Could this South Korean ecommerce giant take on Amazon?

Make way for Coupang.


June 30, 2020

You thought getting that Winnie-the-Pooh toothbrush from Amazon in 2 days was fast? Try finding it on your doorstep after ~7 hours.

South Korea’s biggest ecommerce site is called Coupang. It doesn’t have a presence in the US yet, but it’s already besting the ’Zon at its own game.

Last year, Coupang rolled out its Dawn Delivery program with an ambitious promise: Order an item before midnight, and it’ll be out front by 7am.

This month, Coupang made the No. 2 slot on CNBC’s 2020 Disruptor list.

So why the hype?

A quick rundown:

  • More than half of all South Koreans have downloaded Coupang’s app, the company says.
  • 99.3% of orders are delivered in under a day.
  • That’s because the company is warehoused up: 70% of people live just 10 minutes away from a Coupang center.

Coupang, of course, has some advantages that even Amazon doesn’t. South Korea is the perfect home for ecommerce — 80% of residents live in very populous cities and 95% own smartphones.

‘2021’ might be Coupang’s magic number

Sourdough merchants aside, 2020 has not been kind to anyone, Coupang included. One crisis: A cluster of 117 COVID-19 cases were recently linked to a Coupang warehouse.

Like Amazon, Coupang also struggled to manage a cascade of face mask orders, and its usual speeds took a hit.

But 2021 will be a new chapter. That’s the year Korea’s ecommerce market is expected to become the 3rd-largest in the world, behind only China and the US.

Plus: Bloomberg reported in January that Coupang was readying itself for an IPO as soon as next year.

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