As part of our look at Thailand’s top brands of 2018, which is part of our Asia’s Top 1000 Brands report, we found that Thai consumers see Samsung, Google and Lazada as the top mobile-friendly brands, with Line and Shopee also rating highly. We asked four in-market observers for their insights.
Line is the only messenger service ranked as the most mobile-friendly among other platforms, while Lazada and Shopee are also rated highly by Thai consumers. Can you explain Line’s mobile friendly features that appeal to Thai consumers?
Jongkoch Dusittanakarin, strategic planning manager, GREYnJ United: The key success factors of Line that everyone knows are the Line stickers, not to mention the happy and friendly vibe from this app.
WhatsApp was the main messenger that Thai consumers used before Line came along. While WhatsApp serves its function well for users to chat, Line offers both functional and emotional connections. Line allows users to send stickers, choose a theme and design for the chat windows. It is user-friendly while allowing its users to be more personable in their communications. The Thai culture is easy-going and fun-loving, so it is natural for Thais to be comfortable in using Line for both work and leisure.
To keep its users hooked, Line has often come out with a variety of innovative product lines that reflect the Thai lifestyle. Thais love to play mobile games, so there are plenty of mobile games on Line. Meanwhile, there is a function for sticker hobbyists to create their own stickers. Other services include Line TV and Line Today for users to watch TV and catch up with news respectively, as well as Line Finance and mobile payment service Line Pay. It is inevitable that most of the social activities in Thailand now revolves around Line.
Phasit Nidchay, senior planning director, Dentsu Thailand: (Agreeing with all of the above.) But many features of Line are still not very user-friendly, such as its news function (Line Today) and its timeline.
There are however a few examples of brands that successfully integrated their services into Line such as Knorr's 'Aunty Reply' chat bot function on Line, Siam Commercial Bank's alerts sent on the messenger platform.
Edgar Salmeron, business and creative director, Neat Interactive: I don't think you can compare Line, Lazada and Shopee. Line is primarily a messenger service with add-ons; Lazada and Shopee are e-commerce portals. Line's wide adoption in Thailand is a result of their stickers. Thai people love their Cony and Bear stickers, and more and more brands later adopted stickers of their own.
As a communication tool, Thais use Line throughout the day, to communicate with friends, family, groups, work colleagues, clients, etc. Line already had a captive audience when it began introducing other services.
Line maintains its branding throughout its other functions beyond the chat function and it helps to keep the UI and UX somewhat similar, so people don't feel like they need to learn something new, eliminating a significant barrier for adoption.
People use Lazada and Shopee to shop. If they're not looking for something then they won't be using the app. As a messaging app, Line is also more intuitive than Lazada and Shopee. Thais were already familiar with other messaging apps like Whatsapp before Line, so there wasn't that much of a learning curve. Ecommerce is not very popular in Thailand yet, so Lazada was among the first to establish itself as an ecommerce platform. There was nothing really before it that would have taught Thais what to expect or how it works.
Can you highlight what you think are the mobile friendly features of Shopee?
Nidchay: Shopee offers easy UX/UI for product search, its consumer ratings and reviews are also helpful. Shopee provides a seamless online shopping experience where users can communicate directly with the sellers without having to leave the application. They can also make payments on the app without having to switch to other mobile payment apps.
Which social media platforms can make or break brands in Thailand? Can you give us some brand examples?
Salmeron: The most popular social media platform in Thailand is Facebook, followed by YouTube, Line, FB Messenger and Instagram. Having a presence on at least one of the above is essential for brands to connect with and engage with consumers. Which one, or what combination of platforms, depends on the brand's objective in using social media. With paid being an option as well, it really depends on what a brand is trying to achieve. The brand first needs to identify its audience and determine which platform they use in a manner that allows interaction that benefits the brand, i.e. clicks to website, likes, public comments, shares, video views, private messages. Different platforms will elicit different interactions from the audience. What can make or break a brand then is using the wrong platform for their desired outcome. At the most basic level though, Facebook should not be neglected.
Other than Facebook, Instagram and Line, what is the appeal of popular Thai sites such as Pantip and Sanook to brands?
Nidchay: Both Sanook and Pantip, launched in 1998 and 1996 respectively, are trustworthy and popular websites among Thai netizens. Sanook, acquired by Tencent in 2016, is the hub of lifestyle content while Pantip is known for being the biggest platform for user-generated content.
Pantip holds a higher influence on users and brands since it is the trusted platform to look for reviews from real users. Many well-known bloggers and influencers initially attracted attention on Pantip. It is common for products to go out of stock quickly following positive reviews on Pantip.
The influence of Sanook on consumers seems a bit lower since most brand mentions are perceived as paid advertising, unlike the word-of-mouth approach on Pantip which is more impactful. Having said that, both Sanook and Pantip have sponsored content.
Preetanjali Kukreja, strategy director, Brand New Day Asia: It’s important to give precedence to platforms where users can engage and inform opinion, through their own experiences and reviews. Not just influencers, but also the average consumers. Platforms such as Pantip are a go-to as users trust that the reviews they are reading are personal experiences, sometimes more so than those from influencers (who may be getting paid to review products). Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are still important, because of their viral aspect in spreading news and opinions, whether real or fake. YouTube too is important of course.