Considered by many to be the most digitally connected country of the world, it is no surprise that South Korea has a booming e-commerce industry. LivingSocial saw something special there when we acquired a skyrocketing startup called TicketMonster, locally known as TMon, in 2011.
We caught up with the Korean-born, American-educated rockstar CEO of TicketMonster, Daniel Shin, to discuss the remarkable success of the company, the unique consumer preferences in pali pali South Korea, and how much he misses good burritos.
TicketMonster has over 10 million subscribers in a country with a population of 50 million. How has the TicketMonster formula been so successful?
Since May of 2010, TicketMonster has been pursuing innovative ways to provide our customers and partners with the best value, unique offerings, and spectacular escapes. In just three years, TicketMonster has become an integral part of the ‘lifestyle commerce’ that is changing the spending patterns of Koreans. In addition, since we began holding hands with LivingSocial in September 2011, TicketMonster has gained outstanding global know-how — one of the main drivers of our ongoing success.
As of 2013, South Korea hit the 110 percent penetration rate in the mobile phone industry, meaning that there are more mobile phones than people. What does this mean for TicketMonster?
We are proud that TicketMonster has become a leading mobile marketing platform in Korea, with one out of every two deals bought through a mobile device. Because Korea is one of the most mobile-friendly countries in the world, we are able to easily connect with consumers throughout the country. This is a key reason why our gross profit has increased by 75 percent compared to the first half of 2012.
What types of deals are most popular on TicketMonster? Why?
TicketMonster provides on average more than 500 tour deals per month, which are presented to consumers through accommodation, leisure, plane tickets, and rental car deals. We have been especially popular amongst consumers interested in luxurious five-star hotel packages such as Walkerhill, Hilton, and Novotel Hotels.
Additionally, monthly sales at our TicketMonster store have also reached about US$50 million in less than two years. We have been able to successfully curate unique offerings for our customers — introducing just the right number of high-quality deals at just the right price. Food items are some of the bestselling deals in the store category, as well as electronic goods, baby items, and beauty products.
Seoul, Korea is a famous for being both digitized and guided by the pali pali (hurry hurry!) culture. How has this made an impact on TicketMonster and the industry at large?
Korea’s pali pali culture is probably one of the reasons that social commerce is so appealing to Korean consumers, who tend to have an insatiable thirst for the latest trends. To keep up with them, TicketMonster continually offers news deals every four to seven days and it is one of our long-term goals to bring online everything that is available offline. Also, Koreans expect for items purchased online to be delivered rapidly, so this has become a core part of our offering.
What has surprised you most about consumer preferences in the South Korean market?
I was very surprised that so many consumers in Korea, both men and women, are interested in luxury brands. There is also very powerful word-of-mouth communication amongst mothers in Korea, especially related to baby items. Talked-about products can become popular very quickly once the word spreads around this demographic.
You moved to Seoul from the U.S. in 2010. Anything you miss in particular?
I really miss the food! It’s hard to find a good burrito in Korea. I like to binge on them whenever I go to the States. Of course I miss my family and friends, as I spent most of my adulthood in the U.S. Lastly, being in the middle of a ginormous city, I miss the suburbs, nature, trees…