Alibaba And Tencent Will Battle Over Red Envelopes This Chinese New Year

It may still be more than a week until Chinese New Year on Feb. 19, but China’s online war of the Red Envelopes is already well underway, Tech in Asia reported.

On one side is Tencent, which dominates Chinese social media with its WeChat messaging app. Last year WeChat launched a feature that let users send cash gifts to friends and family, and within two days, nearly 5 million users sent the digital equivalent of 20 million red envelopes — the traditional Chinese gift of money during the New Year’s Spring Festival.

On the other side: the Alibaba-backed, China’s dominant microblogging platform. In the past, Alibaba’s payment platform Alipay let users send red envelopes to WeChat friends, but WeChat has now cut off those links, hoping users will use Tencent’s payments system for the gifts.

The battle lines are already drawn. One part is another round of last year’s successful person-to-person gifting scheme, in which friends and family can send money to individuals or small groups of people, with the money randomly divided among group members. With the group-lottery element and a minimum gift of one yuan (16 cents), it’s likely to be a viral success again.

But Tencent also plans to unleash 500 million red envelopes full of cash and another 3 billion virtual coupons to WeChat users during a 10-day period starting on Thursday (Feb. 12). For a chance to win up to 4,999 yuan ($800), users will have to use WeChat’s “shake” function — in which a user shakes his or her phone — at scheduled times. The biggest giveaway is planned for New Year’s Eve, Feb. 18.

Meanwhile, Weibo and Alipay have already launched their red envelope assault on Feb. 2. According to China Internet Watch, within eight hours 5.5 million red envelopes were issued, with the money stored in users’ Alipay accounts.

Weibo, which has a longstanding focus on connecting brands to consumers, has announced a campaign to get users tweeting a hashtag that’s Chinese for “Let fly a red envelope.” That’s expected to generate followers hoping to collect some extra cash and gifts during the holiday period.


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