The Asian messaging market is dominated by LINE and WeChat. Both offer extensive possibilities for businesses to interact with their customers within these messengers.
⅔ of all social apps are messaging focussed such as Facebook, Whatsapp or the Asian pendant named LINE and WeChat. You haven’t heard of those two just yet? Well, we will tell you all about them as they clearly indicate the potential of conversational commerce and the relevance of messaging for business.
In comparison to those messaging apps that we are used to on this side of the world, WeChat or LINE are already part of everyday interaction with businesses. In South East Asia social media is thought of as an enhancement of messaging simply because the desktop versions were left out and they went straight to mobile adaption - Asia is truly mobile first. Thus, businesses have to act and develop with a similarly strong mobile-first focus and have become a natural part of messengers such as LINE.
In its basic functions LINE offers all functionalities that other messengers offer as well: Sending messages, videos or voice recordings or even voice- and videocalls. One differentiator is the vast selection of emojis and stickers. With over 10.000 in total they offer customers an entertaining extra to normal conversations that are highly used by Asian users.
In January 2017 there were over 217 million active monthly users of which ⅔ came from Japan, Taiwan, Thailand or Indonesia. LINE is using artificial intelligence in order to meet different cultural demands and expectations. Their official goal of the korean business is: “To be a smart portal, able to meet all the needs that users face in their daily lives”.
In 2016 they additionally announced their business strategy “to close the distance” and opened up their platform for business usage. Accordingly they provide businesses with the App LINE@ (for web, iOS and Android) that is part of the LINE family that comprehends over 50 apps.
It is build to enable businesses to deliver best customer-business-interaction within LINE. Businesses create a profile in order to start an exchange with potential customers. In the free version they can send up to 1000 messages per month. If they want more, they have to pay - LINE obviously wants to monetize. Additionally businesses can start campagnes and publish news as is also possible on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
The features for business can be separated into two aspects: communication and transaction. The LINE@ app allows them to communicate 1-on-1, in real time with their customers. For the latter, it seems like a normal conversation within their already loved and most used LINE messenger. Businesses can also implement market research and draw relevant information for further analysis.
While interaction plays an important role for businesses with LINE, they can also prepare and fulfill transactions within. LINE@ Shopping takes the right step towards “smart portal”. In Europe, it appears that conversational commerce still has a long way to come, not so in Asia especially with LINE setting the pace.
In basic terms, it means that users can buy products and services in their already existing LINE messenger. Businesses add these with LINE@ Shopping and manage everything from there, they simply pay a service charge of 4.98% per transaction. Users can pay within the messenger and even non-registered users can buy in with LINE accessible shops.
As customers can save and manage coupons and customer cards businesses have the opportunity to set buying incentives. Regional targeting of those in combination with notifications are tools to increase conversions, enabled by LINE.
The main usage of LINE@ however lies - surprisingly enough - in the implementation of stickers. In Asia, these are an important part of brand communication for businesses. On the LINE Creators Market businesses can build branded stickers and emojis. These are then sold to customers and used within the messenger to communicate with friends. Brands that focus on strong recognition can benefit immensely. Even if this is nothing that in Europe seems likely to be a huge success, in Asia, people are loving their branded stickers.
Another aspect that adds to LINEs relevance in the future of commerce is the possibility for web apps with regards to web services. A LINE-Login (similar to Google or Facebook Login) on third party pages enables easy access and quick registering for users - no need to download or sign up for something. Processes for online commerce are simplified while buying barriers are minimized.
After having evaluated the benefits for businesses we will take a look at the users' side. Within the Asian area LINE is one of the most used apps for private, digital communication. The ways of messaging are intuitive for users and same applies to interact with businesses in this learned and used channel of communication, plus it delivers the opportunity to integrate this communication into everyday life the way the user wants to.
Buying processes are made simple, you stay in one channel for communication and there is no need to register or download anything. One common reason for not completing a commerce process is registering for something. You can simply “Login with LINE” and your LINE account is used for registration.
LINE offers a hybrid of messaging app, social network, and commerce platform. By doing so it has created opportunities for businesses to advert and sell their products or services. Opening up commercially is interesting for businesses if there is already an existing number of users on the platform.
In Asia LINE is an omnipresent part of everyday life and consequently extremely interesting for customer-business-interaction. Facebook and Whatsapp are the most dominant players in Europe, most have not even heard from LINE. But Whatsapp and Facebook have realized the potential of opening up for businesses and are either in full progress or taking the first steps.
In conclusion, it can be said that LINE is striving ahead when it comes to conversational commerce. Connecting messaging and transactions in one channel and having one big player successfully doing so clearly highlights the relevance of exploring the opportunities of conversational commerce.