South Korea: One of the Online Smart Toys Market Giants


Ranked eleventh among top economies in the world in 2019, according to CEOWorld, South Korea’s economic status is highly regarded internationally. Even more extraordinary performance is that its online retail sales ranked third in the world in 2019. With the B2C online market taking up nearly a quarter of its total retail sales. Estimated reach in the revenues generated by e-commerce in South Korea is 106.7 Billion USD. Such a fast-growing market is a valuable target for ambitious e-commerce retailers. 

Some renown e-commerce players in South Korea include Gmarket and Auction (both under eBay), 11 Street, Coupang, and Interpark. These are all top e-commerce players in South Korea with the largest numbers of unique visitors. In October 2019, Gmarket had peak traffic of 8.2 unique visitors, followed by Auction with about 8.1 million. Coming in third, was 11 Street with 7.37 million unique visitors. In fourth and fifth place, Coupang and Interpark had respectively 5.91 and 5.53 million. Top categories on these e-platforms include clothing, home electronics appliances, communication equipment, computers and peripherals, cosmetics, and household goods. Leading categories by online shopping transaction value in 2018 in South Korea.

Due to the unique circumstances caused by the Corona crisis, the top categories are changing rapidly. Reported by Euromonitor, product categories like grains, cleaning products, toilet paper, and daily supplies have all shown an increase in out of stock items. Expectations in the online sales of certain “at-home” products are about to show a strong performance. For one important sector, the toy sales, the expectations are to grow as well. As more parents in South Korea are taking care of their children at home under these unusual circumstances.

Booming Smart Toys Sales

In 2020, the Toys and Baby segment in South Korea has a 3.8 Billion USD revenue which shows a positive 21.7% year-on-year change compared to 2019. The sector is experiencing continuous growth despite the lowering birth rate in South Korea. Parents are seeing more value in sophisticated toy products – smart toys and becoming more interested in toys in general. Coupang, an Amazon-equivalent in South Korea, opened the largest STEAM featured toy store in 2018, offering more than 390,000 items related to science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. Top brands on Coupang are Play-Doh, Nerf (by Hasbro), and Eduplay (by KUKUTOYS), in order of sales volume.

Seems like international toy brands have been outperforming local brands in South Korea, and the growth of such a trend could be enhanced by the recent growth of the online toy market. In February, online toy sales in South Korea have grown immensely following the work from home trend, growing by 360% compared to the same period last year with sub-categories like educational toys, ball tents, mobile toys, slides, and toy blocks benefiting most from this trend.

In conclusion, the Toys and Baby sector is expected to be promising. As an annual growth rate by 8.3% is expected, leading to a market volume of 5.2 Billion USD by 2024. With that in mind, Icecat together with Cedemo will keep monitoring the market closely and actively develop opportunities to be involved in the e-commerce and toy industry in South Korea.

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