Messaging app Line began the limited rollout of its new C2C e-commerce platform Line Mall today. The app, which is now available for download in Japan’s Google Play store, is a sign that the service is doubling down on its efforts to increase engagement among users as it competes with WeChat, WhatsApp and other popular messaging apps. Line Mall will officially launch next spring with an iPhone app and more features.
Line Mall lets vendors sell products without listing fees, though it does take a 10% cut of the final price for items that sell. Each seller also receives one point (worth 1 yen or about 1 cent USD) that can be redeemed for discounts after each successful transaction. Sellers and buyers authenticate their accounts and connect payment info with their Line account, but they can also set up a separate Line Mall ID.
Line’s other e-commerce ventures have included flash sales in Thailand via official brand accounts on its messaging app, which monetizes through sticker sales, games and branded merchandise.
The app, which was launched in 2011 by Japan’s Naver, announced in November that it had hit 300 million registered users worldwide and is targeting a 500 million registered user milestone next year. It is important to note, however, that those numbers reflect people who have signed up for the service, not monthly active users.
Despite its push to expand globally (key markets include East Asia and Spanish-speaking regions like Spain, Mexico and Latin America), Line has so far only reported MAU for Japan, so it’s hard to tell how engaged users are in other countries.
Key rivals WhatsApp and WeChat, on the other hand, both report monthly active user counts–WhatsApp has more than 350 million MAUs, while WeChat has about 272 million.
As competition for international users heats up among messaging apps, launching other ventures like Line Mall can help increase user engagement. But Line faces several C2C mobile commerce rivals, including Carousell, a Singapore-based app that Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten recently invested in, and Yahoo! Japan auctions, which has its own Android and iOS apps.