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3D avatars

Avatar app Zepeto becomes playground for MZers

By Mar 04, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

K-pop girl group Blackpink avatars created by Zepeto
K-pop girl group Blackpink avatars created by Zepeto


The Blackpink House is a bucket list destination for fans of the K-pop girl group Blackpink. The house is decorated with images of the group, currently the second most-subscribed artist on YouTube. Fans can take photos in the house and even dance along to their favorite Blackpink tune. The house has received over 9.9 million visitors since its reveal in July 2020.

The catch? It isn’t an actual house, but a virtual space created by South Korea-based 3D avatar app service Zepeto.

“Avatars resemble users at their finest, and the avatar space is no different from the real world. It offers the same level of entertainment and freedom, which attracts the global MZ generation,” said Kim Dae-wook, the chief executive of Naver Z Corp., in an interview with The Korea Economic Daily on Mar. 3.

On Zepeto, users can create 3D avatars that are the spitting image of themselves. Users can customize their doppelgangers' appearance and doctor them in real photos or place them in a virtual space using augmented reality (AR) technology.

The app also offers a social network service (SNS) feature, allowing users to interact via text, voice messaging and emoticons. The app was developed using Naver’s cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D, AR and cloud services.

Naver Z Co-Chief Executive Kim Dae-wook discusses Zepeto at the Panggyo office on Mar. 3.
Naver Z Co-Chief Executive Kim Dae-wook discusses Zepeto at the Panggyo office on Mar. 3.

Following its launch in August 2018, Zepeto became the most downloaded app in the US, China and UK without any special marketing promotions. Recently the app reached over 200 million users, of which 90% are from abroad and 80% are teenagers.

With the exception of games and camera apps, Zepeto holds the record of acquiring the most number of global users as a Korean service.

POPULAR BRANDS TAP ZEPETO FOR PARTNERSHIPS

The throng of MZers has nudged global companies to seek out a partnership with the Korean app to experiment with a fresh marketing approach. Recently Zepeto partnered with luxury brand Gucci to create a Gucci Villa showcasing its newest products. The virtual landmark has pulled in over 1.3 million visitors since its release in February.

Gucci partnered with Zepeto to showcase its latest collection.
Gucci partnered with Zepeto to showcase its latest collection.

Gucci isn't the first fashion brand to team up with Zepeto. In 2018, the 3D avatar app collaborated with Nike to roll out virtual sneakers for the avatars. It sold over 5 million pairs.

The entertainment industry has also reached out to Zepeto. Last year, Korea’s leading K-pop labels – Big Hit Entertainment Co., YG Entertainment Co. and JYP Entertainment Inc. – invested a combined 17 billion won ($15 million) into the company. 

USERS HELP BUILD THE ZEPETO UNIVERSE

Zepeto’s success can be attributed to a corporate culture that is not afraid of failure, CEO Kim says.

The company used to create two to three new services weekly. If user response was lukewarm or unsatisfying, then the services would be scrapped immediately.

"The process helped build the framework for Zepeto,” Kim said.

Another factor behind the company's growth was its quick service improvements and updates. Zepeto carried out updates for new features or fresh content three to four times a week, during which they came up with a tool that allowed users to self-create content.

The new feature has become a huge success. Currently, there are around 500,000 users who sell self-made content, such as avatar fashion items and clothing. One user even pocketed 3 million won ($2,665) in one month.

The Zepeto universe thrives thanks to active user participation.
The Zepeto universe thrives thanks to active user participation.


Zepeto’s universe continues to expand via active user engagement. A drama created on the 3D avatar app became a hit on YouTube, and famous Zepeto users have set up their own labels. Even the US game engine developer Unity hosted parts of its developer conference Unite Seoul 2020 on Zepeto last December.

Moving forward, the company plans to further expand Zepeto's turf by adding virtual reality (VR) content.


Write to Joo-wan Kim and Min-ki Koo at kjwan@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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