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Naver, Kakao seek to woo consumers with service upgrades

Oct. 9, 2019 - 15:26 By Yeo Jun-suk

South Korean internet giants Naver and Kakao are seeking to attract more subscribers with service upgrades reflecting the rapid changes in online behavior.

The country’s biggest search engine Naver said Tuesday it will overhaul the company’s platform to provide relevant information via social influencers. The “influence search service” is scheduled to be released by December with a trial service for beauty and travel searches. 

Kakao, operator of the country’s top mobile messenger application KakaoTalk, is also planning a user service upgrade. It is planning to introduce its own email service and make it available via its chatting app next month.

“The email service will provide subscribers with great accessibility and various user-friendly services,” Kakao said in a statement.

The companies are attempting to expand their services amid the rising popularity of global online platforms here. YouTube, Instagram and other video and image-based services have been rising in profile here, threatening the dominating status of local technology firms.

According to local market research firm Nasmedia in March, YouTube ranked second in a survey about the most frequently used online search platforms. Instagram ranked fifth in the study released in March.

While Naver topped the list and Kakao’s search engine Daum ranked fourth, the survey seemed to show the need for the internet firms to expand their services beyond document-based search and mobile chatting, industry watchers said.

“When people try to find contents, their decisions rely on who created the contents, whether they fit their taste and how many recommendations they get,” said Kim Seong-un, who leads Naver’s search engine design policy.

With Naver’s new service, when its users search for something, social influencers’ video and image contents would show at the top of the results. The service will start from 200 keywords related to beauty and travel.

Naver also said it would create an influencer ecosystem, where various content providers can share their YouTube videos and Instagram feeds. The creators also can monetize their contents through advertisement, though the company has yet to reveal specific business methods.

“We are going to create an ecosystem in favor of artists,” Naver CEO Han Seong-sook said during a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday. “We will establish a successful business model for the Korean influencers.

For its part, Kakao said its new email service would allow KakaoTalk users to engage more deeply with the chat service for the platform’s various functions. The company has been introducing multiple services via KakaoTalk, including finance and blockchain.

By Yeo Jun-suk (