Messenger services jostle for local market

Popular mobile messenger service Line has embarked on the second phase of its expansion plans, using Singapore as its base for Asia.

A messenging app originating in South Korea and created by Naver Corp, the app has found huge success in Japan. It offers free voice calls the way Skype or Viber does and  basic messaging functions, offers functions such as fun emojis and stickers.

Meanwhile China-based Tencent's social messaging application WeChat has also launched a campaign hoping to lure more Singaporean smartphone users to its service. It has mainly aimed for Mandarin speaking audiences.

WeChat also offers text messaging, voice messaging and emoticon functions. On top of that it allows users to find other WeChat users nearby.

Both companies told Marketing that Singapore is an ideal market because of its high smartphone penetration rate.

Simeon Cho, general manager of global Line business office, Line Plus said Singapore is a strategic key market because of the "great trends that influence young people's lives in Southeast Asian countries".

Louis Song, country manager of Malaysia and Singapore in Tencent's International Business Group said WeChat aims to increase the user adoption in Singapore through TVC spot.

"Singapore is a very strong market like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand - we are witnessing a sturdy growth in mobile application platforms," Song added.

Jostling for space

It is clear that the one who is grows the user base fastest will have an edge above the other but is there room for both the services to take on the likes of WhatsApp, Viber and even iOS' iMessage?

While a tech-savvy destination may be ideal for its expansion plans, industry players tell Marketing a storm is in the making in the mobile messaging arena.

Keith Timimi, chairman of VML Qais, predicts that the entry of Line and WeChat will result in an "intense fight" to see who will own the realm of mobile messaging.

While WhatsApp's unique selling proposition was utility, what will decide who wins the race going forward will be the social factor. "We think that Line's emoji will captivate the world as a new breed of Asian values increasingly define global culture," Timimi said.Line's sponsored branded stickers are also a differentiator. Timimi said as the sticker functions are "one of the best new native advertising format".

Freda Kwok, lead consultant of Blugrapes, seconded the thought. Kwok explained that the "sponsored branded sticker allow users to build familiarity and associations with logos and icons."

Line's camera filters and status update function, which works much like Twitter and Facebook updates, also allows the platform to take on a social media element setting it apart from many other mobile platforms.

However, the most important feature that can bring in ad revenue in for Line is m-commerce which will boost its appeal significantly as brands can directly track sales conversions and leads, she added.

WeChat's campaign consists of a 30 second TVC on channels such as Channel 8, Channel U, W drama, E-City and a few other Chinese channels.

The TVC depicts a romantic chemistry through the use of WeChat's simplest functions - text messaging, voice messaging and emoticon services. WeChat's TVC also illustrates how it is designed to be convenient in the midst of busyness.

Earlier in the month, WeChat launched its first TVC in Malay language in Malaysia.