LINE is rapidly growing in the worldwide mobile messaging market. As the Korean messaging app is expected to secure nearly 600 million subscribers as early as the end of this year, LINE is likely to go head to head with Chinese messaging app WeChat for global dominance.
According to Naver and industry sources on June 18, LINE is projected to have 500 million members as early as August, and 600 million people within the year.
After reporting that its members exceeded 400 million people early April, the messaging app added another 60 million people just in two and a half months. As a result, its subscribers surpassed 460 million people as of June 11.
In November 2013, LINE subscribers reached 300 million people. Since then, 100 million people have been added every four or five months on average. If this trend continues, the messaging app is expected to have 500 million members in August and 600 million people in December.
With LINE rapidly increasing its market share, competition between the Korean messaging app and Tencent’s WeChat, which is estimated to have the largest number of subscribers, is expected to swing into high gear.
WeChat already obtained 600 million subscribers as of 2013, and it is one of the three major messaging apps that dominate the global market, along with WhatsApp and LINE. LINE and WeChat are fiercely competing with each other in Southeast Asia and Chinese-speaking countries, rather than the North American and European markets, which are WhatsApp’s stronghold.
Industry analysts are saying that LINE performed slightly better than WeChat in Southeast Asia over the last year, since the Korean messaging app became very popular in Taiwan (more than 17 million subscribers) and Thailand (over 27 million members). However, WeChat is still the number one messaging app in China with more than 400 million subscribers. Hence, LINE's position in the Chinese market is weaker than WeChat.
As Naver, the company behind LINE, is going to launch a new offensive to target the Chinese market in the latter half of this year, intense competition between LINE and WeChat is expected in WeChat's home ground. Naver revealed its intention to focus on providing localized services in this year’s Mobile Asia Expo held in Shanghai on June 11.
Marketing costs involving advertising LINE in the Chinese market is likely to be the key to its success. In its briefing on 2014 first quarter results, Naver announced that it will increase marketing costs by country, starting in the latter half of 2014. LINE is gearing up to target the Chinese and Southeast Asian markets, as shown by its efforts to recruit global marketing staff for the past two months and to hire employees with experience in developing business in Chinese-speaking countries last month.
Experts are saying that it will be possible for LINE to lead the market in 2015, if its subscribers exceed 600 million people in the latter half of this year and the messaging app also successfully penetrates the Chinese market in 2014.
An analyst in the stock market remarked, “There is no dominant player in the global messaging market, which is dominated by LINE, WeChat, and WhatsApp. The market is still widely acknowledged to have tremendous growth potential.” The analyst concluded by saying, “If LINE members crossed the 600 million mark, it will show LINE’s continuous growth. And if Naver begins to target the Chinese market based on Hallyu, or the Korean wave, its messaging app LINE can compete on equal terms with WeChat.”