With more than 18 million LINE users in Taiwan, the team behind this popular messaging app has quickly caught on to its potential for e-commerce. As a result, LINE is now becoming an effective tool for traditional e-commerce businesses to connect with their customers.Messaging Apps as a Key Tool to Connecting Traditional E-Commerce and Consumers
Though messaging apps such as LINE have traditionally been viewed as limited to sending texts and stickers, they have now transformed into important portals for users in their everyday lives. People now read popular news, catch up on TV shows, or game with their friends online through the LINE app, and with payment services such as LINE Pay now available through chat, users can even use the app as a payment method in offline retail stores.
It is exactly through this combination of content and services that LINE has been able to continuously grow and attract users, gradually integrating more features with stronger ties to users’ daily lives. LINE also attracts numerous small to mid-size businesses and in turn is starting to become a large scale mobile e-commerce business in its own right.
Jerry Ku, Head of E-Commerce Business for LINE Taiwan, thinks that the gap between traditional e-commerce and consumers can be bridged through messaging apps such as LINE. Consumers can browse for product information and complete purchases right from within the LINE app, and by virtue of the fact that LINE’s foundation is built on messaging, consumers can also directly contact the store through chat to resolve any questions or doubts – potentially resulting in more sales.
With the familiar and intuitive user experience of sending a simple message in a messaging app, this kind of direct communication to the seller has been a key reason these apps are able to break into the e-commerce industry so effectively. Sellers can actively promote products and engage in “close-encounters” with their customers in-app, customers can receive notifications for updates on content that they find interesting, and transactions can be completed within the same app in just a few easy steps.The Key to Future E-commerce Strategies is Creating Engaging Content
When looking at existing e-commerce platforms, Ku believes that there are some advantages to the traditional model such as brand awareness, supply chain partners and logistics. Instead of trying to replace this model entirely, LINE plays more of a part in accelerating business and helping ecommerce companies find opportunities to grow and develop. LINE is also able to strike a more friendly and casual tone when communicating with customers than traditional generalised advertising, and so can be more effective in boosting actual transactions.
According to Ku, the essence of LINE’s e-commerce strategy is to create engaging content to attract consumers. In addition to increasing interaction with online shops, this helps the customer to gain more information through LINE as well. Also, LINE Pay is closely integrated with the loyalty programme LINE Point, which incentivizes repeat purchases using points-based rewards.
From LINE, we can see that e-commerce businesses now need to ensure that a full cycle of interaction is maintained with customers, starting from marketing content all the way to the payment process. The key factors for success here are standout content, convenience of communication and payments, and forming strong ties with online communities.LINE Introduces AI Technology to FamilyMart in Japan
On the subject of embracing new technology, LINE also has plans to continue working to integrate with Artificial Intelligence. For example, in Japan, LINE is partnering with FamilyMart to introduce a new retail model with the AI system Clove. It is clear that LINE will utilize emerging technologies to create new modes of retail, and leverage its own platform to link up online and offline consumption. In the face of unmanned stores being launched by Alibaba and Amazon, Ku says that LINE has no intention of stopping and will continue to branch out into developing new technology, in the hope of shaking up the e-commerce industry with new advancements in modes of retailing.
Even though Taiwan is not as fast when compared to its neighbors such as Japan and China in this field, Ku believes that with such a large number of active smartphone users in Taiwan, there is still great potential for e-commerce businesses to grow in the country.
LINE has so far been very successful in attracting the attention of Taiwanese consumers with a wide range of services and cohesive user experience, and is now pioneering the use of messaging apps to transform e-commerce in Taiwan, Ku concluded.