Few days ago, messaging app LINE released an update to its Android app. It was announced on its Philippine LINE’s Facebook page, and managed to attract comments ranging from English speaking users to the native Filipino.
It feels much closer to read the message on the Facebook page rather than reading it on other websites or on from any of LINE’s global Facebook accounts.
Vulcan Post spoke exclusively with Greg Kim, LINE’s Head of Operations in the Philippines, on the opportunities the mobile app company see in this market.
It is public knowledge that the company has established operations on the ground in the country. The popular LINE commercials you kept seeing on YouTube are not just for Japan, Singapore, Thailand, or elsewhere, but there are also some commercials in the Philippines as well. With LINE gearing up its activities in the Philippines, Greg Kim told Vulcan Post that the growing size of the country’s mobile phone industry makes it an ideal market for LINE.
However, Greg saw more opportunities beyond that, specifically, he mentioned two important Filipino traits which makes the country really interesting.
“As the world’s text-messaging capital, the Philippines has very friendly and expressive nature. And because of that, LINE is an ideal communication tool for Filipinos. LINE’s fun stickers also enable the users, who are known to freely express their feelings, to accurately illustrate and visualize their emotions.”
A Multitude of Opportunities – LINE to focus on growth rather than revenue first
As a global platform with over 350 million users, LINE claims that the Philippines is a key market for global growth because of two things: high smartphone penetration accompanied with huge potential market growth. The company declines to disclose any figures for the Philippines but mentions that LINE users is constantly increasing in the country.
While the increasing number of users means that there really is a big opportunity in the Philippine market, to make it sustainable, the e-commerce side of the business must also be targeted for growth. This presents a challenge to LINE, as majority of Filipinos are not yet comfortable in doing money transactions using their mobile phones. This affects LINE’s revenue, particularly with premium stickers. However, it looks to me that LINE is not worried about it at the moment.
“Currently, our main goal is to further expand LINE’s user base in the Philippines, rather than focusing on the sales. We are continuously developing our features and services to offer more enhanced mobile experience to the users, and establish more engaging relationship with Filipino users through localized content,” Greg told Vulcan Post.
It is natural that I would inquire about the premium stickers. My girlfriend loves them, but we are hesitant to do any transactions with our phones. Will LINE add new payment methods? One example which I thought of was to convert the phone’s mobile credits as payment for the stickers. Though not entirely similar, Greg mentions that they started doing this in other countries.
“LINE is exactly doing that in other markets such as Thailand and Indonesia. We launched a web-based store which allows users to purchase LINE’s value-added feature from the convenience of web browsers on the computers or smartphones, instead of in-app purchases. Though we don’t have immediate plans for that yet for the Philippines, it is definitely an option we can consider in Philippine market in the future. “
The Typhoon Efforts, A Shared Past
When Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the country, a lot of organizations around the world made an effort to help. LINE is one of them. That is not just because they need to help, but rather because of a certain connection that rests upon LINE’s humble beginnings – the very foundation as to why the company was founded in the first place.
“As many already know, LINE was originally created as an alternative communication tool during the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake in 2011. Therefore, we share deep empathy for the victims in the Philippines and hope LINE can afford great consolation.”
Greg added on further, that “LINE’s initiative to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan through the Pray for the Philippines campaign was indeed a great success. Thanks to lots of loving hands from LINE users around the world, we were able to collect significant amount of fund (JPY 58,773,190). With the assistance of the Japanese Red Cross, the relief money was transferred to the Philippine Red Cross Society on January 10. The donated funds will be used in the relief and reconstruction efforts for the typhoon victim.”
More Local Initiatives in the country
Most marketing executives would agree to this: to be able to really be successful in the Philippines, you must tailor your offering to the market. That is the reason why the fast food chain Jollibee is more successful in the Philippines than the American McDonald’s.
With that in mind, LINE is actively focusing on their localization effort to help their local users connect better with the brand. The local connection does not just end with TV commercials.
“In the Philippines, LINE has been introducing various localized features and services to become closer to local users. We launched collaborative marketing campaigns with many of local brands including SMART Communications, Bench, Jollibee, MCA Music, Mega World and Inquirer Group. Additionally, LINE is preparing partnership with Samsung to bring more advanced and convenient service to Filipino users. Plus, the app’s endorsers and partner brands have setup LINE Official Accounts. Subscribing to those LINE OA grants users exclusive access to news, updates, and special offers.”
“LINE is continuously seeking every opportunity to offer locally tailored service to the Filipinos. We plan to keep rolling out more enhanced and localized contents for users to enjoy.”
Indeed many Filipinos are fans of LINE’s wide array of characters as well as its stickers.
Greg mentions that they are aware of that, so much that I inquired if Manila will be hosting a LINE Convention as well. In case you didn’t know, LINE hosted a theme park convention in Taipei. It was a great success with over 20,000 people interacting with LINE booths and characters in just 2 days. However it looks like our country has to wait for that in the future:
“We are aware that many Filipinos are great fan of LINE and its characters. Even though we do not have concrete plan for a theme park in the Philippines currently, but it is surely a possibility we can consider for the future.“
So what are some of LINE’s Future Plans in Philippine?
Locally, and probably around the world, LINE’s ultimate goal is to create a mobile ecosystem centered around it. In the Philippines, LINE has partnered with local telcos, which gave rise to SMART’s ALL-DAY LINE plan. Currently, the company is planning more partnerships with the leading local brands and content providers to make the app experience more streamlined and locally-tailored.
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