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[Interview] The COVID-19 era is transforming offline stores! Meet Byungho Kim from CJ Olive Young


We are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic era. As the center of consumption is shifting from offline to online, brick-and-mortar stores are getting ready to be rebound. Retail stores are no longer a place for selling goods, they are also taking on the role of being logistics hubs that deliver products ordered online to customers faster.

In keeping up with the rapidly changing logistics paradigm spurred by COVID-19, Olive Young has set out to expand the online to offline (O2O) synergy it has achieved by closely connecting the physical store to the online malls. Byungho Kim, the head of the Sales Team 1 (directly run by the HQ) who joined Olive Young as an aspiring intern back in 2005, tells us his story of the transformation of the offline store as a man who witnessed the change first-hand.

A brand new role for the store after COVID-19!

Byungho Kim, Sales Team 1, CJ Olive Young

▶ Byungho Kim, Sales Team 1, CJ Olive Young, delivering innovation at an Olive Young store

Q. You must be busy as today is just a day before the All Young Sale (The interview was conducted on September 1.)

Rather than being busy, I’m checking the weather every day. We’re really concerned about the late monsoon season that is still continuing, so we’re all praying that the rain will only fall late at night or in the early mornings. (laughing) Our hard work should not be in vain because of the weather.

Q. You seem to have prepared a lot for the All Young Sale. What makes this one different from the previous one?

We prepared a wide variety of products and events that will satisfy the customers, like basic skincare products targeting in-between seasons, color cosmetics that go well with the autumn season, and health supplements that are great as gifts for loved ones. We have also expanded the premium brand section and will offer a buy one get one free event for the most sought-after products. In particular, we secured many competitive products for this event, so we have given much thought to how we would like to place and display them in the store. We have also worked hard to ensure that we have enough items in stock.

Byungho Kim, Sales Team 1, CJ Olive Young

Q. What are the main tasks performed by the Sales Team to ensure that the All Young Sale is a success?

The Sales Team is basically a department that executes the strategies formulated by the Sales Headquarters aimed at boosting sales. We analyze and respond to commercial areas and customer data to make sure that they are translated into sales. As for the All Young Sale, we start preparations a month in advance, and for that month, we review the previous event to bolster what went well and strengthen areas that were lacking. Communication is essential to improve the understanding of team members regarding the company’s strategy. In addition, we are also focusing on running supporting the store and its key members to make sure that the All Young Sale is a success.

Q. One of the best offerings by Olive Young is the same-day delivery. With the sharp rise in online shopping due to the pandemic, same-day delivery is Olive Young’s exclusive competitiveness.

Yes, there are people who just can’t resist the convenience of the same-day delivery. (laughs) The service was first introduced in 2018, and the greatest thing about it is the shipping time. We ship the product that a customer has ordered online from the offline store closest to the shipping address, and we have made use of the Olive Young stores nationwide as logistics centers to reduce the delivery time. We had initially promoted a delivery time of within three hours, but customers ended up getting their products in just 40 to 50 minutes, so it’s impossible for them to not fall in love with the service.

Enhanced O2O synergy is the unparalleled competitiveness exclusive to Olive Young!

Once you try the same-day delivery, you can’t live without it!

▶ Once you try the same-day delivery, you can’t live without it!

Q. As you said earlier, Olive Young launched same-day shipping back in 2018. Since it was the first delivery service of its kind that had been attempted in the industry, the company must have gone through a lot of trial and error.

There was a lot to consider from the very beginning, like shipping fees, the smaller number of products compared to the online mall, and inventory discrepancy.

However, success doesn’t come overnight. We tested the service on small scale and gradually over time expanded the region and products while introducing 3!4! Delivery and Midnight Delivery options with which you can select the time slot for receiving the goods for improved customer convenience. We also conducted regular inventory checks in all stores to develop the service, all of which contributed to making the same-day delivery a flagship service offered by Olive Young.

Q. The role of the stores must have changed along the way.

up until we launched same-day shipping, the store was mostly a place for selling goods, but after starting the service, the stores also gained another role, a place where our products are stored. Our biggest strength is the network of our stores across the country. Each store acts as a logistics center in the region, and at the same time, attracts both online and offline customers.

A pick-up station for same-day delivery at Olive Young Ssangmun branch.

▶ A pick-up station for same-day delivery at Olive Young Ssangmun branch.

Q. O2O services like same-day shipping have certainly improved user convenience. What does Olive Young expect to gain from this?

From a sales perspective, an omnichannel has a strong complementary quality. It is encouraging that we have been able to satisfy the demand for online shopping through same-day delivery and have also managed to generate more profit.

These days, we are offering Smart Returns and Same Day Pickup. Smart Returns is a service that allows you to return products you have bought from the online mall, and Same Day Pickup is a service that enables customers to pick up products that they have bought online from the nearest Olive Young store.

All in all, we are making better use of our offline stores for improved convenience for customers, while creating another opportunity to sell something when they pay a visit to the store. This combination is producing great synergy.

Turning the store into an attractive hangout by being mindful of customer needs and following the basics!

Kang speaking with a colleague at the Olive Young Ssangmun branch

▶ Kang speaking with a colleague at the Olive Young Ssangmun branch

Q. People say offline stores are faced with a crisis due to COVID-19. How is the Sales Team bracing themselves for this?

We are working on making the stores more appealing to visitors. People nowadays say that we are in a crisis, but I don’t think that applies to all stores. Stores that lack differentiated features or shops are just less appealing and as a result, are facing a crisis. We are thinking of ways to revamp stores that are affected by the pandemic and are focusing on how we can help customers to shop more comfortably.

Q. What is the most important thing to consider when doing so?

Being mindful of customer needs and following the basics.

I often tell my staff members to be mindful. You need to be mindful of why we are implementing certain strategies at this point. You’ve got to be mindful of customers, products, and marketing to be able to communicate well with stores, be interested in and share good practices to produce synergy.

Everybody knows this, but we need to stick to the basics. Sellers must provide satisfaction to buyers in return for the money they pay. The basics here must be products that make you want to buy them, together with a pleasant environment and good service. Even if a customer has bought a product at Olive Young, there are so many stores out there and they can even opt for the online mall, so it’s important to go back to the basics of a brick-and-mortar store.

Byungho Kim, Sales Team 1, CJ Olive Young

Q. From an intern in 2005 to the head of the Sales Team today, you have witnessed and experienced the change and development of Olive Young. What is the most memorable example of change and development for you?

Back in 2005 when I first joined the company, there were only about 20 or so stores. Olive Young was not in a prominent position at the time, but the strategy to foster the beauty category provided a strong impetus for the growth of the company. We brought in dermo-cosmetic brands that most people could normally only buy through direct purchase from foreign online malls. This allowed us to secure people in the 20s and 30s as our new customer base, thus gaining a foothold for growth. This change also had an effect on our work. Our previous work scope only centered around store operation, such as making orders, inspecting the products ordered, and displaying them on shelves, but service and sales duties like helping customers find the product they need and giving them a brief introduction of the products were also added to the scope. It took time to get used to the new duties, but we adapted to the change and grew together.

The O2O service like same-day delivery was launched in the same context. Olive Young’s transformation into an omnichannel retail business is changing the way we work. If this new approach works, Olive Young will once again take a step forward as the number one omnichannel operator in the health and beauty sector. This is why everyone including myself is watching this shift and the process with fresh eyes and an open mind.

Q. Now that I’ve interviewed you, you seem to have a lot of affection for the store you have built your career in.

Well, I’ve been working here for many years. Haha. It wasn’t easy physically, but I’ve always worked hard every step of the way, and I think that has helped Olive Young thrive. We are still in the middle of a big shift, and I will keep on striving for the growth of not just myself, but also the entire team as the head of Sales.

Kang said that he now has something else to worry about, the survival of the value of the first-hand experience that offline stores provide. But, as always, the differentiated value of the physical store will be valid at all times, and more customers will visit the stores in the future. See for yourself at the All Young Sale that continues until September 8, 2021.