LINE, the social media super app, is an essential part of life in many Asian countries. With a domestic monthly active user base of over 96 million people in Japan alone (70% of the population), LINE represents a great opportunity for marketers to reach users where they are.
LINE was initially created as an emergency relief app that helped with communication challenges during the Tohoku Earthquake in 2011. It later added features such as free calling and stickers that helped it evolve into a popular app, reaching 10 million downloads within its first six months. Since then, it’s continued to grow in popularity to what it is today. China’s super app, WeChat, can be considered comparable in relative size.
In this guide, we’ll explore LINE in detail, what makes its users tick, and how easy it is to market on LINE. Read on for more.
What is LINE?
LINE is an instant messenger app operated by the LY Corporation. Originally developed as an emergency solution during the Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, the app has evolved into a multifaceted messenger app for everyday use.
Today, LINE is recognized as a “super app,” just like China’s WeChat and South Korea’s KakaoTalk. Its capabilities extend beyond messaging and calls, as LINE has integrated a range of services including communication, entertainment, lifestyle, fintech, and gaming.
Who Uses LINE?
As of March 2023, LINE had a total of 198 million monthly active users (MAU), with primary markets coming from Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia.
The app attracts a large number of younger audiences but also has plenty of older users. Not only do such users utilize the app to stay connected with family, friends, and colleagues, but they can also transfer money, enjoy music, and even consult with healthcare experts via the app.
Besides personal accounts, LINE also introduced the ‘LINE Official Account’ in 2019. This feature is specifically designed for brands and companies, equipping businesses with enhanced features such as sending general information, marketing activities, and special promotions to their customers. Such functions allow businesses to foster a closer connection with their audience on LINE, making it an effective tool for brand communication and customer outreach.
What Do People Use LINE for?
LINE describes itself as “more than just a messenger app.” It has evolved into a comprehensive platform that offers a wide range of features tailored to different user needs. Here’s just a handful of them.
At its core, LINE is a messaging app enabling one-on-one chats and group texts, along with free voice and video calls. It enhances communication with cute stickers and colorful themes. Additionally, its OpenChat feature allows anonymous users to create chat rooms for various purposes, including fan discussions, knowledge sharing, and commerce.
Users can read comics, listen to music, and watch shows on the app:
LINE Manga: Exclusive to Japan, digital comic service allows users to read manga and novels on their phones.
LINE Music: A popular music streaming service offering access to trending song tracks, music videos, and a sing-along feature.
Beyond texting and entertainment, there’s lots of additional life-improving functions to get to know:
LINE News: The app delivers the latest news, catering to user interests, trending topics, and local information. LINE News Digest summarizes key articles selected by the editorial department, while LINE News Select offers personalized topic-based articles.
LINE Baito: a convenient part-time job information service within the app, enabling job searches and applications by filters such as job type, working hours, and location.
LINE Doctor: A telemedicine service offering appointment bookings, virtual consultations, and payments all within the app.
With LINE you can get your e-commerce fix with a variety of features:
LINE SHOPPING: An in-app shopping service just like other e-commerce platforms. Users can compare prices and features as well as receive exclusive offers and deals to get the best product at the best value.
LINE Point Club: A membership program where users earn points for shopping. These points accumulate until the points to be redeemed for future coupons and deals.
LINE Gift: Users can send gifts to their friends through chat. The recipients can choose to receive either as an e-gift, in which they will receive a QR code and redeem the gift in a physical store or as a physical gift, which can be sent straight to their address.
LINE Pay is a convenient mobile payment service that enables seamless fund transfers and transactions. Whether transferring money to your LINE contacts, paying merchants, or making online payments, LINE Pay streamlines the process for users.
For businesses, LINE offers a suite of tools for promotion, including LINE Ads for ad delivery, LINE Official Account for direct customer messaging, and LINE Promotion Stickers for enhancing brand awareness and engaging consumers.
LINE’s gaming ecosystem offers a variety of in-app mini-games, enabling social interaction and friendly competition among users. From casual experiences to collaborative challenges, this part of the app ensures a diverse gaming experience. Regular introductions of new games, often in collaboration with popular franchises, keep the gaming content fresh. LINE also hosts in-app events and tournaments, providing exclusive rewards to boost user engagement and loyalty.
What Do Users Like About LINE?
LINE is popular not just due to its multifunctionality but also because it has become an essential part of daily life for its users. As Data Analyst Wei Chien Chang remarks, “Line seamlessly integrates into our daily lives, offering features like messenger, electronic payments, transportation services, diverse and customizable stickers, a shopping platform, official accounts and public groups for brands, celebrities, and communities, as well as its news platform. With the ability to connect with 90% of Taiwanese people, I appreciate its universal appeal, convenience, and features!”
LINE’s attention to detail in its design is another significant draw that captivates users. The app’s collection of stickers is particularly beloved. Besides featuring official licenses from big names such as Disney and Pixar, LINE allows users to upload sticker creations. This feature adds a personal touch, making communication more expressive and fun. One user shares, “It’s easier to convey my feelings through stickers and other features.” Marmalade Papiko adds on Quora, “People might have varied reasons for liking LINE, but for me, it’s the charm of cute stickers!”
How Does LINE Generate Revenue?
Similar to WeChat in China, LINE has evolved into a comprehensive digital suite. According to its business results, LINE generated around $605 M per quarter in 2022. Of this, $176 M of revenue is generated outside of Japan. Its primary revenue sources come from “advertising, stickers, and game businesses based on messaging.” Let’s break these down.
LINE Ads is a performance-based programmatic advertising model that allows brands to deliver ads on LINE and its related services. The pricing for LINE Ads can be based on CPC, CPM, or on each new friend added. This segment is further split into Account Advertising, consisting of LINE Official Accounts, Sponsored stickers, and LINE points, and Display Advertising, which consists of LINE VOOM (Timeline), Smart Channel, and LINE NEWS.
LINE initially offered LINE Official Accounts only to major corporations and LINE@ for SMEs and retailers, but it integrated these two into LINE Official Accounts in 2019. Today, businesses can choose from three plans (Free, Light, and Standard) based on their budget and messaging needs. Businesses also have the option to upgrade from a Basic ID to a Premium ID with a fee to be more recognizable.
Businesses can also leverage sponsored stickers and mission stickers to broaden their reach, drive engagement, and ultimately increase conversion. There are two promotional sticker plan options: sponsored and direct stickers. Sponsored stickers are more effective but expensive. Direct stickers are a cost-effective solution, but businesses need to promote these stickers on their own instead of in the sticker shop.
LINE has recently revamped its Timeline and transformed it into a video-centric platform known as LINE Voom. Businesses can reach audiences with ads that encourage viewer interaction, such as liking or commenting, to foster higher engagement. These ads will reach all users, even if they haven’t followed the company’s official LINE account, allowing for broader exposure.
LINE NEWS Advertising
Advertisers can place ads in LINE’s news content curation service, which has a substantial base of active users. Businesses can place their ads on media article list pages that are alongside the new product release information and immediate content, ensuring immediate visibility and engagement.
Communication, Content, and others
A significant portion of LINE’s revenues comes from the sale of LINE Stickers, a feature widely popular among users for expressing emotions in chats.
LINE’s gaming business capitalizes on both In-App Purchases (IAP) and In-App Advertising (IAA). Gaming revenue mainly comes from the sale of virtual items like characters, weapons, and in-game currency.
To engage non-paying users, LINE has incorporated rewarded video ads within its games. This approach has successfully improved user retention rates, especially among the non-paying users who are usually acquired through promotional activities.
How to Market on LINE?
Here’s our quickfire list of some of the channels you can market on:
LAP Advertising Positions: LAP currently has five types of advertising positions: Smart Channel, LINE TODAY, LINE VOOM, LINE Wallet, and LINE Point Club.
Smart Channel: This functionality is located above the chat list and offers personalized message broadcasting. Its positioning makes it the most likely placement to reach a vast audience.
LINE TODAY: LINE’s news service partners with nearly 600 content providers to update over 3,000 news items daily. It is a content-driven native advertising position offering an excellent user reading experience. Advertisers can use single images, videos, or carousel formats to display their ads here.
LINE VOOM: LINE’s dynamic wall where users can see content shared by friends or KOLs, attracting users to browse actively. Advertisers can use single images, videos, or carousel formats for their ads. There are two types of ads on LINE VOOM: in-stream ads and image ads. In-stream ads can be displayed on videos longer than 2 minutes, and image ads can be displayed on videos longer than 30 seconds.
LINE Wallet: The app’s mobile payment and shopping portal, including LINE PAY, LINE Shopping, LINE Travel, LINE Hotspots, etc. Advertisers can use images or videos to showcase their ads here.
LINE Point Club: Here, advertisers can offer LINE POINTS tasks for points accumulation and earning activities. Advertisers can use images or videos for their ads or purchase LINE POINTS as a conversion incentive.
LAP (LINE Ads Platform) Creative Lab: LINE has also launched a graphic design tool, Line Creative Lab, specifically for LAP. This online image design platform allows users to upload their images or use provided templates. Users can make creatives in 3 formats: image, animated image, and video. Once users finish making the creatives, they can send these creatives directly to the LINE Ad Manager and start running the ad campaigns on the same LAP account.
Three Advantages of Marketing on LINE
Here are the top three reasons for marketing on the app:
It’s easy to connect: LINE is used by so many people that making LINE Official Accounts is easy, and getting your friends to register their interest is even easier.
Messages are opened immediately: LINE provides push notifications and unread message badges when receiving messages, making it easy to open the app and check messages. According to a 2021 survey by LINE, in terms of the perceived time to receive and view messages from LINE Official Accounts, approximately 20% responded with “view immediately,” over half responded with “view within 3-6 hours,” and about 80% responded with “view on the same day.”
Utilization of diverse marketing functions: As we’ve seen, LINE Official Accounts come with a wide range of marketing features that are ideal for companies and stores. These include rich menus, image and video delivery, point cards, and research functions. Furthermore, by using related services such as “LINE Ads” and “LINE Marketing Tools,” you can enhance customer acquisition, utilize reservation functions, and even utilize CRM functions.
Market on LINE with Nativex
LINE presents opportunities for advertisers eyeing the Japanese market, as well as Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia. However, for a quick and effective start, a little assistance may be what you need.
Nativex offers comprehensive support for those looking to establish a presence on LINE. From getting your account set up and ready for advertising to providing full management of your LINE account, we’re here to help you every step of the way. Our solutions are designed to capture the attention of your target audience on LINE reliably. With us, meet your objectives and explore a new channel for growth today.
Want to learn more about different social media app marketing in China? Take a pick from our “what is” series on Bilibili, Xiaohongshu, Kuaishou, Weibo, and Douyin. You can also keep your eye on the blog for more updates as they happen.