Apps BAT China Digital Business Life in China Marketing MBADMB Mobile

The virtual Hongbao war in China

As you have probably noticed, Chinese New Year started two weeks ago, and after all the celebrations, big family dinners, fireworks and parties, it’s now time to talk about numbers.

Every New Year Eve, as a tradition, Chinese people offers Hongbao (红包) to family and friends. It means ”red envelopes” containing lucky money. Due to the massive use of mobile in China, Hongbao are now becoming virtual.

This is also turning into a financial battle between the 2 biggest Chinese tech companies Alibaba and Tencent through their payment solutions.


alipay                           wechatpay

When did it start ?

Tencent was first to play during the 2014 Chinese New Year, by introducing the Hongbao as a new feature on WeChat, allowing people to gift lucky money through the messaging app.

Indeed, after linking a WeChat account to a debit card, it was possible to send money directly to a contact, or even a chat group by giving to all the same amount, or funnier, a lucky draw with random ones.

This launch was a big success : 40 million red envelopes were sent, representing 400 million RMB, and WeChat Pay won 8 million new users, not to mention that this was its main goal.




And then ?

After that, what Alibaba founder Jack Ma called a “Pearl Harbor attack”, the company decided to strike back in February 2015 by creating a partnership with the microblogging platform Weibo.

Together, they launched the “Let’s Hongbao Fly” campaign, allowing users to win lucky money or vouchers, but also let them to help finance Hongbao for their favorite celebrities, all thanks to Alipay payment solution.

Even Jack Ma himself gave away 999 999 red packets, “catched” in less than 3 minutes.
The total amount the lottery reached around 600 million RMB.



His own Hongbao shared on Weibo, with David Beckham

Shake your phone to earn money

Hearing this, Tencent decided to give 800 million RMB to users, simply by shaking their phones at special moments. During CCTV Spring Festival Gala TV show for example. To make this happen, people just had to use the “Shake” feature on WeChat, which usually serves to find other users nearby. The biggest amount to win each time was 4 999 RMB. In total, 1 billion Hongbao were sent this year through WeChat, whereas only 240 million sent through Alipay…

For 2016 Chinese New Year, e-commerce giant Alibaba won the CCTV partnership for the Spring Festival Gala against Tencent. The company gifted 400 millions RMB during the show in order to reach 700 million viewers. On the Alipay app, users were also invited to collect 5 “Happiness Hongbao” to get a chance to win a 215 million RMB lottery.

On the other hand, Tencent used again the WeChat “Shake” feature to offer red packets, but also the “Moments” creating a photo game. The goal was to unblurry photos posted on “Moments“ by sending a Hongbao. It became a hit for users straight away. Results : over 8 billion Hongbao sent on WeChat during Chinese New Year, and 4 billion RMB cash only during the New Year Eve !
Seems again that Tencent won the battle…

Looking for red packets with augmented reality

In December this year, Alibaba launched a new mini game within the Alipay app, allowing users to search or hide virtual Hongbao with augmented reality (AR) technology.
As WeChat did in 2014, it’s a new fun and innovative way to share the traditional red envelopes.

Here a video from Sixthone which explains how it works :


The goal of the game might remind of Niantic’s app Pokemon Go launched this summer, and that’s right, as it was inspired by and because it is also using AR combined to user location. Obviously, brands are also using the game : Coca Cola, KFC and P&G already have signed up to give away vouchers. And it looks that’s the feature will stay after Chinese New Year.

2017 New Year, WeChat numbers become crazy again

Alibaba numbers aren’t yet communicated, but with 760 000 Hongbao sent in 1 second to a total of 14,2 billion in 24h during New Year Eve, Tencent is probably winning again the red packet battle this year.


                                                                Source : Walk The Chat

As a reminder,
520 : I love you
8.88 or 88.886.66 or 66.66 : luck and money


To learn more about WeChat and Chinese traditions



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *