Todorova teaches Korean at the King Sejong Institute in Moscow.
Hong Si-wan, Seoul