If you’re looking to create a business presence in countries like Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia, you should think about using LINE for business to message your customers. This article will explain LINE Business Accounts pricing, how to create a LINE Official Account, as well as best practices for getting your customers as contacts and messaging them.
Already have a LINE Official Account and want to start messaging customers? Go to our documentation for the guide to connecting LINE Business Account with respond.io.
What is LINE?
LINE is a free messaging app with 5 main panels. The Friends panel shows your friends, groups, and LINE Official Accounts with a search on top. While the chats panel contains all your previous individual and group chats with friends.
The Timeline has stories on top and a list of posts below. Much like Facebook or Instagram, you can post short videos as stories for friends to see or add posts with content that can be shared, liked or commented on.
The Calls panel allows LINE voice calls for free in-app calls or calls to landlines and mobile numbers for a small fee. Lastly, the More panel shows LINE features like LINE Man or LINE Idol which can vary from country to country.
Similar to WeChat Pay, LINE Pay is designed to replace all the payments you need to do in your life. This includes payments on the LINE Store, at physical stores, online, and even sending money to friends.
However, users can only use LINE Pay in-store in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand. In other countries, you can only use LINE Pay in the Line Store in-app or for subscription upgrades for your LINE Official Account.
LINE Friends, Stickers and Points
If you’ve heard of South Korea’s Kakao Friends, meet their Japanese rival LINE Friends. Launched in 2015, each of these characters has their own characteristics. You can find them as merchandise, games, animated movies and LINE Stickers.
Speaking about LINE Stickers, there are other paid and free stickers you can download from the LINE Store. Paid stickers can be exchanged or bought with LINE Points. You can buy LINE Points using money or earn them by completing certain missions.
On the other hand, free stickers are usually sponsored stickers by large brands. In exchange for these stickers, users have to add these accounts as friends. These brands gain new contacts, and users gain new stickers. Win-win.
One example is Burberry x LINE stickers. Each character is wearing Burberry's classic checkered pattern. It is iconic, recognisable and works well for their brand awareness campaign when users send it around. Next, we’ll find out where these users are.
Where is LINE popular?
LINE started as a disaster response in Japan during the March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. Following the damage to their telco infrastructures, NHN Japan initially designed LINE as an internal communication tool for their employees.
In June 2011, the app was finally released to the public. Since then, LINE’s popularity grew to a 182 million monthly active users (MAU) as of Q1 2020. 165 million or 90% of LINE’s MAUs are in the four key markets, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.
Out of these countries, LINE is the leading messaging app in Japan at 67% of their population, Taiwan at 88% and Thailand at 66%. Indonesia is an exception here where only 5% of the population are MAUs. It’s also the only country with declining MAUs.
We also think it’s worth mentioning that LINE is gaining traction in Laos. As of June 2020, LINE is the 3rd most popular messaging app on their Play Store. Given its proximity to Thailand, Laotians mainly use LINE for business dealings with the Thais.
While we don’t know if they’ll eventually become one of the key markets, only time can tell. For now, if you’re interested in any of these 4 main markets we’ll look at how to use LINE for business in these regions.
LINE for Business: Accounts
Using LINE for business requires a LINE business account. Like WhatsApp Business which has two types of business accounts, LINE Business Accounts offers LINE@ for small business and LINE Official Accounts for enterprises. Recently, LINE@ was dropped and accounts migrated to LINE Official Accounts.
Although LINE Official Accounts are free to create, they have several pricing plans depending on usage and the option to buy a premium ID as paid add-ons. LINE Official Accounts also have badges that indicate various levels of verification.
LINE Official Account Verification: Badges
Most LINE Official Account comes with an Unverified badge. These can be upgraded to a Verified or Premium badge. LINE provides little information on the differences between the badges, but we figured things experimentally.
Unverified LINE Official Accounts have grey badges. They are only searchable in-app via a LINE Official Account ID. This is unfortunate as all accounts come out of the box with a basic ID, a random string generated by LINE.
Verified Accounts can be created when signing up for a LINE Official Account. However, they are only available in LINE’s four key markets. They have a blue badge and are searchable via Display Name or User ID, making them much easier for users to find.
Premium Accounts have a green badge, but there is no process for applying. We believe LINE upgrades large accounts on its own. Before chatting with a Premium Account, users are forced to follow the account so the account's posts show up in their feed.
LINE for Business: Account Subscription Plans
All LINE Official Accounts are free to create. However, the Free plan has a messaging limit. LINE provides two additional paid plans, Light and Standard. Each has a number of included messages and a rate for additional messages.
The Free plan includes 500 or 1000 messages depending on the region. Meanwhile, the Light and the Standard plan are designed for companies sending thousands of messages every month. Each region has its own pricing for plans and additional messages.
How to Create LINE Official Account
Now that you know the costs involved, it’s time to make a LINE Official Account. The account created can be associated with a LINE personal account or to an email. The LINE Official Account login and sign up page is located here.
1. Add your basic business information.
2. Your LINE Official Account has been created with a Basic LINE Business ID.
Now you can reply to messages in the LINE Official Manager. Although by default, the account is in Bot Mode. You can switch the account to chat mode and reply from the LINE Official Account console. More details are in the messaging section below.
While creating the account you might have noticed the LINE Business account was created with a Basic LINE Business ID using a random string. This is less than ideal when using LINE for business, so consider upgrading to a Premium ID right away.
LINE Official Account Premium ID
Getting a Premium ID for a LINE Business Account allows you to change the random string to your business name, if available. This is especially useful if you have an Unverified account, which is only searchable via ID.
LINE charges $12 USD per year for a Premium ID and you can upgrade at any time. You can upgrade to a Premium ID in the LINE Official Accounts platform. But take note that Premium IDs are not available in USA, Singapore and EU.
1. Navigate to Settings > Activity and Billing > Premium ID.
Here you’ll need to choose a payment method, which will force you to connect a credit card to your LINE Pay account. When you choose the LINE Premium ID, choose wisely because you won’t be able to change it for a year.
2. Confirm the purchase.
3. Done. Your Premium ID is activated and ready to use.
Now that you’ve got a LINE Business Account with a Premium ID, let’s discuss some best practices when using LINE for Business.
Using LINE Official Account: Best Practices
LINE has created rules for how LINE Business Accounts should interact with LINE users. This makes using LINE for business quite different from using email or SMS. So we’ve assembled best practices for finding your customer on LINE and messaging them.
LINE for Business: Finding Customers on LINE
One key difference when using LINE for Business compared to email or SMS is the inability to import contacts. Even if you have the customer’s phone number, email or LINE ID, you won’t be able to import them to the LINE Official Accounts platform.
To reduce spam, LINE and other messaging apps make it so that users have to send the first message to open a conversation with a LINE Business Account. Luckily, LINE provides several tools and features to make this easier.
LINE for Business: Chat Links, QR Codes & Website Buttons
The easiest way of getting existing customers to message you first is to use a QR Code, Chat Link, or Website Button. Like Facebook Messenger Codes, QR Codes work best in physical locations like retail stores while chat links can be used on online platforms.
When using the chat link on mobile, users will be taken directly to your LINE Official Account inside the LINE app. While on desktop, users will be taken to a page where they can scan a QR code with their LINE app.
Chat links & QR Codes can be retrieved from the LINE Official Accounts Platform. Although, most messaging app business accounts don’t provide this functionality. LINE also provides embeddable buttons for your website. These work exactly like chat links.
While QR Codes, Chat Links, and Website buttons are great ways to get your existing customers to find your LINE Business Account, hardcore LINE users are likely to search for your company in-app.
LINE for Business: In-App Search
If a LINE user is already chatting with companies through their LINE Official Accounts, they will likely search for your company in-app when they want to chat with you. This process works slightly differently with Unverified, Verified, and Premium Accounts.
Unverified Accounts are only searchable by their ID, so a LINE user will have a hard time finding accounts with a Basic ID. If your company name is available as a Premium ID, even Unverified accounts can become fairly searchable.
Verified & Premium Accounts are searchable by display name and ID. Premium accounts do have one advantage though. Customers have to add a LINE Official Account as a LINE friend before they can message them. This will add companies posts to their feed.
LINE for Business: LINE Ads Platform
LINE Ads can be used to funnel LINE Users to your LINE Official Account as well as several other goals. With LINE Ads you can go further than chatting with your existing customers, you can find new customers at scale.
LINE Ads are available in LINEs four key markets including Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia. Once you apply for a LINE Ads account it takes about 10 working days to set up. Once you launch a campaign you’ll have tons of messages to respond to in no time.
LINE for Business: Messaging Customers
There are two ways to respond to customers messaging your LINE Business Account, via the LINE Official Account Manager chat console or via a Business Messaging Platform connected to the account via API.
As with other messaging apps business accounts, LINE Official Accounts have certain features and limitations that will affect messaging with customers. We’ll describe these characteristics in terms of 1:1 Messaging, Broadcast Messaging & Group Messaging.
LINE for Business: 1:1 Messaging
The LINE Official Account Manager makes it relatively easy to start using LINE for Business. Any customer that messages you via LINE will be visible in the chat console. The console even has features like tags and marking done to manage conversations.
Although the chat console is relatively feature-rich, it lacks multi-user support so you won’t be able to assign a new Contact to a user. For team-focused features, you’ll need to connect the LINE Official Account to a Messaging CRM like respond.io.
LINE Official Accounts also have few messaging limitations. LINE stops businesses from responding to customers after 7 days if they’ve not added the business as a friend. However in most cases, the user is forced to do so to start the chat, so this is not an issue.
LINE also provides read receipts inside the LINE Official Account Chat Console, so you know when your customers have opened and read your messages. Unfortunately, this information is not provided to business messaging platforms connected via API.
LINE for Business: Broadcasting
Unlike other messaging app business accounts, LINE provides a way to send broadcasts in the LINE Official Account Manager Console. On the surface, it seems like this broadcasting system has surprisingly few restrictions.
Unlike WhatsApp Business App Broadcast which is free, with each increase in the number of LINE messages you send, it increases the monthly price you pay for your LINE Official Account. So don’t go broadcast crazy unless you’ve got a big budget.
LINE for Business: Group Messaging
LINE gives the option of allowing or disallowing group conversations when using LINE for business. When this option is allowed, users are able to invite your LINE Official Account to a chat group which is similar to adding Telegram Bots to Telegram Channels.
Businesses will be able to participate in the group conversation via the LINE Official Account Chat Console. One interesting thing to note is you can only add one LINE Business Account to each group chat, not more.
LINE for Business: Infographic
If you're getting started with using messaging apps for business and chat automation we recommend you read these two articles: