I am writing this blog at Starbucks in Seoul, South Korea, after having visited various grocers here.
There have been several North American and European retailers that have attempted to enter into the Korean market, such as Carrefour and Walmart.
Both retailers ended up leaving the South Korean market due to lack of profitability and confidence in adapting to the local market.
I also feel that unsuccessful foreign retailers have lacked an understanding of how the retail floor operation works in Korea.
South Korean grocers do very aggressive in-store sampling. Customers can find a sampling station at every end-cap and ready-to-eat food section.
When it comes to the actual people running the sampling, they are not passive but often aggressively engaging with customers beyond merely offering a taste of the products on hand.
For example, these samplers will run quick games, enabling customers to win free products all the while dancing or singing to grab customers’ attention.
This is all part of South Korean grocers wanting to offer “retail-entertainment” to their customers while promoting their products and driving in-store traffic.
This retail-tainment concept has long existed in Korea even before big-boxes arrived. The country has one of the world’s strongest and most vibrant outdoor street market cultures.
In order to compete with other vendors, businesses would have to engage customers by shouting and singing out their offers to encourage customers to try their products.
We’re seeing more of these outdoor markets and festivals in Toronto like Taste of Asia, Taste of Lawrence and T&T Night Market.
It’s only a matter of time before we see more retail-tainment making its way into Canadian grocers.