May 18, 2016 12:25
Naver's popular mobile messaging app Line has evolved from a local to a global business platform, often by adapting to foreign markets and offering content like emojis tailored specifically to them.
Some of the content then proves so successful that it is being exported back to the countries of origin, Korea and Japan.
Unlike Kakao Talk, the No. 1 messaging app in Korea but no great shakes abroad, Line has grown mainly overseas. As of the end of March, the total number of Line users stood at 218.4 million, No. 3 globally after WhatsApp, now owned by Facebook (900 million users) and Tencent's WeChat (500 million users).
Line is No. 1 in Japan (68 million users) and Thailand (33 million) and growing quickly in the U.S. (25 million) and Spain (18 million). In Thailand, more than 80 percent of an estimated 40 million smartphone users use Line, and it has become an overseas base to expand into other foreign markets.
Line has already established itself as a significant business platform. Dunkin' Donuts in Thailand, for instance, started distributing coupons via Line, giving out a free box of doughnuts for every box purchased and generated more than 14 million baht (around W457.1 million) in just eight days.
Around 250 businesses in Thailand use Line to market their products, and some 100,000 Thai entrepreneurs sell their characters and emojis on Line's "Creators Market."
Line lets its overseas subsidiaries handle the development of new services from the planning stage, unlike behemoths like Google that insist on running everything out of headquarters.
For example, the new Line Man app was developed by the company's Thai subsidiary to let customers order food from the ubiquitous street food stalls there. Line Man connects hungry customers with delivery helpers who order and pick up food from street stalls that do not make their own deliveries.
Now Naver plans to expand the service to Korea and other countries where home delivery is popular. Naver's Taiwanese subsidiary recently set up a team that works on new apps, and the company's Indonesian subsidiary developed a popular app that hails motorcycles.
The strategy seems to pay off. Last year Naver made W1.74 trillion in revenues overseas, accounting for one-third of its total sales. Over the last five years, domestic sales rose 20 percent while overseas revenues grew 2.3 times.
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