Thursday, November 5, 2009

Korea's Cyworld Shuts Down US Cyworld

I received this notice today from Cyworld:

"Thank you to all members with Cyworld.

Due to Cyworld shuts down US service, US Cyworld will no longer be able to service.
We sincerely apologize for shutting down the service with unavoidable reason.
Before US cyworld close the service, you will continue to access to US cyworld contents but not purchase items. Also, you will not use your acorns.
If you have unused acorns, you will be given a full refund for paid acorns only."

Obviously, they already let go of all U.S. staff since it's written in broken English along with poor spacing, but this also could be reflective of the overall problem of Cyworld's efforts in the U.S. market. They didn't localize their product. Cyworld assumed they could bring their team that was successful in Korea, target the same market and execute in the same manner. It didn't work out.

I'm focused on their early efforts, which I believe was a critical factor for their failure. Cyworld attempted to target the similar demographic in Korea, but for the U.S. market I thought their avatar-based social network was more suited for a younger demographic of junior high and high school students.

It seems that SK's other entities have made similar mistakes in trying to enter the U.S. market. A prime example is their MVNO effort with Earthlink, Helio, where they invested over $400 million. They tried to target Korean Americans by assuming ethnic affinity would drive consumer purchasing habits not quality of service, pricing, or phones. Hopefully, SK, which is one of Korea's largest conglomerates, will learn from these spectacular failures.

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