Google’s struggle to maintain their position in Korean market is a prime example of foreign corporations unable to penetrate the walls that surround the peninsula. What are Google’s competitors such as Naver and Daum doing differently from Google?
In Korea, Naver occupies 70% of the market share (though it saw a 5% decrease compared to last year). Daum and Nate follow behind with 22% and 6% share respectively. Why do Korean users prefer Naver by so much? Is it because its search algorithm is superior to Google’s?
One of the primary factors is localization strategy. Google is a business with core competency around making search results as accurate as possible; however searching option may not be the only feature that Korean users are looking for. Naver accommodated diverse needs of Korean users and made its site a all-inclusive web portal. Naver successfully marketed its catchphrase “무엇이든지 네이버에게 물어봐”, which translates to “Ask Naver for everything”. Also, Naver’s signature green-bordered rectangular search form is ubiquitous in appearance, let it be on TV commercials, newspapers or other online websites.
Now, what does a web portal like Daum have on Google? Daum is most famous for Agora, all-encompassing forums community where almost all things controversial in Korea get started. Agora is Korea’s largest discussion board and it’s not uncommon for most news sources to refer to “from Agora, Daum”. Whether it is social to political issues, if it’s hot, it’s being discussed by the masses at Agora. Agora is leveraged by Daum to anchor its brand value to Korea’s largest and fastest source as the major social issue generator and arouser of public opinion to maintain their position in the market.
Daum doesn’t stop here. Daum was quick to introduce internet map service, not totally dissimilar to Google Maps. Daum’s effort to expand their business domain from online portal to mobile multimedia service provider. “Life on Daum” is their new slogan, and fittingly, the company provides multimedia services in networked interactive displays such as Media Poles in Gangnam main street and Digital View, new interactive display system installed in subway stations in Seoul.
So Naver and Daum constructed ecosystems where Korean users can reside and perform functions more than simple searches. While Naver and Daum boast online community-centric clubs or café pages, blogs and discussion boards, Google’s functions perceived by Korean users thus far are only limited to searches.
Perhaps to play more significant roles in walled garden of Korea, Google may not be in need of brilliant programmers, but instead a dream team of marketers to localize the search engine, to become something more than a site that people visit to perform quick searches.