[INTERVIEW] E-commerce pioneer Interpark envisages distinguished service

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-07-06 14:30 Updated : 2018-07-06 14:30
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[Courtesy of Interpark]

SEOUL -- Interpark, the pioneer of South Korea's e-commerce and online shopping industry, envisages distinguished and high-quality services like an advanced chatbot to win cut-throat competition in the domestic market which remains saturated and competitive due to a strong push by retail giants.

As price competition is getting fierce, concerns have grown among small and mid-tier online shopping malls over how to survive. Interpark, which started as the country's first online shopping mall in 1996, emphasized not only price but a differentiated service.

Price competition has become the most important factor, but Lee Tae-shin, senior managing director and head of Interpark's shopping division, vowed to take a different path by developing competitiveness in areas where it has strengths and providing high-quality services in areas where other companies do not care.

"As a key element of commerce, we look at three things: price, commodity, and service. While others focused on price, Interpark is trying to balance the three values," Lee said, citing its AI shopping consultant dubbed Talk Butler as an example.

Interpark, which was the first online shopping company to offer chatbot services, has introduced Talk Butler to provide personalized services beyond simple chatbots. Using big data for a speedy answer, it can recommend items or offer deals after analyzing questions and customer needs.

When customers inquire about the lowest price, Talk Butler will gather information and find the cheapest way or sometimes presenting links to other websites.

While other chatbots only give limited answers with stored big data, Talk Butler provides a customized service offer and price comparison, Lee said. "Unlike competitors which provide services only through programs, Talk Butler uses an analog way with its service supplemented by humans."

He said the machine is doing about 40 percent of counseling, with the rest handled by human receptionists. "As people and machines work together, we provide a distinguished service in details such as offering the lowest price or birthday gifts for acquaintances."

Talk Butler, which has expanded its service into a mobile web, is not a platform that focuses only on sales growth but provides the best service to customers, Lee said, defining customer-oriented service as a long-term vision to enhance credibility and become a central platform for information and services.

"Our policy starts with the judgment that consumption is based on the price and search cost of products," he said, adding that providing quick and accurate information is important as consumers spend only 10 percent of their time on settlement and 90 percent on navigating to select products.

To compete for the preoccupancy of South Korea's rapidly growing pet market where customized services are not enough, Interpark is creating apps to provide services and products related to companion animals.

"It's not just about selling pet products but developing customized services for customers who regard animals as family members," Lee said. "For example, if you register the nickname and birthday of your pet, you can get various services like discount coupons on specific days."

Interpark has tried hard to sell products to Chinese customers since it launched a global shopping site in 2014. Now, the company imports a lot of products such as household appliances from China.

"Competition for the top place in the online shopping market is very fierce as there is no dominant company like Amazon yet. It's good for 11STREET to follow the footsteps of the American shopping giant," an SK Telecom official told Aju News.

Top mobile carrier SK Telecom develops technologies related to AI and internet of things (IoT) to create a new paradigm in the country's e-commerce market. SK Planet, the mobile carrier's subsidiary, runs 11STREET.