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[Herald Interview] Line Pay eyes world connected by ‘seamless payment experience’

Since dominating the mobile messaging space in Asia’s major markets, Tokyo-based Line has been looking to transform itself into an all-around “smart portal” that links users in both their offline and online worlds.

Central to Line’s O2O vision is Line Pay, the mobile payment service created by Line and operated by its subsidiary Line Pay.

Three years in, Line Pay is on track to creating a new ecosystem where users can make payments with the touch of a smartphone anywhere and at any time, according to the company’s chief.

“We are envisioning a future where Line Pay is deeply integrated into all aspects of people’s lives, whether it is transferring money, paying for a utility bill or automatically paying for a reserved meal at a restaurant,” said Line Pay CEO Ko Young-su in an interview with The Korea Herald.

“Right now there are a lot of ‘breaks’ in between people’s activities -- even things like the process of taking out one’s wallet. And I believe there are many instances that Line Pay can cover to create a seamless payment experience at any moment.”

Line Pay CEO Ko Young-su (Line)
Line Pay CEO Ko Young-su (Line)

To achieve this, Line has been developing mobile payment systems without limits on the interface design that best fits the needs of different markets.

And according to Ko, this multi-interface approach is a competitive edge that sets Line Pay apart from rivals like Samsung Pay and Apple Pay that facilitate mostly credit card payments on their respective mobile devices.

“In creating Line Pay, we decided to go for everything we could in terms of our service interface to bring a mobile payment model that matches the needs and payment habits of users in different countries,” Ko said.

In Japan, where cash usage rate is still high, Line Pay’s main offering is the “smartphone wallet.”

Users can add money to the mobile wallet -- through diverse routes whether it is a bank account transfer or via a convenience store.

The account generates a barcode and QR code that can be scanned to make payments at Line Pay-compatible locations. There is also the option of the “Line Pay Card,” a physical prepaid card that connects to the smartphone wallet that has scored well with younger users who do not own credit cards.

Extending into the online realm, Line Pay also includes a “mobile wallet” system to which users register their credit cards. With just a passcode, credit card payments can be made at online stores that support Line Pay in a simplified manner.

To further expand user options, Line is now working to roll out a mobile pay system running on near-field communication technology within this year, Ko said. NFC is the wireless data transfer technology behind services like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, which allows a user to pay by placing a NFC-enabled smartphone near a contactless card reader.

For now, Line Pay appears to be off to a good start, with pronounced growth coming from Line’s core markets including Japan, Taiwan and Thailand, according to the company.

Line Pay had secured more than 40 million registered users globally as of November 2017, and hosted transactions worth a cumulative 300 billion yen ($2.66 billion) from Jan. 1 to Nov. 2 last year, the firm said.

Line Pay’s most imminent task is continued expansion, which means striking more partnerships with more offline and online businesses to provide users with more stores to shop or dine at using Line Pay.

Once it grows in presence, Line Pay can rise as a channel that forges a “win-win relationship” for businesses and customers, Ko said, with businesses getting in direct touch with their target customers and customers benefiting from useful promotional content, including promotions and benefits at their frequented stores.

“When a business partners with Line Pay, it can forge a link with the Line Pay users. When (users) make a payment at a store through Line Pay, they could follow the brand’s Line account. Some could make inquiries or reservations at a hair salon through Line, and receive discounts when using Line Pay,” Ko said.

“These ideas are further testimony to how Line Pay will play an integral role in Line’s vision to reposition itself as a lifestyle platform.”

By Sohn Ji-young (