Japan’s LINE Corporation launched a business platform for its messaging app, as its CEO said an IPO is still on the cards.
LINE said it wants to “forge stronger ties” between users and businesses, as part of its “Closing the Distance” strategy, which will see the company transform the messaging app into a “smart portal”.
According to TechCrunch, the move comes weeks before Facebook is expected to open Messenger to third-party bots at its F8 event.
The platform features loyalty cards as well as a coupon book to manage coupons issued by companies within the app.
A new online store feature will be added to “[email protected]” accounts with no fees but there will a service charge of 4.98 per cent on sales.
“As users are not required to log in or create accounts to make purchases, a higher purchase rate than conventional e-commerce websites can be anticipated,” the company said.
Partners can connect LINE Business Connect (a service for corporate clients that provides an API allowing access to various LINE account features), Auto Login, and LINE Pay features to their services “to increase conversion rates, such as by sending personalised push messages linking to hassle-free reservations and purchases”.
As for developers, LINE’s messaging API will be made freely available “to deepen real-time communication between clients and their customers”.
LINE Beacon will enable the reception of Bluetooth Low Energy data via LINE. For example, stores can set up beacons so users receive coupons and product information via the app when they visit.
This will be launched in May in collaboration with e-commerce firm Start Today, and more partner companies are expected to join in.
LINE also plans to develop its Chat AI Plug-in with third party developers to provide business accounts with an “intelligent and responsive” tool for handling customer inquiries through chat messaging. This is expected to be rolled out by the end of the year.
“Closing the distance”
At a conference in Tokyo, LINE also announced that the LINE messaging app has surpassed 1 billion users and 215 million monthly active users (MAUs), as of December 2015.
The total downloads for game titles released by Line Games topped 640 million as of February 2016, among which the puzzle game ‘Disney Tsum Tsum’ had over 13 million MAUs.
It plans to launch new games like Line Rush and Line Gran Grid later this year.
LINE Live, a streaming content distribution platform “that capitalises on Line’s smartphone user base, high activity rate, and push notification scheme”, has seen viewers hit 198 million in the three months since it launched.
LINE also said it’s planning to improve mobile infrastructure as a mobile virtual network operator.
Meanwhile, LINE CEO Takeshi Idezawa said a listing is “still an option” for the company, though nothing has been decided, Reuters reported.
It was reported earlier this month that LINE was mulling a $2 billion-$3 billion IPO that could take place before the summer.