Line looks beyond messaging app

Company seeks to become mobile portal

Mr Ariya believes smartphone technology and saturation are reaching a point where no application downloads are required.

Line Thailand has set its sights on transforming the messaging app into a mobile portal as part of efforts to open up new revenue streams from digital advertising and other services.

The company wants to gather all services of everyday life through the use of emerging technologies, such as aiding real-time communication between consumers and businesses.

Line is aiming to shift the processing of all its online transactions conducted in Thailand to the Line Thailand payment system by mid-2017, instead of it being done by the system in Japan.

"We are going beyond a messaging app. We want to become a mobile portal, a gateway to bring communications, digital content and services and commerce to users," said Ariya Banomyong, managing director of Line Thailand, the local operating unit of the Japan-based messaging app.

He said Line believes mobiles will increasingly be at the centre of Thais' daily file.

There are 44 million mobile internet users, 94% of which or around 41 million are Line users. Thais spend an average of 234 minutes per day on their smartphones, of which 70 minutes is spent on Line daily.

Thailand is Line's second-largest market in the world after Japan, where the messaging platform was created.

Mr Ariya said Line Thailand expects its digital ad revenue to grow at least in line with overall industry growth or outpace the industry's annual growth rate of 30% this year.

Digital ad spending accounted for 10% of total media ad spending in Thailand last year.

Mr Ariya said Line is not prioritising increasing its user base, as the chat app market is quite mature. "We aim to increase the number of services integrated in our chat app to draw users into spending more time on Line."

He also said global mobile consumers will increasingly avoid downloading new mobile apps to save smartphones storage capacity.

Mobile users in Asia have an average of 32 mobile apps in their smartphones. Only 3-5 apps downloaded have active usage. There are 2.2 million apps in Apple's App Store and 2.6 million app in Google's PlayStore.

"We are coming to the point where users have no need to download apps," said Mr Ariya.

However, Line's sticker downloads remain popular, with 500 million downloads in 2016.

Mr Ariya said Line TV began to see ad revenue in the last quarter of 2016, after two years of services, with a total 12 million downloads.

The company will add content in sport and beauty segments, apart from series and music, in a drive to boost its user base. "Line TV will be a flagship service for us as Thais watch videos on mobile devices twice as much as the global average," he said.

He added Line Today, fresh news on Line's Timeline page, is expected to make money by June this year.

Line's messaging app can now support chatbot technology for use in group chats with multiple users with no download requirements. "This will allow Line to realise a smoother Line-based contact point with users for services and content," he said.

Line has also brought in beacon management tool, a technology that allows users to manage communications, offers and analyse data at the same time, for the retail industry.

The tool can help retailers bridge online and offline sales.

Last year, online retail sales accounted for 3.8% of total retail sales, which Mr Ariya said indicates there is still huge room to grow.

"Our mobile portal will be a platform for advertisers, publishers, retailers and even tech startups to access their users easily," said Mr Ariya.

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