There are a lot of messaging apps out there, so the competition is naturally fierce and no one knows this better than those who live, work, and breathe the industry every day. Among the big players is Japan-based LINE, who has been pushing itself into international markets for quite some time and has seen a large amount of growth as a result.
We had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Jeanie Han, the CEO of LINE USA, to see how LINE plans on continuing its expansion goals against major competitors like WeChat, WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype. The full Q&A follows:
Q: Creativity and content are key parts of LINE’s strategy to become the #1 messaging platform. How has LINE been implementing this strategy in different markets?
A: Feature localization is a huge part of LINE’s global strategy. LINE is looking to market stickers and games through sponsored accounts and partnerships that resonate the most with LINE users in individual cities and communities.
LINE promotes stickers developed by its in-house design team in Tokyo, Japan that has created more than 500 sticker characters. Famous local IP’s, illustrators and brands in each market can get involved and design expressive stickers that reflect their community. Users can also partake in the global sticker marketplace via submitting their unique sticker designs in the LINE Creators Market and then selling them to other LINE users worldwide.
“LINE works to further partner with local game developers around the world to bring social gaming to the next level”
Sticker development works in conjunction with local marketing campaigns, promoting the stickers at different events and partnering with local celebrities to cater to the local users in the market.
With top ranking game titles, LINE works to further partner with local game developers around the world to bring social gaming to the next level. Diverse game offerings and in-app purchases keep LINE users coming back for more fun and competition with their friends in LINE.
Q: What are some of LINE’s plans for the remainder of the year? How do these plans work in the overall strategy?
A: LINE is sponsoring the 5th Annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards, predominantly the most significant precursor to the Emmys. As the official tech partner of the awards, LINE will be joining the “Live from the Red Carpet” show in Beverly Hills, California on June 19th. The national awards show opens up strategic opportunities in the U.S. along with other big partnerships in the media and entertainment industries.
During the Critics’ Choice Red Carpet show, LINE users can engage and interact with the show in new and exciting ways. The application enables users to predict winners and send in live commentary with LINE stickers.
LINE is also partnering with other social media platforms, such as Buzzfeed, to provide more users access to their stickers. Users will be able to experience the dominance of stickers on the LINE application and plug them into daily conversations.
Q: How many games are planned in 2014? Who are some of the developers building these games?
“There are currently 39 game titles associated with LINE and as of June, [with] over 360 million [total] game downloads”
Q: Besides gaming, what other type of content is LINE is working to expand?
A: LINE is nicknamed “the godfather of stickers.” They have over 40,000 stickers all with signature expressions, which embody their “secret sticker sauce”. The stickers are so expressive that users are able to have full conversations without using text. LINE is always looking to come up with innovative ways for how people can use stickers.
LINE is looking to expand on sticker usage and recently rolled out animation stickers to further liven up everyday chats. LINE has also launched a Selfie Sticker app that allows users to turn their selfies into custom stickers that are sent in LINE and can be shared in other social media channels as well.
How is LINE working to increase user engagement?
LINE is constantly innovating and rolling out new updates, including weekly sticker releases to deliver fresh content to their users and a new breed of emojis that can be sent within a text message as usual or individually as a sticker-size. Chatting will never be the same.
“LINE is working on developing more local content with strategic partnerships for games, Official Accounts and more”
Especially with the high user engagement in Asia, LINE is working on developing more local content with strategic partnerships for games, Official Accounts and more to be increasingly relevant to users in other key markets as well including the U.S.
Windows Phone is currently the fastest growing mobile platform in the world. How does LINE plan to capitalize on this growth?
LINE is already available on the Windows Phone and will continue to enhance features and create new services for Android, iPhone, Windows and other smartphone devices that [it] supports.
Please explain how creativity and entertainment is key to tackling the competition for LINE.
LINE is unique in the way it’s an all-in-one app, which places it in a category of its own. Other applications reside within different categories like communication or entertainment.
LINE’s other core features include innovative product differentials that are unique and often localized. For example: LINE just launched a mini-drama in China titled LINE Romance (Editor’s note: video embedded in this article) featuring a famous Korean actor and Chinese actress.
Also, while games make up 60% of total revenue, stickers get an incredible amount of usage. Around 1.8 billion stickers are sent through the application each day.
Another big area in Asia is merchandise. LINE developed a characters product line that offers everything from plush dolls and stationary to t-shirts and coffee mugs.
The wide-ranging merchandise can be found in online/retail and pop-up stores across Asia. LINE hopes to reach the Western shores with its popular products soon to amplify the brand awareness and increase market share of the competitive messaging app space.
The LINE team is constantly brainstorming new ideas to increase user engagement and expand the brand. LINE continues to make a global impact through highly localized focus on individual markets.
Han was quick to point out LINE’s ability to protect its users privacy: “LINE is keen on privacy protection. Other apps controversially share data and personal information, but LINE doesn’t collect user data for monetization and anything users share or exchange will not be kept on the server. LINE continues to invest in enhancing privacy measures to maintain users’ trust and confidence to freely express themselves.”
LINE also tells TruTower that the app currently has “more than 460 million users in 230 countries and regions, supporting 17 different languages” with the goal of hitting the 500 million user mark by the end of this year. Over 10 million of these registered users reside in the United States.