Isabel Han
May 13, 2022

How brands can ride the wave of digital investment in Korea

Brands need to assess how mature their digital resources are and work with partners to ensure their data can provide the necessary insights for marketing strategies, says Media.Monks' analytics director for Korea.

How brands can ride the wave of digital investment in Korea

Ranked top among 2021’s Most Innovative Countries in the World by The Bloomberg Innovation Index, South Korea’s standing has been shaped in part by government investments in digital transformation, with the Digital New Deal initiative serving as the centrepiece to spur further innovation.

With over 63 trillion won (US$51 billion) set aside for this initiative, the Digital New Deal programme is slated to centre on new industries such as digital infrastructure and big data with a focus on Digital Dam, AI and 5G convergence, digital content and cybersecurity. With these accelerations underway, the time is ripe for brands to expedite their own digital transformation efforts and spur growth.

Synergise and collaborate for the greater good

The government, as a long-term growth engine provider, is focused on building infrastructure to solve public needs and issues. This can spur opportunities that brands can tap into to achieve synergies in their own digital transformation investments. For example, government investment in a nationwide 5G network would facilitate OTT (over-the-top) providers in enhancing their services by making it possible to stream videos in remote places such as trains in underground tunnels. Support for AI research and development helps to nurture the pharma industry, enabling better drug planning and development.

However, the private sector may have to work with the government to reach a consensus on using data securely. The Korean government manages citizens’ health and financial information and upholds strict data regulations in these fields. In the case of banks that want to collect and process data to offer personalised services to customers, it is restrictive to upload data in a cloud environment.

Brands will need to help the Korean government understand their needs in data collection and how data can create value for both the business and the commonwealth. In the meantime, they will have to continue working within the regulatory boundaries while launching their own first party data collection activities.

Checking within before goal-setting

Any successful digital transformation journey starts with a self-assessment. Having an in-depth understanding of their digital maturity can help brands pinpoint an appropriate strategy for their digital journey. A self-assessment also prevents duplicate investments being made due to a siloed organisational decision-making structure, addresses customer satisfaction shortcomings and rectifies weak processes and struggles with data that can consequently lead to revenue loss.

Many executives from the client brands that my team has partnered with were inept in digital and data, and had believed that digital transformation was simply an upgrade of their current legacy system to a new platform. Hence, assessing digital maturity with an experienced and trusted partner is highly beneficial. 

For companies nascent in digital maturity, the starting points in assessment would involve activities such as key objective mapping, upskilling the frontline and setting a pace for culture change across the organisation. In the case of an offline shopping outlet, our team provided a digital readiness diagnosis service to check on the company’s digital strategy, digital presence, processes, people, culture and so on. Using questionnaires with diagnosis frameworks, as well as analysing data collection status from its digital channels, we realised that the company had little to no knowledge of how to start its digital transformation initiatives and had invested in technology and tools before its people and processes were ready to use them. One of our recommendations to the client is to invest resources in internal processes and strategy first, before tools and technology, to minimise wastage and frustration due to lack of digital knowledge. By focusing on training its staff from the ground up and building its GA platform, the client team was able to analyse services and customer journeys better.

Brands that are digitally mature typically have the tools and technologies they need already in place, meaning new growth becomes the benchmark they set their focus on. Han Sung Motor, one of the largest Mercedes-Benz Cars dealer groups, wanted to activate its marketing activities with data-driven decisions and automate them using customer behavioural data. We assessed the company’s digital maturity and recommended a revisit to its processes, people and technology based on its new business strategy. We then shaped the whole customer journey with a datastream that synchronises various databases in the company and connects data for future opportunities. This enabled marketing campaigns to be more targeted by providing personalised experiences that kept customers happy and loyal. However, the more important and intrinsic impact for Han Sung Motor is that its staff had embraced the cultural change of pushing for performance and processes that can be measured with data—exactly the digital transformation that was sought after.

Tapping into digital for the future

Like the manufacturing boom in the 20th century, Korea’s digital transformation will expand quickly in the current century. In Korea, managing and improving the quality of data is a challenge for the private sector. It is important to take a step back to assess the digital maturity of internal resources and work with experts who can focus on using data to map valuable business opportunities, increase media efficiency and turn insights into customer-centric products and services.

Working with teams knowledgeable in data infrastructure and management will help accelerate a company’s cultural and organisational change—steering efficiency and customer satisfaction, training frontline staff, and leading to a redesign of workflows and job scopes. This level of change equips brand teams to do their own market research, use data to develop efficient strategies in their marketing approach and tailor solutions to the Korean market—essentially turning generalist sales personnel into niche selling ones that are backed by data.


Isabel Han, Isabel Han is director of account management & analytics at Media.Monks Korea

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