Technology transformed the way Koreans shop

Improvement of technology has changed consumers’ behaviors that drive companies to create new business models to react to consumers’ needs.

In South Korea, the two biggest retailers are E-Mart and Tesco Home Plus. Both of them implemented new models to provide customers more convenience to maintain or increase its market.

Tesco has been working on to beat E-Mart because it is the biggest retailer with a far greater number of locations than Tesco could hope to catch up with anytime soon. In 2011, the company thought of a smart solution to build virtual shops in subways, where were the main public transportations for commuters without cars. With huge billboard advertisement in some bigger subway stations, Tesco used QR code to build virtual shops. The process was as following:


If your train came before your basket was complete, you could carry on shopping without the pictures and codes if you wished. Since Koreans’ pace was fast and busy with a strong preference to use time efficiently. This unique idea created a huge success. Their sales increased 130 per cent in three months, and their number of registered users went up by 76 per cent. They are now number one for online groceries and the gap between them and E-Mart has narrowed offline.

To maintain its leading position in Korea, E-Mart also used QR-code as a tool the next year. The “Sunny Sale Campaign “asked customers to install a shadow QR code using sunlight and shadow that only available from 12 pm to 1 pm. As a gift, the customers would get special offers, such as a $12 coupon. The result was a success. 12,000 coupons were distributed and membership had increased by 58%.

In 2013, E-Mart further built a “Flying Store” to bring its store to consumers. E-Mart created yellow balloons in the shape of the E-Mart truck with Wi-Fi routers inside of them into different parts of the city. It drew people’s attention and increased their interest to try the free Wi-Fi provided by the balloons. Once connected to the network, customers were able to download coupons from the app and apply them when making a purchase using the E-Mart mobile app. In the following month, downloads of E-Mart’s app rose to 50,000 and its mobile sales more than doubled. The sales in physical stores also increase of 9.5% driven by coupons downloaded from the balloons.


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