Coupang Raises Fee for Popular Membership Program, Igniting Battle Among Rivals | Be Korea-savvy

Coupang Raises Fee for Popular Membership Program, Igniting Battle Among Rivals

Coupang Eats declares 'exemption' of delivery fees (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

Coupang Eats declares ‘exemption’ of delivery fees (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

SEOUL, Apr. 16 (Korea Bizwire) — Coupang, the South Korean e-commerce giant, has significantly increased the monthly fee for its premium Wow Membership service, raising it to 7,890 won 4,990 won.

This bold move has sparked an unexpected “membership war” across the retail industry, as competitors scramble to improve their own loyalty programs to retain customers who may defect from Coupang.

The fee hike comes amid an intense pricing battle with Chinese e-commerce rivals like AliExpress and Temu. Now, the battle lines have extended to a domestic fight for loyal customers among South Korean companies. 

According to industry sources, Gmarket, an e-commerce platform owned by Shinsegae Group, plans to slash the annual fee for its integrated “Shinsegae Universe Club” membership from 30,000 won to just 4,900 won for new members during the month of May.

This 83.7% discount is a promotional offer timed to coincide with the company’s semiannual “Big Smile Day” shopping festival next month. 

Those who sign up during the promotional period will also receive a free one-year extension of their membership, effectively allowing them to enjoy two years of benefits for the discounted 4,900 won fee.

Shinsegae Universe Club, an ambitious online-offline integrated membership program launched by the Shinsegae Group last June, offers shopping rewards across six affiliated companies, including E-mart, Shinsegae Department Store, Shinsegae Duty Free Shop, Starbucks, Gmarket, Auction, and 

Gmarket hopes this promotion will entice some Coupang customers burdened by the fee increase to switch their membership to Gmarket or Auction. 

Naver, a major competitor to Coupang, is also offering a three-month free trial for its “Naver Plus Membership” paid subscription service until May 31, targeting customers who haven’t subscribed within the past six months. Participants can save 14,700 won by not paying the usual 4,900 won monthly fee during the trial period.

Additionally, Naver will provide all members with a daily 3,500 won delivery fee discount coupon for orders over 10,000 won on products tagged with “Naver Arrival Guarantee” until July 15. 

Launched in 2020, Naver Plus Membership offers up to 5% point rewards for shopping, reservations, and travel bookings made through Naver’s services.

Similarly, 11Street is slashing the first-month fee for its Universe Pass All membership, jointly operated with SK Telecom, from 9,900 won to just 1,000 won. 

Coupang’s fee increase has also prompted Kurly, a popular grocery delivery service, to offer a Kurly Members Week promotion from April 22 to 28. During this period, new members can join without paying the first month’s fee of 1,900 won – the lowest among major e-commerce memberships in South Korea.

While existing Wow Members at Coupang won’t face the higher 7,890 won fee until August, new customers have been subject to the increased rate since April 13. The annual cost approaches 100,000 won – a considerable sum.

Online communities have seen backlash from loyal customers who have long supported Coupang, with some threatening to cancel their memberships. 

Industry experts predict the fee hike could impact Coupang’s total membership numbers or monthly active users in the short term. “Consumers have become extremely price-sensitive due to widespread inflation,” noted one e-commerce official. “They may react sensitively to this increase.”

However, others suggest that since many Coupang members are long-term subscribers deeply invested in the platform, the fee increase could bolster revenue while membership cancellations remain minimal over time.

Coupang previously raised fees from 2,900 won to 4,990 won in December 2021, yet membership grew from 9 million to 14 million by the end of 2022.

Ashley Song (

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