Referred to as “the next luxury capital,” South Korea lives up to that expectation in some ways, certainly when it comes to demand (fueled in large part by rich tourists from neighboring countries), but still lags when it comes to aspects of the digital realm. In our 2013 Digital IQ Index: Korea report, our researchers found that prestige brands’ site-optimization and localized content are particularly behind, especially when compared to APAC’s other luxury leaders, China and Japan. This report, which examined the digital performance of 95 global and 5 local prestige brands, found that almost two-thirds of Korean brand sites’ localized site functionality falls short. How, specifically? In the chart below, you can see that just over half of the brands in our study include a local customer service number on their site and only one brand, Kate Spade, supports live chat. Compare this with China, where 59 percent of brands provide a local customer service option and 13 percent of brands offer live chat.
One of the most standard site features, a store locator, is another important and easy-to-implement detail to which brands’ haven’t paid attention. While a near-perfect 96 percent of prestige brands have included store locators on their Chinese sites, about half that (52 percent) have done so on their Korean sites. Even in Japan, where prestige brands have their own issues with localized site, 64 percent include this basic functionality. Pricing is another critical site component and one that not only informs potential consumers in a practical way but also speaks to a brand’s transparency. In Korea, where less than a quarter of prestige brands sell online, just 44 percent of brand sites list merchandise pricing in local won currency. Some verticals are worse than others in this regard: Among Beauty, Fashion, and Watches & Jewelry brands’ Korean sites (69 total), just 14 percent provide online pricing. Even though e-commerce is still nascent in the country, there’s no question that price availability guides the more than 40 percent of South Korean luxury consumers who do their research online before going in-store to pursue a particular item. But without a store locator and without a price, brands are relying much too heavily on loyalty and geographic serendipity.