We’ve known for some time that Japanese messaging app Line has very creative ways of engaging its 450 million-plus registered users — it arguably pioneered the concept of stickers and subsequently kicked off the idea of democratizing stickers on its platform by setting up a marketplace for anyone to create and sell their own stickers.
These ways to engage users have also led to a solid stream of revenue. Line sells over $10 million worth of stickers per month. However, though most people think of stickers when it comes to Line, games connected to the app are the key revenue maker. They typically account for around 60 percent of Line’s revenue, though the company didn’t specify the figure in its latest earnings for the first quarter of 2014 that saw it generating total sales of 14.6 billion yen ($143 million).
Line has just turned three years old and today it revealed more about its ecosystem of a whopping 63 apps that has seen a cumulative total of 1 billion downloads to date. Among these, 13 of them (other than Line) have passed the 10 million download mark.
In particular, Line Camera, the photo app complementing the core Line app, has soared to over 90 million downloads — climbing steadily from the 50 million downloads it reached in September last year.
As Line notes, its family of apps cover “needs for communication, digital content, game, tools, media and more” — speaking to the company’s ambition of becoming so much more than just a messaging service. Given that every family app also has full integration with the core chat app, this makes it easier for users to tell their friends about the other apps, forming a sort of organic marketing model.
In line with this, the company is also aiming to become a “global gaming platform” — and it recently shuttered nearly one-third of its games to focus on more successful titles. The company announced in March that its users had downloaded over 300 million Line gaming titles.
With Line, we can see how the stickiness of a messaging platform can be extended into many more apps and services, and eventually form a solid stream of revenue from different sources. Another avenue the company’s ambitions are shaping up in is e-commerce. Line revealed plans to hold flash sales in Taiwan earlier this year, the second country to get the service after Thailand.
This is also attractive for brands, which are starting to regard messaging apps as the next big channel for marketing. Line is already building on this momentum by recently inking a partnership with Salesforce to make it easier for companies to use the messaging service as a marketing channel.
The next step for Line is to truly globalize this entire ecosystem. It has already found a measure of success in Asia, with its top five markets all in the region — Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Taiwan — but getting traction in markets such as the US and in Europe is a vast challenge.