Can a Japanese app drive adoption in America with a toy store?
Building a new user base for a messaging app is no easy task. But popular Japanese messaging app Line’s attempt to get people in the U.S. on board is one of the more creative — and probably more expensive — ways to try.
Line has opened a Times Square toy store called Line Friends, according to an article in Ad Age. The store is filled with plush toys, slippers, coffee mugs and other swag pertaining to a suite of characters, the “Line Friends” from which the store gets its name. The characters, such as a rabbit named Cony and an alien named Moon, have their own backstories and shared universe. Line has 44 other retail locations globally — mostly throughout Asia — but this is the first in the U.S.
The unparalleled foot traffic in Times Square may make it a better place than most to attract curious, tech-savvy potential users and build brand recognition in volume. Line’s new location is a full store, not a pop-up, and comes with a big up-front investment. Times Square rents have gotten high enough in recent years to drive out established, big-name retailers, most notably Toys “R” Us, which closed its Times Square flagship in 2015.
It is unclear how Line intends to use the store to push app adoption among customers and turn them into users. But the Line Friends retail outlet does not represent the company’s first try at getting U.S. users interested in the characters and, perhaps more importantly, its messaging service. Line previously dipped its toe in Times Square with a pop-up and ran a contest to get U.S. users designing virtual in-app stickers, according to the Ad Age article.
There is already some stiff competition in the U.S. messaging app space. Facebook Messenger was the second most downloaded iPhone app nationwide in 2016 and, as of this year, boasts 1.2 billion monthly users.
And while Line is a huge force in Japan, it’s not even certain if Amazon.com, which has planned the release of a messaging app called “Anytime By Amazon,” can get users to jump to a new messaging app — let alone a complete newcomer to the U.S. market.
- Japanese Messaging App Tries to Crack the U.S…. With a Store for Plush Toys – Ad Age
- Most popular iPhone apps 2016 – Time
- Facebook Messenger hits 1.2 billion monthly users, up from 1B in July – TechCrunch
- Was Toys “R” Us doomed by high rents? – RetailWire
- Will customers use an Amazon app to chat? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would you assess Line’s strategy of setting up a costly Time Square store to draw new users to its app and messaging service? Are there better ways for online-only offerings to leverage physical retail to generate interest?