It is no surprise that Asia, one of the world's largest continents with roughly 4.427 billion people, has it’s own array of emerging messaging apps that are fostering communication across borders. In addition to Facebook and Whatsapp (also owned by Facebook) the area’s burgeoning population has an array of choices almost as diverse as its unique tastes and preferences. This is leading to fierce competition and it isn’t American tech companies that are dominating.
Mainland Chinese unanimously favour WeChat, Tencent’s social messaging masterpiece, it still sees some competition from WhatsApp, a global chatting device owned by Facebook and used by over 600 million users. WeChat allows posts to be seen among a social circle that include commerce and online transactions for virtual shops users can create. Despite it’s wide array of services, in comparison to competitor WhatsApp, the app battles growing data-privacy worries amongst it’s users.
Japan-born Line is nudging its nose into the social scene in Thailand and Indonesia. Introduced to Japan in 2011, it has thrived nationally spearheading “stickers” comparable to emojis, but has yet to land globally as a top messaging application.
Line offers services ranging from entertainment to various social platforms including taxi-hailing, shopping, streaming, and even the ability to make mobile payments. Grabbing onto growth of global connectivity, Line is experimenting in software to broaden its users and social productivity.
With hopes to use cultural differences in Asia as a source of cross border growth, Line has now opened coffee and gift shops in Shanghai and Hong Kong, distancing itself from rivals WeChat and Whatsapp.
The continent's growing interest in social media is changing the digital market. While other apps like WeChat begin redirecting their focus from expansion to on online/offline services, Line plans to take advantage of rapid smartphone adoption in Asia, and abroad.
Line’s chief executive Takeshi Idezawa spoke of Asia’s expected growth to nearly 1.8 billion people within the next four years at a tech startup conference in Hong Kong, and Line plans to aggressively tap the positive demographics.
Appealing to cultural characteristics, Line’s famous “stickers” launched a series of animated characters to commemorate the celebration of Ramadan in Muslim countries, particularly Indonesia.
Stronger advertising efforts and even contests were rolled out to gain users by NHN, Line’s web supporter in the country. Images of cuddly animals participating in the fast were available during the holy month, which allowed users feel a personal connection to the stickers.
It’s safe to say the culturally conscious advertising efforts worked. Line tripled its users in Indonesia, gaining 20 million in just six months in 2014.
Line originated from a collaborative effort between South Korean and Japanese engineers which was supported by NHN, an internet portal operator based in South Korea and has since attempted partnerships with pop stars like Ariana Grande, granting its users access to her exclusive album My Everything.
Despite efforts towards global growth, Line has seemingly flopped across the Pacific. In the U.S. it has yet to gain the popularity of social applications like Facebook Messenger ranked No. 2, on analytics site Appannie.com, and Snapchat, ranking No.6.
Idezawa said that Line will continue to release more services that connect with appliances in people’s homes further enhancing user reliance. Soon enough, applications like Line will be able to tell users when they’re running low on toothpaste, and calculate how many sodas are left in the fridge.