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Why LINE Is The Most Popular Messenger App In Japan

Why LINE is the most popular messenger app in Japan

Post Series: LINE

For those not familiar with the Japanese market, LINE is the no.1 messenger app in Japan with over 84 million Japanese users1. There are several reasons behind its success, including its unique animated stickers and other integrated services. Unlike WhatsApp, its Western counterpart, LINE is a super app with advertising opportunities for businesses wanting to promote their product or service in Japan. 

Why is LINE so popular?

LINE is widely used, not only in Japan, but also in Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia with over 165 million MAU worldwide1. It is now considered a super app, but did you know that it first started as a disaster response app during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami? Owned by Korean search engine giant Naver, it developed a communications system for their Japanese staff during the disaster. The result was an app that used internet-based connections and not the usual telecommunications infrastructure destroyed by the earthquake. Later that year, LINE was opened to the public and within 18 months had more than 100 million users2.

Stickers

What makes LINE different from other messenger apps is its famous stickers. As you can imagine, the app gained massive popularity in a nation that loves anime and emojis. Though they have a series of their own LINE character stickers, creators can also share their original stickers for free or sell them for LINE coins, which is a currency used in the app for users to purchase stickers and themes. Animated and sound stickers of famous characters and celebrities are what we believe to be the reason behind LINE’s popularity. Moreover, it’s a great way for companies to promote their brand by making their own brand and character stickers available for free. 

Image: LINE Corp.

Although this app is a fantastic communications tool for messages and video chats, it’s not the only thing LINE is great for. LINE has an array of other features that make them worthy of their super app title. Here are just some of the other main features:

Timeline

Much like other social networks, you can view what your friends are sharing and exchange photos, videos, links, and comment.

LINE Timeline - LINE News

LINE Today

This is the in-app news feed showcasing the latest news, ranging from current events to sports and entertainment.

LINE Pay

Japan, who has traditionally been a cash-based society, now has several cashless payment options in the market. LINE Pay is similar to Paypay (by Yahoo! JAPAN & SoftBank) and R Pay (by Rakuten) as they are all barcode-based. Easily send money to your contacts and connect your account to a credit card or bank account of choice.

LINE Games

What’s a super app without games? Users can play a wide selection of games and make in-app purchases using LINE Coins.

LINE TV

Users can sign up to LINE TV which is an online streaming platform that can be accessed via smartphone, tablet or PC. They have a large inventory of TV series, sports programmes, and more.

LINE Manga

This is a digital comic service that allows users to read manga on their smartphones. It’s Japan’s no.1 manga app and has over 380,000 titles from more than 250 publishers3.

LINE Shopping

Another feature in the LINE app is its ecommerce component. With LINE Shopping, users have access to over 250 retailers and 100 million items that they can easily purchase using LINE Pay within the app.

LINE during the COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus concerns have been addressed in the app to help advise and equip Japanese users with the latest information and support during the ongoing spread of the virus. LINE has a dedicated menu for COVID-19, with quick links to the latest news and tips on how to use LINE during Japan’s state of emergency. LINE Team recommends using app features such as live video for holding virtual events. 

Moreover, the app is offering LINE Health Care which allows users to consult with doctors for free. Those who are self isolating and experiencing health problems related to COVID-19 symptoms or mental wellbeing issues due to social distancing can receive instant professional advice through this new service. In addition, LINE has been working with Japan’s Ministry of Health in conducting regular surveys. 

LINE Users

Here are the demographics of LINE app users in Japan. As you can see, there is an even distribution of users across all age groups. There are slightly more women than men, people in their 50s use LINE the most, and almost half of them are company employees. 

LINE messaging app Japanese user demographics in English

To add to the above, the number of smartphone users who only access the internet via their device is growing according to LINE’s own research.

LINE messaging app - active users device access in Japan

In addition, when comparing smartphone services, a significant 19.1% of the surveyed smartphone users only use LINE. In knowing the above demographics and data on smartphone users in Japan, targeting the Japanese audience via LINE becomes  a great way to reach users you normally would not be able to access via Google or Yahoo! JAPAN. 

LIINE messaging app - services used on smartphones comparison in Japan

Using LINE for business

LINE presents many opportunities for businesses to target smartphone users in Japan. There are two main ways to use LINE for business.

LINE Official Account

This is a service available to businesses that want to create their own account or “profile” in LINE. App users will be able to view posts and interact with Official Accounts much like with their own friends and family on LINE. By sharing content on LINE’s timeline (which has 68 million MAU4), brands are able to stay top of mind with users and provide updates just like on other social media platforms. Another use for an Official Account is customer support. Users can contact brands via LINE’s Official Account chat room where they can receive immediate chatbot responses.

LINE Ads

LINE Ads screen shot - PPC placement - Japanese messaging app

If you are interested in running PPC ads in LINE, you have come to the right section. LINE Ads allow businesses to promote campaigns in image and video format to LINE’s 84 million users. These ads can appear on the timeline, LINE News, LINE Wallet, LINE Manga, LINE Blog, LINE Shopping and more. Furthermore, there are targeting capabilities that make it easy for businesses to reach their desired audience.

At DMFA, we provide businesses account management services on LINE for LINE Official Account and LINE Ads. If you would like to promote your business on LINE, contact our Japanese PPC experts for further information.

1Source: Line Corp. (April 2020) 
2Source: The Next Web (Jan 2013)
3Source: Line Corp. (May 2019)
4Source: Line Corp. (Aug 2019)

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