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The world's keenest online hagglers help Line rule in Thailand

[BANGKOK] Thais like to bargain hard online for clothes, food and even iPhones, a trend that Japan's Line Corp. is tapping to remain the dominant messaging service in the country.

No other nation uses social media for e-commerce as much as Thailand, with buyers and sellers haggling over price via chats just as they do in ubiquitous street markets, said Ariya Banomyong, Line's managing director in the country.

"Everything that happens online stems from behavior offline," Ariya, 45, said in an interview Monday. "It's an unstructured way to buy and sell items, and we like unstructured."

Social media applications like Line, Facebook and Instagram accounted for 51 per cent of Thailand's US$3.1 billion e-commerce market last year, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP research shows. Line is the country's dominant messaging platform, with 44 million users, and has added services such as e-payment, transportation and food delivery to expand.

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"The e-payment market in Thailand still has no dominant players," said Ariya. "In the next two to three years, there should be accelerated growth in e-payment adoption."

Line's chat stickers are hugely popular in the Southeast Asian nation, among the reasons it has captured up to 90 per cent of Internet users in its biggest market outside of Japan.

Thais spend almost five hours a day using mobile Internet -- the highest figure in the world -- and are glued to social media, research by We Are Social and Hootsuite shows. Bangkok, for instance, has the globe's largest active urban Facebook user base, at 22 million.

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