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Korean retailers turn to content production to lure young consumers

South Korean retailers are increasingly engaging in content creation, breaking the boundaries between media and commerce, as they seek ways to better interact with consumers, industry watchers said Sunday.

According to Lotte Shopping Co., the accumulated views of the web drama "Secret Queen Makers," promoting its duty-free store Lotte Duty Free, has surpassed 100 million views as of Thursday, with 75 million views coming from China alone.

The seven-episode drama, first released on June 4, features Korean celebrities -- including actor Lee Joon-gi, 2PM's Chansung, Super Junior's Lee Teuk, singer Hwang Chi-yeul, EXO's Chanyeol and Sehun, as well as Go Won-hee, who plays the female lead character -- with subtitles provided in English, Chinese and Japanese.

"We will continue to make cultural, tourism content to attract more foreigners to South Korea," said Kim Bo-joon, the head of Lotte Duty Free's marketing division.

This image provided by Lotte Shopping Co. shows a scene from its web drama
This image provided by Lotte Shopping Co. shows a scene from its web drama "Secret Queen Makers," promoting its duty-free store Lotte Duty Free. (Yonhap)

Food and entertainment conglomerate CJ is another company at the forefront of carrying out aggressive content marketing, instead of relying on conventional methods of advertising.

CJ O Shopping Co., the home shopping subsidiary of the business group, has been joining hands with celebrities and social media influencers to create entertainment content in the format of a comedy or talk show.

The announcement by CJ in January to merge its entertainment unit CJ E&M and the home shopping subsidiary to launch CJ ENM -- standing for entertainment and merchandising -- was a landmark move that highlighted where the country's retail industry is heading to, observers said.

"The new company will provide premium contents and differentiated commerce experience to CJ O Shopping's 10 million customers, CJ E&M's 50 million viewers and their 200 million digital followers," CJ O Shopping CEO Heo Min-heoi has said.

In line with the planned launch of CJ ENM next month, the company said it will establish Asia's largest video commerce content production center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The contents will be distributed through CJ's social media channels, which already have a strong fan base in the Southeast Asian market, it said.

In revving up their efforts to engage more with their consumers, the retailers are increasingly collaborating with social media influencers compared to the past when they often resorted to top-tier celebrities.

This image provided by Lotte Home Shopping shows YouTube creator Edmmer. (Yonhap)
This image provided by Lotte Home Shopping shows YouTube creator Edmmer. (Yonhap)

Lotte Home Shopping, for one, invited YouTube creator Edmmer, who is famous for "meokbang" -- where hosts broadcast themselves eating meals, often in large amounts, while interacting with viewers online -- to its studio to sell food products as part of its World Cup marketing.

Experts say the impact of influencers is expected to grow down the road, as the use of smartphones and other means of online communication have fully caught on with local consumers, especially among the younger generation.

"People choose to consume the contents, knowing that the bottom line is to sell something," professor Kim Kyung-ja at Catholic University of Korea said. "What matters for them is how interesting, original or valuable the contents are." (Yonhap)
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