In Japan, one local platform dominates Facebook, Instagram, and the rest: LINE, a mobile messaging app used by 77% of smartphone users. LINE is important not just for communicating with friends, but also with brands. The average brand in Gartner L2’s Japan: Luxury and Premium Beauty report has 1.8 million followers on LINE. In comparison, the same brand boasts just 55K followers on Instagram and 27K followers on Facebook.

This makes it critical for international brands to refine their LINE strategies. Since the app updated its customer service features in June, several luxury brands have set themselves apart by offering improved experiences to customers on the platform.

LINE adoption

In spite of LINE’s high cost for brands (at least $25,000 a month for official accounts, with price increases for a higher fan base and more frequent messaging), adoption by international luxury brands has increased over the last four years. In 2014, just 11% of brands tracked in Gartner L2’s Japan: Luxury and Premium Beauty were present on the platform; this year, that number has grown to 72%. Luxury brands have reasoned it’s worth the expense, as LINE offers improved functionality for these accounts that other social media platforms don’t offer.

Luxury brands have traditionally used LINE as a content platform, posting about new products and store openings. However, LINE announced improved customer interaction features at its the annual conference in June. The improvements are focused on three key areas:  

  1. LINE Business Connect, which enables personalized messaging by integrating a brand’s CRM database
  2. LINE Customer Connect, a comprehensive customer service including chat, chatbot, and phone calls
  3. LINE Point Connect, a point program LINE users can participate in

International luxury brands have responded rapidly to these changes. For example, Valentino now collects LINE followers’ data through surveys and has integrated its CRM database with that follower information in order to produce personalized messaging.

Meanwhile, Gucci and Louis Vuitton launched dedicated customer service on LINE this fall. On Gucci’s account, users can chat and call the brand’s customer service representatives. Louis Vuitton has deployed chatbots: users can ask specific questions by choosing from multiple choice menus and traverse relatively detailed service option menus to find stores, estimate repair services, and more.

Considering the capability of communicating with this large customer pool by personalized messages, LINE should be one of the most attractive communication tools for brands in this market. Companies hoping to succeed in Japan should keep monitoring the platform’s development and adopt new features more quickly than competitors.

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