5 Reasons Why 41 Million Japanese Users are Hooked on LINE

Popular Women's Magazine, "Josei Sebun" featured a story analyzing why 41 million users in Japan (and more than 100 million users worldwide) are hooked on Japanese free call/chat SNS, LINE by NHN Japan.

An application that offers free phone calls and e-mail, LINE is gaining popularity in tandem with the popularity of smartphones. According to NHN Japan, who operates LINE, there are now over 100 million users worldwide and 41 million users in Japan alone. 
"The attraction of LINE is that phone calls and email are all free. The stamps, which are upgrades from emoticons, are also a large contributing factor. These have increased the breadth of communicating through email," says IT writer Yuriko Ota. 

Registering as a user on LINE is simple, to the point where now 20% of users are in their 40s or older, indicating that LINE is not just for youths. Why is LINE so popular? Here are the five reasons Josei Sebun suggests. 

First of all, communication is very relaxed. Users love the relaxed, slightly comical nature of the images used for the stamps. (There are free and paid for stamps.)

"Emoticons until now were supplementary to the written words. For example, one might say 'I am working hard' and add a smile to it. However, when using stamps, the images tell a story in itself - with the situation or occasion and colorful expressions drawn in the stamps. Even for the expression of working hard, there is a wide range of stamps available that range from "working to the point of exhaustion" to "getting things done very effectively." In addition, every stamp has a comical nature to them that may offer a chuckle, which enables users to use them very casually," explains Ota.

Secondly, LINE makes email super convenient. LINE's messaging system displays exchanges in the form of bubbles. 
"The messaging history is very visually obvious. When responding to a message, one does not need to re-open the received message to check its contents. And the fact that it is free regardless of which mobile phone service the users are on is another added plus," adds Ota.

Thirdly, voice calls are free of charge. With ordinary calls between mobile phones, some can be as expensive as several tens of yen per minute. However, LINE enables free calls.

"If the voice call environment becomes overcrowded, sound may break up or there may be a slight delay, but there is no charge for the calls," says journalist, Atsushi Matsumoto.

The fourth appeal is the free games. LINE offers some free games, and the games service has been officially launched in November 2012. There is a sharp increase in users who are hooked.

"We currently offer 10 games and plan to increase this. First, we started as a way to get as many users as possible to use LINE," commented Tomomi Kaneko of the Web Services Headquarters of NHN Japan. 

The fifth and final point is in the coupons that are offered through LINE. There are many businesses and celebrities on LINE. Users can register businesses and celebrities as their "friends"to receive information and coupons. This is actually how LINE is able to offer the email and voice call services for free.

"We charge businesses who wish to provide information to LINE users in the form of an account registration fee and the cost of creating original stamps. These are key revenue streams for LINE," says Kaneko. 

### CarpediemJapan Observations and Comments ###

Here is a sample of a LINE coupon by KFC:

Valid for up to 3 sets per purchase per day!

500 yen is the largest denomination coin we have in circulation. 
So, a "one coin meal" has quite an appeal.

I just befriended "KFC" but I already received another coupon valid in February for a week. 

At the moment I see 28 official brands and services accounts:
Estee Lauder - says one can make personalized (name inscribed) lip stick
MUJI - offers coupons
AOKI - suits specialists offering coupons and Snoopy goods
AEON - retailer offers information on campaigns and mark downs
U-CAN - school offers special promotions for courses
Tamahiyo - brand of maternity and newborn babies publication and goods offers "chat" with the characters
Softbank - mobile phone provider offering campaign information and popular TVCF character stamps
NTT Communications - announcements on discount plans and giveaways
ANA 60th Anniversary - time limited account running campaigns offering chance to win free air tickets
Gulliver - used car retail chain offering special promotions
JINS - eye glasses retail chain offering information on campaigns and mark downs
PREMIUM OUTLETS - Outlet mall chain offering information on campaigns
KFC - as per above
Club Panasonic - offering unique stamps and campaigns infomration
Eyecity - contact lenses specialist offering coupons
Family Mart - convenient store chain offering coupons
Gyukaku - beef bowl fast food chain offering coupons
H.I.S. - discounted travel agency offering information on packages and other great deals
TSUTAYA - rental DVD and CDs chain offering coupons
au - mobile phone service provider offering information on its au smartpass and other capaigns
g.u. - low priced apparel retailer chain owned by Fast Retailing, who also own UNIQLO, offers spcial deals and promotions
Tokyo Disney Resort - offering information on events and promotions
Shiseido Watashi Plus - cosmetics manufacturer beauty community site offering information
GEO- rental DVD chain offering coupons
Matsumoto Kiyoshi - drug store chain offering coupons
Coca Cola
Lawsons - offering coupons to be used at its convenient stores
Sukiya - beef bowl fast food chain offering coupons

It seems, unlike TSUTAYA's CCC - Cultural Convenient Club - T-point card, there is no restrictions on who can hold official accounts on LINE. (T-point card initially kicked off with a "one category one company/brand" rule to make it more exclusive and "lucrative" for members of the T-point card family.)

News Post Seven 2013.02.03 article:
国内4100万人が利用「LINE」ここまで流行する5つの理由 - Ameba News [アメーバニュース]