Line, the messaging app from Japan, dipped its toes into commerce when it launched a grocery service in Thailand back in February. Now it has extended that with a new gift shop for offline products. The service is initially available in Thailand, which is one of its largest markets with over 30 million registered users.
The company has piloted a lot of services in Thailand — including a $2 music streaming service and a YouTube-like app — as it seeks to capitalize on its popularity in the country and generate revenue. Line’s user growth has flattened off this year, so it’s essential that it finds ways to monetize users in its biggest markets — Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia represent two-thirds of its 212 million monthly active user base.
Line users can already send each other digital goods, like stickers, but this new gift shop is about physical, offline products. Line’s initial partners include 7-Eleven, Asia Books, SF Cinema and others — so, you can send your friends a coffee, a breakfast, cinema tickets, or more.
The service is powered by Line Pay and it’s fairly easy to use once you’re set up on the company’s mobile payments service. I sent a friend a ‘breakfast set’ for a discounted 14THB (around $0.50), and it took less than a minute from start to finish.
Just to be sure, I tested the feature out again — sending someone on Twitter a cinema ticket (because why not) — and again the process was quick and easy.
The more pressing question is whether an effort like this can scale. Tango, the U.S. messaging service valued at over $1 billion, recently laid off staff after an unsuccessful venture into e-commerce, but Line’s gift shop purchases are so inexpensive that the main goal of the project appears to be getting users to sign up for Line Pay.
By adding their card to the service, Line overcomes a major barrier that could lead to them using Line Pay for larger and more regular purchases, rather than just bringing in small sums like $0.50. (Which are heavily discounted, by the way.)
WeChat, the messaging giant from China, has mastered the art of getting users to bind their bank card to its payment service. At the last count, it had over 200 million users on its We Pay service thanks to innovative promotions and ideas that tie in with Chinese festivals and traditions. Line won’t reach that kind of scale in Thailand, a country with a population of just over 65 million, but this pilot is about learning how it can approach and monetize markets like Indonesia, Taiwan and other parts of Southeast Asia.