WeChat stakes strong claim in war of the lucky money as Chinese give 14.2b packets on Lunar New Year's Eve

By Zhang Ye Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2017/1/28 12:52:16

Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

A total of 14.2 billion digital hongbao (lucky money packets) were exchanged via China's largest instant messaging app WeChat on New Year's Eve alone, peaking at midnight with 760,000 transactions per second. 

The figure was up 75.7 percent in comparison with the same period of the Year of the Monkey, according to a press release WeChat sent to the Global Times on Saturday.

Traditional gift-giving habits during China's Lunar New year are becoming digitized, as China's Internet giants aggressively promote their own electronic hongbao-grabbing campaign  by giving away cash and coupons over the past Spring Festival holidays. 

The feature, rolled out by WeChat in 2014, successfully boosted WeChat's payment function, which already posed a challenge to the dominance of Alibaba's Alipay to the extent that Alibaba founder Jack Ma described it as a "Pearl Harbor attack."

Alipay upped the stakes with an augmented reality (AR) card in the hongbao battle, adding more Pokemon Go-inspired ingredients to its cash gifting function. 

In addition, the country's largest mobile payment tool continued last year's theme of collecting five different styles of fu (good fortune), giving away 200 million yuan ($29 million) in cash and coupons to users who completed the collection. About 168 million users finished the collection on New Year's Eve, getting red envelopes filled with random amounts of money up to 666 yuan, according to a press release Alipay sent to the Global Times Saturday.

By contrast, WeChat, another major pioneer of the battle, did not feature any hongbao-grabbing activities this year as before. But this does not mean its parent company Tencent Holdings retreated from the battle. Another instant messaging tool of Tencent, QQ, also rolled out its AR-featured marketing campaign starting January 20. The campaign attracted 342 million users, 68 percent of whom are from the post-90 generation, data obtained by the Global Times from QQ showed on Saturday. Over 308 million users participated in last year's QQ campaign.  

Alipay has not issued the result of its hongbao campaign for this year yet. 

"Alipay made the hongbao-gifting activity more interesting this year to target youngsters. But it seems that QQ has more chance to win the battle, because it is the most popular chat app among the post-90s generation," Wang Pengbo, an industry analyst with Analysys International, told the Global Times.

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