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Korea’s Google: Flagship store for emoticons

Seoul | Emoticons bring emotion to digital communication. Kakao, South Korea’s answer to Google, goes one step further. Various stores around town offer merchandise dedicated to the cute emoticons from the company’s own social media platforms. invidis tested the omnichannel experience and the balancing act between online and offline.

It’s the weekend in the 25 million metropolis of Seoul, the shopping streets are packed with mostly Covid-masked people. The main street of Gangnam, the eponymous district of Seoul, is especially packed as is a special store: Kakao Friends. Kakao is often referred to as the Google of Korea similar to WeChat in China or Yandex in Russia. In the West, successful competitors to Google, Meta (Facebook, Instagram), Twitter and Co. are few and far between.

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Kakao platforms are not limited to South Korea, but they are also available in Japan and other Asian markets. Last year, the internet company achieved sales of around 5 billion euros, making it the largest digital company in Korea. The Korean company with the highest sales is Samsung with 270 billion euros in sales in 2021.

Omni-channel Customer Experience

Kakao operates dedicated Kakao Friends flagship stores in Gangnam and other areas of Seoul. The stores are extremely popular with Seoul’s youth and are fully stacked with merchandise. Complementing cuddle animals, T-shirts and Mugs – Kakao integrated many digital touchpoints to enhance the shopping experience and the engagement with Kakao’s characters.

A large LED in the entrance area welcomes visitors, and of course you can take selfies and AR photos with the popular characters. After mandatory check-in via the Kakao app at the entrance, shoppers can identify themselves, connect to physical touchpoints of Kakao’s dozens of services and are provided with tailored content.

Purchases are picked up in lockers that can be unlocked digitally with the app. Of course, Kakao also offers a café on the top floor to extend dwell-time and increase average spending.