The LINE app is hugely popular across Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, so how can food and drink exporters take advantage of this to drive customer loyalty and sales? Marketing with LINE is easier than you might think with many options for brands to drive engagement.

Table of Contents

What is LINE?

At it’s core, LINE is a freeware messenger app that can be used with most operating systems on phones, tablets and also computers. Like WeChat, LINE is more than just a social messaging service though because it also offers:

  • games
  • music
  • videos
  • VOIP conversations
  • video conferencing
  • digital wallet (LINE pay)
  • taxi ordering
  • shopping referrals and discounts
  • digital comic distribution
  • video on demand
  • food and products delivery service
  • cryptocurrency conversion
  • access to healthcare

The LINE app is operated by the Line Corporation based in Tokyo, which is a subsidiary of the South Korean Naver Corporation, an internet search engine company. It was originally developed as an emergency response after the Tōhoku earthquake (Fukushima), designed to allow contact even when the phone systems were overloaded or down, and has become the most popular messenger app in Japan.

Food and Beverage brands & other companies also have multiple options for marketing with LINE, which means you need to understand how your company could benefit from working with the app.

Understanding the User Base of the LINE App

Demographics and user behaviour

The app is popular across all age groups in the countries where it’s popular. For example in Japan, around 70% of the population are active on there.

Marketing with LINE for food and drink exporters
Source LINE Japan (2020 data)

The significance of Line in the daily lives of South East Asian consumers

If you notice, all of the markets where the LINE app has really gained a massive foothold are high context cultures. That is especially relevant in this case because the app led the way in making stickers a standard feature of social messaging – something which isn’t only fun, but adds additional context to the actual words being used. Stickers also help to give an answer without being confrontational or feeling awkward, not to mention the fact that in 3 of the 4 main markets the alphabets used are complex to write with a keyboard, making stickers a great shortcut.

Users rely on the app to keep in touch with friends and family but also appreciate the way the various elements integrate seamlessly as well as the fact it’s simple to use (ie you can almost run your whole life from within the app). Connection and convenience come together with a high fun factor.

I’ve used LINE for a long time to keep in touch with friends and business partners, however when you visit countries like Thailand, you realise just how much advertising and use of the app there is everywhere. Literally every restaurant had a QR code on the table for their official accounts, some connected with coupon codes or discounts if you signed up.

Marketing with Line for Food and Beverage Exporters

Which Features are most useful for Businesses?

Official Accounts

This is the foundational feature of doing business on any platform.

Businesses and stores can use messaging and other features to communicate and
build mid-to-long-term relationships with users who friend their LINE official
account. It’s interesting that messaging from official accounts has around a 70% open rate on the platform.

In addition to messaging, businesses can use other handy features (e.g. one-on-one
chats, giving out coupons or digital loyalty cards) to attract users to their
website or physical stores.

Promotion Stickers

These can help drive brand loyalty and engagement by featuring the company logo or characters. They are obviously an active kind of ad for the brand and can be used in different ways:

  • added to the sticker shop for anyone to download
  • handed out by your as a brand eg as an incentive for friending the official account or buying certain products
  • but also for completing surveys or linking their LINE ID to your account – this helps with your CRM possibilities
  • you can also issue limited edition stickers

Ads

Of course this is always a feature of any brands’ tool kit, but make sure they are tailored to the way consumers use the platform – don’t just assume you can run exactly the same ads as on other platforms.

You also have the option to place ads via the LINE ads network, which includes external apps and can really extend your reach.

LINE@: a tool that lets businesses and merchants communicate with customers and potential customers

LINE@ presents a remarkable opportunity for businesses, enabling them to connect with millions of regular LINE users. It boasts an array of exciting marketing features, including coupons, keyword replies, points earning systems, polls, broadcasts, and segmented messaging that can target individuals, specific sub-groups, or the wider market.

How Line’s features align with consumer trends in South East Asia

  • Social Commerce: Line’s integration of social media and e-commerce features aligns with the growing trend of social commerce in Southeast Asia. Its “Line Shopping” feature allows users to browse and purchase products directly within the app, making it a convenient and seamless shopping experience.
  • Mobile-First Approach: Line’s focus on mobile-first features caters to the region’s high smartphone penetration and mobile-first internet usage. Its messaging, social media, and payment features are all optimized for mobile devices, making them accessible to a wider audience.
  • Micro-transactions and Digital Payments: Line Pay, the app’s integrated payment system, aligns with the increasing adoption of digital payments and micro-transactions in Southeast Asia. This feature allows users to make small, convenient payments for goods and services within the Line ecosystem.
  • 24/7 Availability: Asian consumers expect instant responses. Use chatbots and live agents to provide real-time support for an exceptional customer experience.
  • Meaningful Journey: Enhance every stage of the customer experience with LINE’s inbound and outbound marketing messages, notifications, and live chat capabilities.
  • Creative Engagement: Utilise engaging formats such as images and videos to make your brand memorable. Let your creativity shine!

Engaging with Consumers through Line

Creating compelling content is a must on any social media channel, but on LINE you also have a few extra features. For example you could create your own stickers – don’t make them too “salesy” with your logos though. They should be nice enough for people to want to share them with friends as well as “friending” your account.

You can find many strategies for personalisation & customer engagement in this blog post, so I won’t repeat them in this section. I’d just like to highlight that LINE lives from it’s playful character so bear that in mind when you’re creating your content.

Case Studies

Here are some specific examples of how Line’s features have been used by businesses to reach consumers in Southeast Asia:

Social Commerce and Brand Engagement:

  • Thai brands like Jaspal and Greyhound use Line’s official accounts and Line@ (business accounts) to showcase their products, run promotions, and engage directly with customers.
  • Indonesian e-commerce platforms like Tokopedia and Bukalapak have integrated Line’s messaging and payment features to streamline the shopping experience for their users.

Interactive Marketing Campaigns:

  • Malaysian brands like Petronas and Maxis have used Line’s stickers, chatbots, and mini-games to run interactive marketing campaigns that increase brand awareness and customer engagement.
  • Philippine companies like Jollibee and Smart Communications utilize Line’s broadcast features to send personalized updates, offers, and content to their followers.

Customer Service and Loyalty Programs:

  • Singapore-based companies like DBS Bank and Grab have leveraged Line’s chat functionalities to provide efficient customer support and allow users to access their services directly within the app.
  • Thai retailers like Central and Robinson Department Stores have integrated Line’s digital loyalty programs, allowing customers to earn and redeem points through the app.

Offline-to-Online Integrations:

  • In Indonesia, brands like Unilever and Telkomsel have used Line’s QR code features to connect their offline marketing campaigns (e.g., product packaging, in-store displays) to their digital brand experiences and e-commerce offerings.
  • Malaysian businesses like Senheng and Senheng Electric have utilized Line’s payment and customer engagement tools to bridge the gap between their physical stores and online presence.

Starbucks

A 2019 academic study looked at the influence of promotion via LINE Messenger on the attitude of the Starbucks’ LINE official account followers in Indonesia. You can read the full study here. It was found that sharing “persuasive messages” between 7 & 8am, especially via chat rooms had a positive effect on the attitudes of the official account followers.

There is a
promotional influence on LINE messenger towards
attitudes of Starbucks’ LINE followers with a healthy
relationship level of 55,8%, while 44,2% is influenced
by other variables not explained in the research.

LINE study (Starbucks, Indonesia)

L’Occitane in Japan in 2020

The brand introduced digital membership cards which allowed them to collect data and use this for more accurate targeting and promotions, by using their CRM capabilities. (This membership is also integrated into offline stores). What I really like about this use case is that they did really detailed customer segmenting – integrated across ALL their social media platforms – to reduce the burden on users of being constantly bombarded with content and offers. This resulted in less frustration for users and enabled the brand to increase their return on ad spend by 3000%! It also allowed L’Occitane to offset their in-store sales losses with online sales during the pandemic.

These examples showcase how Line’s versatile features have enabled businesses across Southeast Asia to reach and engage with their target consumers more effectively, leveraging the app’s widespread popularity and broad functionalities.

Integrating Line with Other Digital Strategies

To effectively integrate LINE marketing with other digital strategies for food and beverage exporters, a comprehensive approach is essential to really leverage your budgets. After all, none of us have unlimited financial resources available in our export markets.

Unified Content Strategy

Ensure that messaging on LINE is consistent with other channels such as social media, email marketing, and the website. You need consistency to reinforce your branding message. This sounds really obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many companies outsource the “new” social channels without properly coordinating the output.

Promote LINE-exclusive content and offers on other platforms to encourage followers to join your LINE Official Account. Cross promotion can really act as a multiplier for your engagement.

Data Integration and Analytics

Use LINE BCRM to integrate customer data from LINE with your existing CRM systems (e.g., Salesforce, HubSpot). Data is the new oil as the saying goes, and your marketing decisions should be driven by data.

Leverage tools like Google Analytics and the LINE Official Account Manager to track and analyse user behaviour across different platforms, ensuring a seamless understanding of customer interactions. It’s worth taking the time to build a dashboard for this kind of unified analytics – you want to be in a position to spend time analysing the data not compiling it, so automate as much as possible.

Omnichannel Campaigns

Launch coordinated campaigns across LINE, social media, and email, using a central theme or promotion. For example, announce a new product launch via email and LINE simultaneously.

Use the insights from LINE interactions to retarget users with personalised ads on other digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads. Remember that the importance of those social platforms varies across the markets, so you need to adjust your platform split for each market accordingly. For example, LINE has around 5x more users in Japan than Facebook does…

Content Personalisation

It should go without saying, but utilise LINE’s segmentation features to send personalised messages based on user preferences and behaviours.

Create dynamic, media rich content that adapts based on user interactions, enhancing engagement and conversion rates. LINE lives from highly visual content so make sure you use all the tools at your disposal to reach your target audience.

Interactive Engagement

Implement AI-powered chatbots on LINE to provide instant customer support and personalised recommendations. Having a customer service team locally (with your importer) is a must anyway in East & South East Asia where consumers are used to receiving instant feedback pretty much 24/7, but certainly technology can help with some of the simpler questions.

Use LINE’s survey features to gather customer feedback and insights, integrating this data into your broader marketing strategy. We’re back to “data is the new oil”…

Exclusive Offers and Loyalty Programs

Offering special discounts and promotions exclusively for your LINE followers will incentivise sign-ups and engagement. You can then integrate your existing loyalty programme with LINE, allowing users to check points, redeem rewards, and receive updates directly through the app.

Collaborations and Partnerships

This one is a biggie in Asia. Partnering with local influencers who are popular on LINE can help you reach a wider audience and build trust.

Collaborate with complementary brands to run joint promotions and events on LINE, leveraging each other’s audience. This kind of cross-branding promotion can really expand your reach.

Measuring Success on the Line App

When it comes to marketing with LINE, food and drink exporters must focus on several key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure their efforts yield tangible results. Here are the most important KPIs to consider:

  1. User Engagement: High engagement indicates that your content resonates with your audience, leading to better brand loyalty and higher conversion rates.
  2. Growth of Follower Base: A growing follower base means your reach is expanding, which can lead to increased sales and brand awareness.
  3. Click-Through Rate (CTR): A high CTR on your LINE messages indicates that your calls-to-action (CTAs) are compelling and relevant to your audience.
  4. Conversion Rate: Ultimately, the goal is to convert followers into paying customers. Tracking conversion rates helps measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.
  5. Customer Retention Rate: Retaining customers is more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. A high retention rate indicates satisfied customers who are likely to make repeat purchases.
  6. Customer Feedback and Satisfaction: Understanding customer satisfaction and addressing feedback promptly can improve your product and service offerings, leading to better customer retention.
  7. Return on Investment (ROI): This is perhaps the one that brands most often neglect to properly calculate. Ensures that the resources allocated to marketing via LINE are generating profitable returns.

Practical Applications

To effectively measure and analyse these KPIs, food and drink exporters should leverage a combination of LINE’s built-in analytics tools and external platforms like Google Analytics and CRM systems as well as the LINE BCRM if possible (it’s not cheap). Integration between these tools ensures a holistic view of your marketing efforts and allows for data-driven decision-making.

LINE Official Account Manager:

  • Provides metrics on message read rates, number of interactions, and engagement with rich messages (e.g., surveys, coupons).
  • Can offer data on direct sales from promotions run on LINE.
  • Can provide insights into repeat engagement and interaction patterns.
  • Can provide data on coupon redemptions and other direct conversions.
  • Monitors clicks on links within your messages.
  • Tracks the number of new followers, unfollows, and overall growth trends.

LINE Analytics:

  • Offers insights into user behaviour, including which content formats (text, video, images) are most engaging.

Google Analytics (I’ve used Google as an example, not as an endorsement, of course there are other analytics tools available, but this is the one most widely recognised in it’s function):

  • When integrated with LINE, it can provide detailed tracking of traffic sources and follower growth patterns.
  • Tracks CTR for links leading to your website or online store.
  • Essential for tracking conversions such as purchases, sign-ups, or downloads that originated from LINE.
  • Provides comprehensive data on revenue generated from LINE campaigns.
  • Essential for tracking conversions such as purchases, sign-ups, or downloads that originated from LINE.

CRM Systems (e.g., Salesforce, HubSpot):

  • When integrated with LINE, these can track customer interactions and retention.
  • Don’t underestimate LINE’s own BCRM, even those this may seem expensive to run in parallel to your existing system

LINE Surveys:

  • Direct feedback through surveys can provide valuable insights into customer satisfaction.

Social Listening Tools (e.g., Hootsuite, Brandwatch):

  • These can track mentions and sentiment on LINE and other platforms.

LINE BCRM (Business Connect for Customer Relationship Management)

This is a tool that enhances business communications by integrating CRM functionalities directly within the LINE app. It allows businesses to track customer interactions, send personalised and targeted messages, and analyse engagement data. Features include rich menus, chatbots, personalised surveys, and detailed analytics, making it a comprehensive solution for customer relationship management.

For more details, you can refer to this blog post.

Food and Drink Exporters need to be marketing with LINE if targeting Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan

For food and beverage brands, using LINE marketing offers a powerful channel to engage with customers in Asia. By focusing on key KPIs such as user engagement, follower growth, CTR, conversion rate, customer retention, customer feedback, and ROI, and using the appropriate tools to measure these, exporters can fine-tune their strategies to maximise impact and drive growth.

Incorporating these KPIs into your marketing strategy ensures you are not only reaching a wider audience but also converting them into loyal customers, ultimately boosting your bottom line. By integrating LINE marketing with broader digital strategies, food and beverage exporters can create a cohesive and engaging customer experience. This not only enhances brand visibility but also drives higher engagement and conversions across all digital touchpoints. Using tools like LINE BCRM, CRM systems, and unified analytics platforms ensures that your marketing efforts are data-driven and highly effective.

That all sounds very formal, but in the end, LINE is a fun way to engage with your target consumers and grow your audience in the markets I’ve mentioned (as well as growing audiences in countries such as Cambodia) in Asia.

LINE is becoming a super app where consumers can practically do everything they need to in their lives and whilst it may seem unnecessary to learn another platform when your existing familiar ones are also present in the market, this is where the big customer base is. I visited Thailand in November 2023 and LINE marketing was literally everywhere, ranging from ads through to QR codes in supermarkets, coffee shops and restaurants. If you don’t jump on this, then you are missing out on an opportunity for sure!

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Kathryn

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