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[KH Biz Forum] Pandemic fostered direct cross-border e-commerce

Lee Sung-han, head of Amazon Global Selling Korea, urges more businesses to venture into overseas markets online

Lee Sung-han, head of Amazon’s Global Selling Korea, speaks at The Korea Herald Biz Forum at The Shilla Seoul on Tuesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Lee Sung-han, head of Amazon’s Global Selling Korea, speaks at The Korea Herald Biz Forum at The Shilla Seoul on Tuesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Cross-border e-commerce allows sellers to meet end users directly in the global market, quickly respond to consumers’ feedback and sell their products in more marketplaces, head of Amazon’s Global Selling Korea Lee Sung-han said Tuesday.

He said more business owners should go online and branch out into other countries despite the COVID-19 crisis, as he touted Amazon’s support for such moves.

“Crisis breeds opportunity. As noted by experts, instead of only focusing on the domestic market or offline, people should turn to exporting and e-commerce,” he said during his speech at The Korea Herald Biz Forum. “A lot of sites are out there to help, with Amazon being one of them.”

The theme of the conference, held Tuesday at The Shilla Seoul, was “Contact less, connect more.” In line with that theme, Lee touched upon topics such as cross-border e-commerce as well as the support that Amazon Global Selling provides to local businesses.

“Amazon Global Selling helps South Korean manufacturers, distributors and brands in selling their products on as many marketplaces as possible,” he said.

He also added that the company helps make sure products are delivered within a day or two, thanks to its 175 operating fulfilment centers.

Exporters, who traditionally ship their products to three or four countries, can now sell them online in 30 to 40 countries on average through the cross-border e-commerce platform, according to Lee.

Another strength of cross-border e-commerce is to allow sellers to get direct, reliable feedback from overseas end users and to respond quickly. Lee said Chinese firm Anker, whose devices are sold on Amazon Marketplace, had grown into a top-selling company by handling vast amounts of online reviews within a day.

Further touching on the impact of COVID-19, Lee said the offline retail industry in the US, for instance, is projected to suffer a double-digit drop while e-commerce could grow by 18 to 20 percent, citing data from Nielsen.

While South Korea may have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic better than Europe and the US so far, Lee believes the impact of the pandemic on how people shop will linger.

“Though there are people who might shop online only, there aren’t people who only shop offline, especially in Korea where the paradigm shift has taken place,” he said.

When broken down by age, Lee said that over half of new shoppers in recent months have been over 50, as their younger counterparts are no strangers to online shopping.

When it comes to online shopping categories, food has come out on top amid the pandemic, though electronics have also enjoyed growth in sales.

Lee explained the recent online food shopping boom is thanks in part to Korea’s sufficient cold chain infrastructure as well as the pandemic, which ended up attracting older users and overcoming concerns that not many shoppers would buy food online.

Highlighting the future of direct exports through platforms such as Amazon, Lee said, “The strength of direct online export is that whether you are a manufacturer, trader or a brand owner, your products directly reach customers.”

In explaining Amazon’s epochal growth and its support for e-commerce by small and big businesses, Lee said Amazon’s success is also evident in the high number of Prime subscribers and its millions of business contacts.

Lee also acknowledged Amazon’s close cooperation with the Korean government and state-run organizations, including the SMEs Ministry, the Trade Ministry, the Korea SMEs and Startups Agency and particularly the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

By Yim Hyun-su (