The fanfare generated around the arrival of high-profile CRM vendors to South Korea a year ago has fallen silent.
That is ironic considering that the South Korean telecommunications industry is blasting forward with the world's best communications infrastructure. Also keep in mind that Gartner Group celebrated the burgeoning growth of the greater East Asian CRM markets as recently as April 2001 as having the largest percentage growth in the world with software license revenue growing from $46 million to $118 million a year, excluding Japan.
However, today the word from CRM vendors is not so positive. BroadVision Korea opened a branch in November 2000, for example, but was out by August 2001. Siebel Korea's earnings were similarly lackluster, while a separate B2B office supply marketplace called GTWebKorea--created by Accenture and two in-country partners, Dacom and LG Corp.--has reached only a tenth of its expected volume and laid off 15 of 40 people.
Part of the challenge for CRM in South Korea is that the corporate culture there is not currently conducive to the level of transparency associated with e-business, some industry experts say. This masks the interesting opportunities ahead to leverage the unique technological sophistication of Korea.
The country is a leader in developing broadband networks, and 95 percent of South Korean Web surfers have high-speed access at home, according to Nielsen/NetRatings' Internet media strategies service. "To leverage this, it is essential for marketers to understand and facilitate the use of broadband," says Kim Tae-hyun, marketing and sales director of Nielsen/NetRatings. Broadband surfers visit the Net three times more often than narrowband users, viewing more than four times as many pages, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.
Korean telecom companies are also world leaders when it comes to pioneering code-division multiple access (CDMA)-based and next-generation wireless networks. As a result, e-business in Korea is starting to unfold in new color-screen handsets and innovative wireless services.
Handspring Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., unveiled last September that it is partnering with South Korean wireless network provider LG Telecom to integrate its Visor family of personal digital assistants with that company's wideband CDMA2000-1x network. The devices will provide voice and data communications, browsing and messaging. LG TeleCom is planning to provide customized solutions such as mobile sales force automation, CRM, ERP and field force management. "One of the applications they are working on is a stock-trading capability on a wireless basis for professional traders," says Bill Holtzman, international vice president at Handspring. "Clearly, where LG Telecom is focused as a company is more on the business application as opposed to the broad consumer application."
While it may not rank high in a company's sales margin, it would be a mistake to miss what's going on in South Korea, analysts say. It is in such technologically advanced markets where vanguard applications and services will be found to exploit the faster future, analysts say.