Stores pander to Chinese bloggers

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Stores pander to Chinese bloggers

Korean retail conglomerates are coming up with new ways to attract young Chinese shoppers, who are emerging as the new VIPs on the local retail scene.

Retail giants like Lotte and Shinsegae are inviting celebrity Chinese bloggers and fashion personalities to Korea, offering them everything from money for shopping to free VIP treatment at five-star hotels during their stay.

It is part of a viral marketing strategy aimed at raising the companies’ Internet profile in China as a way to attract the Balinghou, or the generation of young and urbane Chinese born between 1980 and 1989.

The Balinghou, also referred to as China’s Generation Y, is characterized by computer savviness and consumerism. As children of China’s one-child policy, they are used to being pampered while growing up in China’s ever-growing prosperity.

They are big spenders too.

At Shinsegae, 50 percent year-on-year growth in spending by Chinese shoppers during a holiday season early this month was driven by Chinese in their 20s and 30s.

Their spending accounted for nearly 40 percent of total sales by Chinese shoppers during the period, according to Shinsegae. Just a year ago, their spending accounted for around 20 percent.

Knowing well that the Balinghou Chinese plan their travel itineraries based on information gathered from the Internet, Shinsegae invited influential bloggers from China ­- three power bloggers with two million or more followers and two selected by Shinsegae in an open contest - and offered them free trips to Korea.

The program, “Shinsegae Group Familiarization Tour,” consisted of a series of shopping trips in Seoul and Busan. Guests were chauffeured around by Shinsegae staff to its department stores and high-end brand shops operated by Shinsegae International in Cheongdam-dong, a ritzy neighborhood in southern Seoul.

Guests also received 3 million won in “complimentary shopping subsidies” and stayed at the Westin Chosun Hotel, a five-star hotel operated by Shinsegae.

The three-day package, which cost Shinsegae 10 million won per participant, will deliver results when its guests return home and post stories on their blogs about their time here.

Since Shinsegae set up a Sina Weibo account in 2012 (Weibo is known as the Twitter of China) it has gathered over four million followers. Information on shopping and gift events is regularly posted here and has helped attract Chinese tourists who are looking for hot shopping spots.

“Prior to my trip to Korea, I read about Shinsegae on Weibo and different blogs,” said a female Chinese shopper in her 30s.

She also said she happily spent 12 million won at the department store’s central Seoul branch.

“I decided to come here after learning that the store carried many luxury brands,” she said. “I also liked that there was an art gallery and a Jeff Koons exhibition.”

Lotte, Shinsegae’s archrival and the country’s No. 1 retail group, has also done its share to attract young Chinese shoppers.

The company says it is planning to invite three power bloggers from China - fashion industry people in their 20s to 30s with more than 500,000 followers - and offer them various experiences relevant to Lotte, K-beauty and Hallyu from June 14 to 16.

Lotte’s guests are scheduled to tour the upscale department store Avenueal World Tower, Lotte World Mall and Lotte World, an amusement park, all located in Jamsil.

The shopping complex in southeastern Seoul is already a popular spot for Chinese tourists and it is not hard to see a group of young Chinese women hauling large shopping bags stuffed with goodies.

Lotte is also planning a makeover session titled “How to look like Park Shin-hye,” in which program participants and 50 other Chinese tourists will learn to dress and wear makeup like the famous Korean actress.

During this year’s spring holiday season, Lotte invited three Weibo power bloggers to tour its central Seoul department store, Young Plaza mall and the upscale Avenuel.

“Total view counts of posts made by the bloggers who visited us in the spring have topped 400,000,” said Ku Dong-wook, a manager in charge of global strategies at Lotte Department Store. “We believe this has been much more effective than the typical online advertisement.”

Ku said the company was working to invite more influential bloggers ahead of the summer holiday season in July and August.

BY PARK JUNG-YOUN [park.jungyoun@joongang.co.kr]

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