LINE plans to reel in 3M Singapore users

Mobile chat platform is hoping to generate enough "emotional attachment" with local consumers via "virtual stickers" and social features to differentiate it from competitors such as WhatsApp.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor on

SINGAPORE--Mobile platform LINE is gunning for three million downloads among the local mobile population by positioning itself as a "lifestyle" app, and differentiating from "utility" ones such as WhatsApp.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia Wednesday, Simeon Cho, general manager of LINE business office at NHN Corporation, said it is investing in the city-state because it wants to tap on its high smartphone penetration rate and average revenue per user (ARPU). 

Cho added with regard to competition from other mobile messaging apps such as WhatsApp, he said these are "utility" in nature. LINE, on the other hand, is positioned as a "lifestyle" app as it not only consists of mobile messaging but other features such as games and social networking, he said.

The initial LINE app was developed for users to make calls and send messages over the Web, after the 2011 earthquake in Japan damaged communication systems in the country, he revealed. Since its release in June 2011, however, it has evolved to include these additional features.

There are currently 130 million LINE users worldwide, with Japan topping the list of registered users with 45 million, and Thailand and Taiwan coming in second and third with 17 million and 15 million users, respectively.

The LINE app is available on Apple's iOS, Google's Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Microsoft's Windows Phone operating systems, the company noted.

Eliciting "emotional attachment"

Elaborating on its strategy to attract three million users in terms of downloads, Cho said it will be achieved by investing in the emotional branding of the company's "virtual stickers" and other content. According to the company, there are 4,000 such stickers which are basically animated cartoon emoticons and these can be purchased via LINE's Sticker Shop.

line characters
LINE hopes its virtual stickers will elicit emotional attachment from users (Source: LINE)

Its differentiation lies in users' "emotional attachment" to these characters depicted by the virtual stickers as they each have back story and distinct personalities, he added.

"The stickers are more expressive than the emoticons of mobile messengers. There are two different expressions for 'sad' and 'very sad', unlike the generic 'sad face' emoticon, which many users have grown attached to," he explained.

LINE also plans to collaborate with local content providers to produce items such as a TV commercial and cartoon program revolving around the cartoon characters, Cho said, adding he could not disclose more details at this moment.

The company is also in discussions with entertainment companies to get local celebrities to support the LINE platform, he noted. This strategy had worked in markets such as Japan and South Korea, with many popular artistes and bands promoting the platform to help it gain traction among consumers, he revealed.

LINE will also be working "actively" with domestic telcos, and Cho believes the carriers will be key in helping it increase the number of users. This is similar to the partnership it had with Indonesian telcos in which the latter offered special data packages to use the LINE app, he said.

He declined to reveal which of the three telcos--StarHub, SingTel and M1--will be partnering it though.

"Many telcos are afraid OTT players like us will cannibalize their SMS revenue but the trend is here to stay. Mobile carriers have accepted it and have approached us for discussions on how we can work together," Cho said.

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