FEATURE: Trending in Pairs: How far has ‘retail tech’ advanced?

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Home shopping and T-commerce companies take advantage of advanced tech in offering unprecedented shopping experience.

After the world’s first experimental cashier-free grocery store Amazon Go opened in the US earlier this year, it did not take long for the trend to land in Korea.

An increasing number of customers are going cashless or even credit card-free, as payment options through palm scanning or via app have become easier at offline shops. But there is also a pronounced trend among Korean customers who enjoy a traditional yet convenient way of purchasing products in comfort: home shopping.

South Korean home shopping companies, which have mostly depended on shopping promotions through TV air waves, are testing the waters with advanced technologies.

More South Korean retailers are starting to leverage data in the use of artificial intelligence. Moving on from allowing customers to simply look for information on goods, place orders, make payments and track their delivery status using their television remote controls, home shopping companies are now striving to offer advanced shopping experience with the use of information and communication technology.

According to data from the TV Home Shopping Association, the size of the TV shopping market grew to 15.8 trillion won ($13.8 billion) in 2017 from 10.6 trillion won in 2013.

Currently, home shopping companies GS Home Shopping, CJ O Shopping, Hyundai Home Shopping and T-commerce companies K Shopping and Shinsegae TV Shopping are the major players in the market.

Shop as if in the store

One of the overarching trends that home shopping companies are starting to adopt is augmented reality technology.

Home shopping and T-commerce companies are in the lead, making use of such technology to strengthen its online shopping experience and make it more realistic.

NS Home Shopping has teamed up with telecom KT to launch a service called AR Market, where a customer can take a 360-degree look at the product on TV as well as through a mobile app.

“We believe that IT development is one of the most important aspects of competitiveness for the shopping service and tried to overcome the limit of online shopping by launching AR Market by using KT’s advanced AR technology,” said Chung Won-deok, head of NS Home Shopping’s mobile operation team.

KT has also said it will add more home shopping companies on the list for collaboration and work on 3D contents by combining VR and AR technologies to set up more realistic T-commerce market.

VR fitting service

Hyundai Home Shopping is working with the China-based company of AR makeup app Meitu, and rolled out a service here in May in the first attempt in the industry.

Online operator TheHyundai.com is applying its AR makeup fitting service to eight cosmetics brand, including Estee Lauder and Shuemura, so online shoppers can test colors of eye shadow, lipsticks and blush with the front-facing camera, the firm said.

The company added such service, which now has over 10,000 users, will become a competitive point amid market trends focused on fast delivery. The service will be applied to 20 more beauty brands.

“What customers want these days is not just a price discount, but an unexpected and interesting shopping experience and service. (Our service) will become a new tool for us to integrate offline distribution and IT to define a new shopping experience,” said Lee Hee-joon, a manager at TheHyundai.com’s e-commerce team.

Hyundai Home Shopping has also unveiled a VR fitting service that allows customers to try fashion items on with a 3D avatar. While the program is on air, a customer can simply click on the menu on the screen and try the items on the avatar.

“It has now become available to try on the product as if a customer is inside the shop while shopping and help them be immersed into the virtual fitting service,” said an official.

Purchase by voice

Voice shopping has made both product ordering and payment easier.

In March, CJ O Shopping introduced a voice payment service where a customer can make a payment by connecting his or device to SK Telecom’s Nugu mobile application.

To shop via voice, some services do not require a separate AI speaker.

Lotte Home Shopping, which also sells its products on its mobile application, has launched a service inside the mobile app that recognizes a customer’s voice to make the order and payment. For example, all one needs to do is to click on the microphone icon inside the app and say, “search air conditioner,” then “put it to the cart.”

Amid fierce competition among online retailers and mobile shopping apps, home shopping and T-commerce will need to make clever use of TV and mobile apps, industry insiders say.

“While mobile apps have become one of the most popular and convenient shopping platforms for customers, the traditional home shopping and T-commerce companies will need to find a breakthrough by actively making use of technologies that can differentiate their platforms,” said an official from CJ O Shopping.

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