SnapShop CEO says you can buy an item within 20 seconds

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SnapShop CEO says you can buy an item within 20 seconds


Kim Jin-ha, CEO of SnapShop

In order to save money on foreign goods, Korean consumers are increasingly purchasing items directly from foreign stores online. Foreign businesses, particularly in the United States, are preparing this week for shoppers all over the world who are eagerly awaiting the biggest shopping event of the year, Black Friday, which is coming this week.

Unfortunately, shopping on foreign websites is not easy for some people because most websites don’t provide information in Korean and some payment systems are different from Korean shopping sites. Some customers are concerned that the seller could send fake goods or provide terrible customer service.

Kim Jin-ha saw this as a business opportunity. He soon opened his own business SnapShop ( to help shoppers who are not familiar with English-based online malls.

Business went great and in October, the company was recognized as the most successful venture enterprise by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. SnapShop was also recognized by Google and Qualcomm for its success and its potential to develop into a global company.


When the JoongAng Sunday, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, met the 37-year-old at his office in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, on Nov. 21, he said, “We have just started the business, but the amount of purchasing overseas through our website by Korean customers has been increasing 30 percent every week. I think the biggest secret to our success was that we provide shopping information about items very quickly whenever new products are released in the U.S. market through our website.”

Because SnapShop is directly connected with foreign websites, Korean customers can relax as they browse items at home just like American shoppers, without having to use a dictionary. For instance, Korean customers who like Gap can see newly released items through SnapShop without opening the store’s official website. The company currently provides information on 40,000 items from about 400 different brands.

“We don’t charge any additional payments,” Kim said. “Because our business goal is to give Koreans a chance to buy foreign goods easily and to give companies in the United States a business opportunity to sell products to Koreans, we make profits from B2B [business-to-business] transactions.”

The following are excerpts from the interview with Kim.

Q. There were some services like yours that shopped for customers, but it looks like your company is leading the market. Are there any secrets?

A. We try to provide a service that customers can use very easily. Once you have experienced online shopping, it is a piece of cake to use our service.

It provides so much information about foreign goods and can use many brands’ seasonal catalogues as soon as those companies post them. And because we don’t have any merchandising director to pick particular goods, customers can basically see every newly released item that’s for sale.

How important it is to provide a simple service to customers like yours?

Korean shoppers who buy goods from foreign websites often call themselves “master” or “beginner” shoppers based on their shopping experience, and I think that is so weird because shopping is just the activity of buying something, which is supposed to be very fun and easy. What SnapShop is trying to do that is to make it easy for everyone. More Koreans are trying to buy goods directly from foreign sellers, but I think it is more popular among people who are in their 20s, 30s or 40s. I think more companies like ours will appear.

I think many popular foreign sellers have an existing middleman in Korea. Do sellers recognize the recent trend that many Koreans are trying to save money by using a service like SnapShop?

Well, if more people seek direct purchases, the money that those middlemen would make will decrease for sure and the sellers of course will recognize that it is happening in Korea. They try to deal with it and try to study the Korean market.

How do you earn profit?

For now, we don’t charge any additional payments, meaning that customers don’t have to pay a penny more than what they need to pay for an item. We are satisfied that we are able to provide a service that can save customers money. Customers usually receive their ordered items within a week.

Because we expect SnapShop to be a big channel that many foreign sellers can use to enter the Korean market, we expect to develop a B2B profit-making model soon, and the very first step to accomplish that is to let customers know that they can save their money if they use our service. I want customers to feel like they are shopping on a domestic service even if they are purchasing foreign goods.

Is your payment system easy to use?

It isn’t any harder than those used by many Korean online shopping malls. All we require is an ID and a password. You can buy an item within 20 seconds.

SnapShop is operated by the company Casual Steps, which consists of 10 employees who are mostly in their early 30s. In the small, roughly 33-square-meter (355-square-foot) office in Seocho-dong, the workers were diligently preparing for the upcoming Black Friday shopping day. It may be a small company, but Casual Steps has already opened a branch office in the United States and hired Indian and American employees who have five to 10 years of work experience.

Kim also has experience in the marketing department for the country’s top smartphone manufacturer, Samsung Electronics.

With a promising business model and a hardworking staff, he was able to receive 1.5 billion won ($1.35 million) from investors.

At the end of the interview, Kim explained some dangers that shoppers should be aware of.

“Customers need to take time to look at the website that they are shopping on and they must check whether they provide a reliable delivery system and that they are not selling any fake goods,” he said.

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