Influencer market as a new opportunity for mothers

Influencer marketing entrenched itself as a cohesive digital marketing in South Korea. ‘Influencer’ in social network service (SNS) now refers to people who have the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of their position, knowledge, or relationship with their followers. Influencer marketing leverages the collaboration between a brand and an existing influencer who has built a large following, with the intent to increase brand reputation and drive sales.


One noteworthy thing in South Korea is that Instagram, especially, plays a main role as an e-commerce platform between influencers as sellers and followers as customers. Small-scale sales which are operated by a single influencer on Instagram are growing up rapidly. Instagram went through the biggest growth of the number of users between 2017 and 2018 in South Korea, and its growth is attributed to the increased use of women in their 20s and 30s. As influencers converge on social media platforms, a new digital market trend has been created among women from in their adolescence to in their 40s. This article would help to demystify this new type of market based on the interview with two Korean Instagram influencers, focusing on its effect on mothers.


@saniel_and_haeng (Hyerin Kim)
- Obtains about 16,000 followers on her Instagram
- Has worked as a apparel merchandiser before childbirth


@withnami (Namhee Ahn)
- Obtains about 172,000 followers on her Instagram
- Has acted in a movie and drama before childbirth

What makes customers buy products through the influencer market?


Hyerin Kim and Namhee Ahn experienced job discontinuation. However, Instagram markets which they own presented them with new opportunities. Selling products on SNS does not cost much to begin. It does not require a high risk due to low fixed investment costs such as rent, labor costs and marketing costs. They sell a limited number of products at discounted prices, which reduces inventory burdens. That’s why it is easier for 20-30s and a woman whose career has stalled by childbirth or childcare to jump into this business.


People do not buy goods and services from the influencer. They buy relations, stories, and magic. Influencers produce contents with narratives, and distribute them directly to their loyal followers on a SNS platform. When asked ‘why do you think your customers buy products through your own market?’, Kim and Ahn all answered that it’s due to the bond of sympathy and trust which is developed between followers and themselves. They build intimacy by communicating with followers by sharing their daily lives as mothers, replying to their comments and chatting through live stream. Their personal experiences with babies make followers sympathize with them.


This sincerity makes influencers more earnest. They devote themselves to choosing products of high quality to sell. Kim said, “my followers know that I have to try out every product I’ve been offered and choose one of them which makes me feel good. Because they trust me and my choice, they buy products on my Instagram.” Ahn said that she chooses products to sell, as if choosing one for her family to use.


What makes the bond more solid depends on the way the influencers interact with their followers. Kim said she communicates with followers like close friends. “As I am sincere about them, my followers also give me a sincere response,” she said. Both influencers sometimes experience some burdens because they have to communicate with followers around the clock. Rapid response is the point that makes customers more comfortable than using other e-commerce. Kim and Ahn always have their smartphones in their hands and spend most of their time responding to their customers.

New opportunity for women after marriage


UN Women says that women on average do three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men, with long-term consequences for their economic security. Globally, women, from 25 to 34 years old, are also 25% more likely than men to live in extreme poverty, which means living on less than US $1.90 a day. The poverty gap between gender gets bigger when people become elders. Poverty, especially, of older women, is more structured than men. It means that it is not a problem that can be solved only by individual efforts. Elderly women are much more likely to fall into poverty than men. Why do women live poorer than men?


There are two different approaches to the issue of poverty for the elderly: female economic activity and wage gap. According to a PwC survey, ‘Women in Work Index 2020’, of 33 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Korea ranked 32nd in the women’s economic activity index and the highest among countries surveyed with an average wage gap of 36 percent between men and women.


Women, who have relied on men’s social activities in the past and have done nothing but unpaid housework inevitably, face extreme poverty as they get older. The wage gap between men and women created by gender discrimination in the labor market appears to be the gap between assets and the national pension, leading to poverty. In this case, if it doesn’t improve socially, it’s the future that women in their 20s and 30s will face.


Entering into the labor market seems much more harsh for mothers. Given the research by Korean Women’s Development Institute, only 36% of South Korean women whose career was discontinued for over a year landed a job again; they might regret quitting their job every day. However, the SNS market has become attractive to mothers because there is no limitation of working space or time. The world’s fastest internet speeds in Korea help any woman with a smartphone to open a market and sell products at a reasonable price. It’s too good to earn their own money while raising a baby. By making profits on the SNS market, Kim and Ahn feel more proud of themselves. Kim explained that she doesn’t need to feel intimidated in front of her husband. Ahn is now feeding her family, as her husband decided to join her business and created a company for scaling.

Importance of economic independence for women


Labor market mechanisms generate the observed wage penalty for motherhood. Work interruptions and subsequent mobility into mother-friendly jobs fully account for mothers’ wage losses. Economic security and autonomy remain elusive for many women, especially in their childbearing years. While, in Korea, young women have made significant gains in education, they continue to face barriers to translating these gains into equal labour market opportunities.


Women’s economic independence is crucial to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women. It will also generate significant economic benefits in the long term. PwC expected that the GDP gains across the OECD could be over US$6 trillion from increasing the female employment rate and fully closing the gender pay gap could

increase total female earnings by US$2 trillion. According to the report by UN Women, women’s voices in political decision-making, in communities, in parliaments and in peace negotiations are essential to support and sustain prosperous and peaceful societies. Women’s rights organizations will transform the world for the better. They are indispensable in bringing women together, amplifying their voices, and mobilizing their collective power to demand accountability and change.


Asia Journal

(Los Angeles Times Advertising Supplement)