Over 100m people enjoy holiday hongbao

By Zhang Ye Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-25 0:13:01

WeChat sees over 1b transactions on New Year’s Eve


China's Internet giants, mainly Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding, enticed millions of users to the country's mobile payment market with the use of digital hongbao (cash-filled red envelopes) during the Spring Festival holidays, analysts said on Tuesday.

Over 100 million people were attracted to a hongbao-grabbing promotion on Alibaba's mobile payment application Alipay Wallet, according to a press release e-mailed to the Global Times by the Chinese e-commerce bazaar on Tuesday.

The activity gifted cash and coupons worth more than 600 million yuan ($95.9 million) from February 11 to February 19 - the first day of the Chinese New Year. Only a limited amount of hongbao were sent out at specific times, leaving those who were too late to join the event with nothing.

Giving out cash-filled red envelopes to relatives and friends is a long-time tradition for Chinese during the Chinese New Year holidays.

Offering digital red envelopes as gifts is something that Alibaba aims to bank on to turn its payment tool Alipay Wallet into a combination of Internet financial and social networking services (SNS), according to the press release. 

"SNS is a crucial and effective way of maintaining users' loyalty, especially for Alibaba whose user base has been eroded by the nation's second largest online retailer JD.com Inc with the advantage of its self-run logistics system," Zhang Yi, CEO of Guangzhou-based iiMedia Research, told the Global Times Tuesday.

Other Internet companies including Tencent Holdings, Weibo Corp and Baidu Inc also launched similar hongbao promotions of their own, either giving cash and coupons to users or allowing people to send hongbao to each other.

In partnership with retailers online and off-line, Tencent sent out 500 million yuan in cash and more than 3 billion yuan in coupons through its SNS app WeChat from February 12 to February 18, the Chinese New Year's Eve.

While the handouts may seem generous, the digital offerings are part of the Internet giants' strategy to increase their presence in China's growing mobile payment market as well as the online to off-line sector, Wang Weidong, an analyst with Beijing-based market consultancy iResearch, told the Global Times Tuesday.

Tencent seemed to be the winner of this year's digital hongbao battle between China's Internet giants to win users for its own mobile payment business, said Zhang.

On New Year's Eve alone, WeChat recorded more than 1 billion hongbao transaction volumes, Tencent said on its official Weibo account on Thursday.

Thanks to its tie-up with China Central Television, Tencent sent out 120 million hongbao during the live broadcast of its popular Spring Festival TV gala.

In contrast, the number of digital hongbao generated via Alipay stood at 240 million on New Year's Eve.

After a 1 billion yuan red envelope campaign in partnership with Alipay on February 2, Weibo, in which Alibaba has a stake, reportedly posted only 101 million transactions on New Year's Eve.

For Chen Ying, a 29-year-old Beijing resident, WeChat's hongbao service offers a better user experience and was easier to be obtained than others.

"I got nothing from Alipay, but I can usually get nearly 1 yuan or more from WeChat," the young woman told the Global Times Tuesday.

WeChat's hongbao has to be shared with several friends instead of belonging to only one person like those offered by Alipay, "ensuring I get a small amount of cash as long as my friend grabs one," said Chen.

Given the warm reception, WeChat's red envelope service will encourage more people to bind their bank cards with Tencent's payment tool, said Wang.  

Though WeChat launched the red envelope feature several days later than Alipay in late January 2014, it emerged on top thanks to its strong social networking function that allows users to send red envelopes to friends and family.

According to data from iResearch, Alipay accounted for 82.6 percent of China's third-party mobile payment market by the end of September 2014, followed by Tencent's payment tool Tenpay, which had a 10 percent market share.

Before WeChat launched its red envelope feature, Tenpay only accounted for 4.2 percent of the mobile payment market by the end of September 2013, the iResearch data showed.

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