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Line Plus Marketing Management


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My passion for Line corporation had drove me to write this research in Master Thesis

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Line Plus Marketing Management

  1. 1. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 1 MARKETING MANAGEMENT NAME : OU JIALING, LENA ID: 0030JMMJMM0914 (MBAE)
  2. 2. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 2 INDEX Page 1.0 Executive summary 3 1.1 Introduction 2.0 External Environment 4-6 2.1 Political and Legal 2.2 Economy and Technology 2.3 Social 2.4 Opportunity 2.5 Threats 3.0 Internal Environment 7 3.1 Strength 3.2 Weaknesses 4.0 ANSOFF’S PRODUCT–MARKET MATRIX 8-11 4.1 Market Penetration 4.2 Market Development 4.3 Product development 4.4 Diversification 5.0 3 year’s forecast Profit or Loss for the proposed marketing plan 12-16 5.1 Gap Analysis 6.0 Customer Loyalty Retention Strategy 17-18 7.0 Product Rationalization 19-20 8.0 References 21-23
  3. 3. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 3 1.0 Executive Summary The brief details a marketing proposal for the management of LINE Plus Corporation on the strategy to achieve growth objective of thirty five percent of business revenue, including its new revenue streams and profit contribution growth in the next 3 year. A detailed analysis of internal and external business environment is first discussed. Secondly, the various growth strategies including market penetration, market development, product development and diversification are elaborated to achieve the growth objective. Based on the growth strategies outlined, a projected profit or loss analysis is detailed with a gap analysis. Finally, in order to ensure a sustainable growth, customer loyalty retention strategy and a justified portfolio of the product rationalization are presented. 1.1 Introduction LINE Plus Corporation is established in March 2013 in South Korea as a joint venture between Japan’s LINE Corporation and South Korea’s Naver Corporation. The primary business focus of LINE Plus Corporation is to support LINE’s global business development particularly on popular messaging service. (LINE Corporation, 2014) LINE messaging apps currently has approximately 170 million users. In the first quarter of 2013, the company made USD58 million revenue, with half being contributed by games, and 30% or approximately USD 17 million from sales of 8,000 different stickers. (Olson, 2013) This following brief is presented for LINE Plus Corporation with the following objectives: a. Grow LINE Plus Corporation business revenue by 35%, including revenue streams from new channels b. Increase profit contribution to boost shareholders’ dividends c. Improve customer retention via customer loyalty innovations Before detailing marketing strategies to achieve the above, an in-depth analysis is done to understand the company’s current internal and external position.
  4. 4. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 4 2.0 External Environment A good analysis of the external environment where the company operates in is important because it will allow the company to alter its marketing strategy to suit the changing environment. (Charles Lamb, 2010) PESTEL analysis is a useful tool which can help to look at the vital factors that may affect the business. (Linda Doke, 2007) 2.1 Political and Legal One of the biggest impacts of social media, including messaging services, is its ability to connect people much closer at a much faster pace than before. The criticality of the role that messaging services and other social media played in changing the political landscape can be clearly seen in the uprising that took place in recent years such as in Middle East and Africa. (Safranek, 2012) Alongside with this, it has also been observed that tighter restrictions have been placed on messaging apps in some countries such as China which announced control measures in August 2014. (Ned Levin, 2014) 2.2 Economy and Technology Social messaging apps such as LINE are available in smartphones, and research indicates growing population of worldwide smartphone usage. In 2014, global smartphone usage grew by 25%. It is projected that above one-third of world population will be using smartphone in 2017 compared to one-quarter currently. (EMarketer, 2014) Diagram 1: Smartphone Users and Penetration Worldwide 2012 – 2018 Source : (EMarketer, 2014)
  5. 5. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 5 Consumers in Asia Pacific accounts for more than half of all smartphone users currently. This is largely driven by more people embracing the technology of smartphones as well as the gadgets are becoming increasingly affordable to people. Diagram 2: Year Select Countries in Asia-Pacific will pass 50% Smartphone Penetration Among Total Population 2012 – 2018. Source : (EMarketer, 2014) 2.3 Social Messaging service apps are becoming increasingly popular globally with more youngsters shifting to using the services in their communications. (Olson, 2013) Globally, the use of mobile messaging apps grew 103% in 2014. Some popular messaging apps such as Viber boasts more than 200 million visitors monthly; LINE with 170 million users; and WhatsApp being the leading service with more than 700 million regular visitors. Part of the reason behind the rapid growth in messaging apps is thought to be related to the much more intimate experience of communicating via messaging apps as opposed to the more public nature of apps such as Facebook and Twitter. Messaging apps is then able to provide a sense of
  6. 6. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 6 control of what is being communicated to the intended recipient, as well as bridging the gap between smaller audiences. (Mike Isaac, 2015) 2.4 Opportunity SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) analysis provides a platform to evaluate LINE Plus Corporation opportunity which is a favorable situation in the environment and thus should make use of it. (John Stapleton, 1998) As more and more of the world’s population embraces social messaging apps, one of the biggest opportunities lies in the business segment. Research has shown that businesses are looking for best ways to take advantage of mobile messaging boom. For example, while 20% of US consumers spend their time on mobile devices, only 4% of US advertising is spend on mobile apps which clearly shows there is an untapped gap in business segment of mobile messaging. (Afshar, 2014) 2.5 Threats One of the biggest threats is the fierce competition amongst the mobile messaging apps players. Globally, there exist many players such as Whatsapp, Viber, KakaoTalk, WeChat apart from LINE. While it does seems that the popularity of instant messaging applications varies from region to region, there is risk that small players may not have many options for survival especially if the users need to make effort to maintain several profiles and accounts at the same time. Hence, there is a critical need for LINE to expand the number of users as much as possible and be able to offer a differentiated value to users which will encourage users to maintain account with LINE. (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 2013) Another potential threat is the increasing legislative restriction in some countries like in China such as outline in Section 2.1. This may hamper the growth of LINE in these countries and hence may necessitate it to look for opportunity in other countries.
  7. 7. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 7 3.0 Internal Environment Using SWOT analysis, internal environment that is evaluated include LINE Plus Corporation’s strength and weakness. 3.1 Strength One of the main strength of LINE mobile messaging apps is the ability of adding illustrations and virtual stickers to conversations. LINE by default has more than 250 free virtual stickers to offer and the number is growing. Apart from that, LINE also has its own unique factor as a social network because it has a timeline that allow registered users to post message and emotion stickers. LINE users can also make free calls because it supports VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology. (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 2013) 3.2 Weakness Despite being relatively strong in Asian countries such as in Japan and Southeast Asia, LINE has not been able to penetrate strongly in emerging markets such as India and Latin America. (Dolsenz, 2015) Hence, Whatsapp being one of the pioneer in mobile messaging apps, remains a much stronger player with more than 700 million regular users.
  8. 8. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 8 4.0 ANSOFF’S PRODUCT–MARKET MATRIX In view of the competitive mobile messaging application nature, it is critical that LINE Plus Corporation to develop strategies to keep up with competition. In order to do so, the management need to have a substantial understanding of the business environment in which it operates. Based on the understanding of the merits and demerits in the business, Ansoff’s product–market matrix should be adopted. Ansoff’s matrix is one of the most relevant marketing growth strategies which can assist the entity in promoting revenue growth. The matrix provides strategic alternatives in order to achieve this goal with four quadrants to be select from. (Mike Meldrum, 2007) Diagram 3 Ansoff’s Matrix Source: (Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2015) 4.1 Market penetration In achieving a market penetration, the management is pursuing to sell higher volumes of existing products which is the LINE messaging apps into existing markets which is Japan and Korea. This is a low-risk strategy which will result low organic growth. (Roger Lewis, 2000) This may involve increasing revenue by, for example, in LINE Plus Corporation promoting the product which is the mobile messaging apps, LINE to more new users. Existing LINE apps users would be given free virtual stickers for introducing every 10 successful friends in downloading LINE messaging apps via selected promotional period. The main concept is based upon ‘pushing more
  9. 9. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 9 of the current products to the existing customers’. Besides that, the advertising business focus on Business to Consumer (BtoC), a platform with substantial interactivity among users to grow global expansion of official accounts and sponsored virtual stickers from the countries. A fixed nominal fee will be charged to the sponsors based on the number or registered users to enhance future marketing platform. Besides that, LINE messaging apps will be used as a platform by third party businesses to advertise their products by sponsoring LINE virtual stickers. In return, these sponsors will be able to incorporate their products in the virtual stickers. Users are allowed to download these sponsored virtual stickers for free. The Business to Business (B2B) relationship between sponsors and LINE Plus Corporation allows the sponsors to tap onto the wide connectivity of LINE messaging apps to advertise their products. LINE Plus Corporation will then charge the sponsor a fixed fee per every LINE messaging apps user. Besides Business to Business (B2B), LINE Plus Corporation also engages on Business to Consumer (B2C) model for the virtual sticker sales. These virtual stickers are designed by LINE Plus Corporation and are also sold to users as a mean of income. Users will have to pay to download the stickers. 4.2 Market development In the aspect of market development strategy, the management focuses on marketing sell current product range to new segment. In other words, the product remains unchanged but it is targeted to a new customer base. (Charles Lamb, 2012) In LINE Plus Corporation case, exporting and marketing the new LINE messaging apps in a new region which is in other countries like in the the Southeast Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and African markets which is a huge jump in its expansion plan.
  10. 10. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 10 4.3 Product development In the aspect of product development, new products are targeted to existing customers. Resources are then allocated to research and development of new product offerings with the objective to satisfy existing customers’ demands. (Geoff Lancaster, 2007) In this case, LINE Plus Corporation will launch a new Video Call feature to complement its current voice call and messaging functions. Users will have access to free video calls on supported operating systems (iOS, Android and Windows and Mac PCs) and have face-time conversations with their faraway recipients at any time. Other than that, LINE Manga will be introduced as an application that enables LINE users to purchase Japanese manga and comics online. LINE Manga is a separate individual application from LINE Messaging app, with current offering of more than 30,000 comics’ selection to choose from. (Wee, 2015) Besides that, “LINE MUSIC” will be introduced as music streaming service that allows users to buy a wide categories of music such as J-pop, K-pop, and Jazz Western music. Purchased songs can be shared with other users within LINE apps. This becomes a unique product differentiator which only available in LINE apps compared to other messaging applications. This offering will be initiated first in Japan. Last but not least, more ranges of LINE games by various developers will be introduced to the existing customers as per below: - LINE IRONSLAM (Developer: WeMade Entertainment) - LINE Let’s Golf!(TBC) (Developer: Gameloft) - LINE MapleStory Village (Developer: NEXON Co., Ltd.) - LINE Modoo Marble (Developer: CJ E&M Corp. & N2Play) - LINE Nutlings Tournament (Developer: Boomlagoon Limited) - LINE Puzzle Bobble (Developer: Taito Corporation) - LINE Rainbow Chaser (Developer: NHN&OrangeCrew) - LINE REVENANT GATE (Developer: NHN PlayArt Corporation) - LINE Shake Spears! (Developer: Alawar Entertainment) - LINE SONIC DASH (Developer: SEGA Corporation)
  11. 11. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 11 Finally, it is proposed that an online store called LINE Web Store to be introduced. Through this online platform, the users can buy paid LINE stickers and LINE GAME items from the web browsers on their computers or mobiles. Many payment methods like App Store and Google Play transaction systems, credit cards, PayPal, carrier and more are introduced to ease users. LINE prepaid cards will be available 7-Eleven, FamilyMart and Lawson convenience stores nationwide in Japan. 4.4 Diversification In diversification strategy, new products are targeted to new customers. There are two types of diversification which are related and unrelated diversification. (Kazmi, 2008) Related diversification means the business remains in a common market or industry, for example a textile manufacturer can diversify into apparel manufacturing industry. In unrelated diversification, a company ventures into a total new industry without previous market experience – where the textiles manufacturer invests in the chocolates industry. However, in this case, LINE Plus Corporation will not be engaging in diversification as a mean to achieve its revenue growth objectives as this is a high risk option. (Lynette Ryals, 2008)
  12. 12. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 12 5.0 3 year’s forecast Profit or Loss for the proposed marketing plan Note: All figures in the table is in millions in dollar Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Sales Revenue -New Games -Stickers(B2C) -Advertising income(B2B) -Line Music -Line Prepaid card -Line Manga 90 15 150 15 15 15 300 180 30 300 30 30 30 600 270 45 450 45 45 45 900 Cost of sales:- -30% handling fees of the game developers from game revenue - Database maintenance fees for registered users -Cost of development of stickers -Royalties fees for Sony Music -Commissions paid for LINE prepaid card sales 27 10 7.5 3 3 (47.5) 54 10 15 3 6 (82) 81 10 22.5 3 9 (125.5) Gross Profits 252.5 518 774.5 Operating expenses (20) (20) (20) Interest cost NIL NIL NIL Profits before interest, taxes 232.5 498 754.5
  13. 13. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 13 Taxation (69.75) (149.4) (226.35) Profit after taxation 162.75 348.6 528.15 Dividends (81.375) (174.3) (264.075) Retained earnings 81.375 174.3 264.075 Table 1 Assumptions in the projected profit or loss: a. In the aspect of market development strategy as mentioned in section 4.2, the registered number of users downloaded LINE messaging apps would be growing at 150 million users at the first year, 300 million users at the second year and 450 million users at the third year as LINE now offers its services in 12 languages to promote its market expansion in its new user locations. b. In the aspects of LINE game revenues, this will be strongly supported as LINE games are the top downloaded as LINE leads in top publisher revenue in both Google Play and iOS App Store in the past (App Annie, 2015) It is forecasted to be assumed that LINE game would generate 30% of the total sales yearly c. Net sales are tabulated from revenue of taken from contracted developers from which 30% handling fees are imposed by app stores such as Google or Apple. This method of calculation is assumed to be applied in the foreseeable 3 years. d. Advertising income(B2B) will be come from the sponsors who sponsored the stickers based on $1 of the downloaded stickers from registered users which will be 50% of the total sales and revenue from consumers who purchased the stickers(B2C) would be accounted 5% of the total sales. e. Data maintenance fees from registered users would be fixed at 10 million per year. f. Cost of development of stickers in B2C section would be 50% from the sales of the B2C stickers and the sponsored stickers would be at the expense of the sponsors not LINE Plus Corporation in promotion of the sponsors’ trademark drama or celebrities’ names. g. In LINE Music, royalties to be paid to Sony Music would be contracted fixed at 3million per year.
  14. 14. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 14 h. Commissions from LINE prepaid cards would be 20% of the sales revenue of LINE prepaid cards i. LINE Music, LINE Manga and LINE Prepaid cards revenue will be assumed to be each new revenue channels that would be accounted to 5% of the total sales j. There is no interest costs involved as LINE Plus Corporation get free financing assistance from the Japan’s LINE Corporation and South Korea’s Naver Corporation k. Operating expenses would be controlled at 20 million per year l. Taxation will be assumed at 30% m. Dividends will be based on 50% payout from the profits after tax n. No inflation rate is to be assumed in the projected profit or loss.
  15. 15. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 15 5.1 Gap Analysis Strategic planners must take in view of the depth to which new strategies are required to facilitate the business to meet its goals. (Grundy, 2012) One technique whereby this can be done is Gap Analysis. The purpose of the gap analysis in this case would be as per below: a. Grow LINE Plus Corporation business revenue by 35%, including revenue streams from new channels based on the proposed Ansoff matrix’s strategies b. Increase profit contribution c. Improve customer retention via customer loyalty innovations As LINE reported the actual revenue of sales of $338 million in year 2013 (The Next Web, 2015) Diagram 4 Based on the diagram 4 above, in 3 years’ time, the objective of LINE Plus Corporation can be achieved as the blue planned gap exceeds its actual revenue in year 2013 by a green gap of $562 million, an increase of 166% which means the management is very opportunistic of the future 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 2013 Actual 2014 Forecast 2015 Forecast 2016 Forecast Revenue,USmillion 2013 Actual and 2014-2016 Forecast Projected Revenue for LINE Plus Corporation Gap
  16. 16. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 16 revenues from the new channels as mentioned in the Ansoff’s matrix growth strategies that will be generated by LINE Plus Corporation. Diagram 5 Based on Diagram 5, as the LINE Plus corporation maintained a generous 50% payout of its earnings after interest and taxes, the forecast dividends payout will be increasing from 81.375 million in year 2014 to 264.075 million in year 2016 which means an increase of dividends payout by about 225% which is fantastic boost in maximizing shareholders’ wealth in align with the goals and objective of LINE Plus Corporation 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 2014 Forecast 2015 Forecast 2016 Forecast DividentPayout,USmillion Projected Dividend payout to LINE Plus Corporation Shareholders
  17. 17. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 17 6.0 Customer Loyalty Retention Strategy Customer loyalty which is a long-term commitment to repurchase and repeated patronage is key to success of a business because it ensures customers do not switch to competitor offering. (Canadian Center of Science and Education, 2013) Among the strategies that can be employed to build upon customer loyalty is increasing product value. Within the mobile messaging apps application, product value can be built upon by ensuring the LINE messaging apps has a distinct differentiation compared to other mobile messaging apps. One of the core differentiations in LINE mobile messaging apps is the virtual stickers which allow users to express themselves when messaging. LINE virtual stickers has been proven to be hugely successful and LINE Plus Corporation will need to continuously issue new virtual stickers to ensure users remains attracted to using LINE messaging app. Some of the virtual stickers are offered free while others need to be purchased. To increase continuous usage of LINE messaging apps, users are entitled to download the chargeable virtual sticker without having to pay after downloading the 10 sets of free virtual stickers and using it in their messaging. This strategy is two pronged, first to ensure that users will remain active in using LINE messaging apps; and second to reward loyal users by rewarding them chargeable virtual stickers for free. Another loyalty retention strategy is by running lucky draw competition. These lucky draws are run continuously and virtually via LINE mobile messaging app where questions will be posed to LINE mobile apps and users who answer the question correctly will stand a chance to win prizes. Finally, customer loyalty retention is managed via relationship management strategy. Customer relationship is often the most important business asset as its contribution is multiple-fold. It builds loyalty and increases profits from current customers because the longer customers are retained, the more they will be spending. (Katsch, 2001) Within the LINE messaging apps, relationship management is built via understanding what each users like based on their purchase habit in LINE e-commerce platform. Based on the users historical purchase, a database of each users affinity, likes and dislikes can be built. Users who have purchased up to a certain amount such as USD500 online via LINE e-commerce can then
  18. 18. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 18 be rewarded by a free gift that is along the users liking. For example, users who likes photo- frames because he or she have demonstrated repeated purchase of photo frames will be then rewarded a free-gift of LINE photo frame based on the historical database of purchase. The benefit of this customer retention strategy is that it is customer-specific which will build loyalty and repeated purchase.
  19. 19. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 19 7.0 Product Rationalization Two of the important product rationalization components include product addition (which is elaborated in Section Product Development) and product deletion. As a product within current product mix no longer becomes profitable or not sufficient to satisfy the customer needs, product deletion process may be considered. (William Pride, 2014) In applying the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Matrix, LINE Manga would be perceived as the Dog as it has a low market share and low growth rate which doesn’t generate large amount of cash which only forecasted to be 5% on the total sales. It is advisable that LINE Manga would be a cash trap as the money will be tied up in the business that yields little potential growth in only the Japan market. (Pamela Lewis, 2007) Within the LINE apps offering, LINE Manga is the offering proposed for product deletion. LINE Manga is application that enables LINE users to purchase Japanese manga and comics online. LINE Manga is a separate individual application from LINE Messaging app, with current offering of more than 30,000 comics’ selection to choose from. (Wee, 2015) The proposal for LINE Manga to be phased out from offering is due to the following justifications: a. LINE Manga is not part of main stream offering of LINE messaging applications. Because LINE apps is still relatively new in the online messaging applications, it will be advantageous for LINE to remain focus and create value in LINE messaging apps. b. Expanding a product line into a segment in which a company will not be able to obtain competitive advantage over its competitors is not advantageous. (C.Goold, 2006) With this in mind, offering LINE Manga separate from LINE messaging will not allow the messaging apps to ride on the popularity of LINE Manga Hence, it is proposed that to allow the company to focus its strength to develop LINE messaging applications. This can be done by incorporating LINE Manga into LINE messaging apps as one of the additional functions of LINE messaging. The reason for doing so is two-fold:
  20. 20. Copyright by Ou Jialing, Lena Page 20 a. LINE Manga functionality within LINE messaging apps will help create a product differentiator for LINE messaging compared to competitors’ apps. b. This will allow the company to allocate more focused resources to build the image and strength of LINE messaging on the long run instead of having multiple product offerings In terms of the process of LINE Manga product deletion, it is proposed that the company adopts phase out approach (William M Pride, 2010) In this approach, no additional new comics or manga editions are added to the LINE Manga platform and comics that are currently published in LINE Manga are allowed to cease once the editions run out or ends. Existing users are then migrated to LINE messaging apps where new comics are published there. In this Phase Out approach, the transitions are made in minimal costs as there is no need for any change in marketing strategy. On the other hand, in adopting the BCG Matrix in the proposed marketing strategies, LINE Games would be the stars that can contribute huge amount of cash in future due to its strong relative market position. However, high cash flows will be required because of its high growth rate due to 30% handling fees of the game developers from game revenue (Daft, 2008) More varieties of LINE games should be introduced and invested than maintain the LINE Manga as it could only generate revenues within Japan as the manga comic only in Japanese whereas the LINE games which is available in multiple languages could enhance more revenues in different new markets in different countries.
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