Caixin
Feb 20, 2018 07:39 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Chinese Walk 40 Times the Distance From Earth to Mars for Digital Red Envelopes

Tencent gave out 1.79 billion red envelops worth a total of 200 million yuan to 221 million users through its QQ messaging platform during the Lunar New Year, the Internet giant said on Monday. Photo: VCG
Tencent gave out 1.79 billion red envelops worth a total of 200 million yuan to 221 million users through its QQ messaging platform during the Lunar New Year, the Internet giant said on Monday. Photo: VCG

The tradition of giving "hongbao," or red envelopes, during the Lunar new year has become the latest weapon used by China's major online payment services in their turf wars.

In recent years, China’s top digital payment providers, Alipay, Tencent’s WeChat pay, have flooded users with virtual red envelopes during the festive season to reward their loyalty.

This year, the players have ratcheted up their game, with Tencent giving out 1.79 billion red envelops worth a total of 200 million yuan to 221 million users through its QQ messaging platform during the Lunar New Year, the Internet giant said on Monday.

Tencent, in a clever move, has linked its cash bonanza to users achieving their fitness goals. The 221 million users who received a digital red envelope have accumulated a total of 3.4 trillion steps, or 2.24 billion kilometers, which is equivalent to 20 times the distance for a round trip between Earth and Mars, during the first three days of the festive week that kicked off on Feb. 16, according to the company. This year’s record is 35.9 billion steps more than last year.

The creators of the popular messaging app WeChat, have since 2014, allowed users to send virtual red envelopes to each other on the chat app, laying the foundations for the social media giant to quickly catch up with rival Alipay in China’s red-hot digital payments market.

But, Tencent’s giveaway fell far short of what China’s leading digital payment services provider Alipay was splurging on its users. The platform more than doubled its total hongbao prize money to 500 million yuan this year from 200 million yuan in 2017.

Most users received about 1 yuan on average, but a lucky few had won 666 yuan, according to data from Alipay.

Alipay dominates China’s online payment sector with 53.7% of the market, while Tencent had 39%, as of Sept. according to data from Yiguan Consultancy.

China UnionPay, a distant third in this booming market, also joined in this year. The government-backed bank-card services provider gave out red envelopes worth as much as 2,018 yuan ($319) per user, in bid to promote its own mobile payment app that launched in December. The campaign will last until March 2.

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com)


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