Chinese tech giants in ‘red envelop war’ ahead of Spring Festival
 
Alipay, the mobile payments platform of Ant Financial Services Group, is offering 500 million yuan worth of digital red packets during the Lunar New Year to users of its app. Screenshot of Alipay’s red envelope page Photo: Sino-US.com
 
Chinese tech giants have pledged to give away billions of yuan to Chinese mobile users in the form of digital red envelope and shopping coupons on the occasion of the Chinese Spring Festival, a prime time for mobile platforms to win over more users.
 
Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI and technology conglomerate,  has said it will offer 1 billion yuan worth of digital red envelope through its Taobao online shopping app during the Spring Festival, and 500 million yuan will be given away during the New Year’s Gala on February 15 evening to be broadcast on China Central Television (CCTV), according to Chinese media (link in Chinese).
 
The five-hour show which had around 700 million views in recent years is one of the most watched TV programs in China during the Spring Festival. 
 
Alipay, the mobile payments platform of Ant Financial Services Group owned by Alibaba, has also prepared 500 million yuan digital red envelopes for its users. Users of Alipay are asked to collect five types of digital lucky cards imprinted with the Chinese character “Fu” (福), meaning “blessing”, by using the camera on their smartphones. After collecting the required five “Fu”s, users can become eligible to draw their share on February 15, the New Year’s Eve, and the highest cash reward for one individual user will be 666 yuan. This event started on February 6 and will end on 15.
 
Last year, as many as 167 million Alipay users collected the five “Fu”s needed to enter a lucky draw on Chinese New Year’s Eve.
 
Tencent’s plan combines digital red envelope giving with fitness tracking. It said it would provide 200 million in cash as well as 4 billion yuan worth of shopping coupons to users of its QQ platform. QQ can read motion-tracking data from users’ phones and with every 100 steps, users will have a chance to draw their share. The shopping coupons can be used for the reading, music, cartoon, and live stream services on the QQ platform.
 
“We encourage people to put down their phones and spend more time with their parents and visit friends, as the traditional custom has become less popular than before,” said He Yang, a manager at Tencent’s social network department, reported 21jingji.com, a Chinese economic news portal. 
 
WeChat, China’s most popular messaging, social media, and payments app owned by Tencent, will focus on offline bonus to users who pay with its app in shops, by giving away random discounts. 
 
Besides the two tech giants, several other industry majors including Suning Commerce Group, Sina Weibo, and Today’s Headlines also announced plans to give away digital red envelopes to Chinese netizens. 
 
The Spring Festival, which lasts from February 15, the last day on China’s lunar calendar, to February 21 this year, is a time for family reunions across China, and has a tradition of sending greetings and red envelopes, or hongbao in Chinese, containing cash to relatives and friends. 
 
But in recent years, the traditional way of giving cash in a red envelope has given way to the digital red envelope, thanks to the widespread adoption of mobile payments for gifts and shopping across the country. 
 
According to Chinese media, China has 531 million online payment users as of December 2017, of which 527 million are mobile payment users.
 
That the opportunity has grown for China’s Internet companies to get more users should also be attributed to the large number of mobile subscribers which had reached 1.4 billion as of October 2017, according to (link in Chinese) Chinanews.com.
 
“The very aim of the red envelope war is to win over as many users for mobile payments apps as possible, and the Spring Festival provides a golden opportunity for mobile payment apps to attract more users, which would have a long-term effect,” according to Cao Lei, director of the Chinese Ecommerce Research Centre.

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