Coupang’s obsessive focus on customer service has helped make it the dominant online retailer in South Korea. More than half of all Koreans have downloaded Coupang’s app. The company is consistently voted the best online retailer by Koreans in their 20s in a survey conducted by Daehak Naeil, a college magazine. Coupang has drawn more than $1.4 billion in venture capital funding, including an investment of $1 billion in 2015 by Softbank, the Japanese conglomerate known for its big bets. At the time, Coupang’s valuation was $5 billion dollars. Other investors include Sequoia Capital and BlackRock.
Eric J. Kim (no relation to Bom Kim), a managing partner with Goodwater Capital, was an early investor in Coupang. He said the conditions in Korea are perfect for companies like Coupang. “Korea is a great market in itself because of its scale and strong GDP and strong economy and its infrastructure.” Eric Kim sees Bom Kim’s singular focus on customers as an essential asset. “They have one of the best e-commerce examples in the world right now. Some of the most interesting internet companies are being built at a global scale in South Korea right now.”
Bom Kim insists he is completely focused on the Korean market. But he concedes that some of the trends driving Coupang could have application elsewhere. He notes that cities around the world are growing or making a comeback, presenting the customer densities that have helped make Coupang so efficient. In Korea 80 percent of orders are placed via a mobile app, 90 percent on weekends. That, too, is a global trend.
“I don’t think it’s just Korean customers who will delight in being able to buy or return something so easily and quickly.”
— By Joel Dreyfuss, special to CNBC.com