The giving of hongbao, or money-filled red envelopes, is an annual tradition for Chinese New Year that places importance not only on the value of the RMB inside the envelope, but the delivery package itself. While this has led to the creation of ultra-luxe hongbao designs, mobile messaging app WeChat has just released a version of “red envelope” delivery for the more tech-savvy gifters.
The official WeChat account Xinnian Hongbao, or “New Year Red Envelope,” was launched in time for Chinese New Year in order to allow WeChat users to send virtual red envelopes that hold real monetary gifts for recipients.
Once users follow the account, they have the choice to either send a set amount to one WeChat contact, or select several friends to receive a portion of an amount divided at random by the app. If the number of friends selected exceeds 20, only the first 20 who open their “envelope” will receive money. This latter method of disbursement has proven the most popular, turning the tradition into a game for users. According to TechNode, WeChat users are sending out small amounts of money to groups of friends for fun, using the app for people “they’d otherwise never give luck money to.” The mass sending has prompted many users to join out of hope that they will be lucky enough to be included in one of these disbursements.
The main benefit for WeChat is the fact that users who play the game must have WeChat’s payment system activated. A user who receives an envelope that does not have the system activated must join in order to receive their gift. The app has become an “instant hit” in China, and China Daily reports that rumors on social media claim that WeChat Payment’s user base has rocketed to 100 million as a result. However, an employee behind the development of the app said that the number is exaggerated.
WeChat Payment is working to compete with Alipay, the online payment system created by e-commerce giant Alibaba. Alipay has also created a gift-giving campaign for Chinese New Year, but designates that users must request a gift. These competing red envelope games are all about fun for the holidays, but you can bet that anyone involved in e-commerce in China is paying close attention.