On the day of the Super Bowl 50, Chinese people celebrated their Lunar New Year by sending out 8.08 billion red envelopes on social networking app WeChat. On top of that, 791,405 participants split Alibaba’s RMB 215 million (USD 32.7 million) cash reward at the turn of the Lunar New Year.
According to WeChat’s latest data release, on the single day of Feb 7, Lunar New Year Eve, 420 million people sent or received red envelopes. The total amount of red envelopes distributed is almost 8 times the 1.01 billion distributed in 2015.
WeChat first introduced digital red envelopes in 2014, digitizing a traditional Chinese custom. It then collaborated with China Central Television in 2015 to launch an interactive session during the Spring Festival Gala. The number of WeChat Payment users was boosted to 200 million after the holiday.
Another widely used social networking app QQ — also backed by Tencent — engaged 308 million people with a total of 2.234 billion red envelopes. QQ users can get coupons from brands by swiping virtual red envelopes on the QQ interface.
As Tencent ambitiously tapped into the mobile payment sector with its celebrated red envelopes, Alipay, its biggest rival and also the leading player in the field, is also attempting to add social functions to the already gigantic app.
Alipay’s team bid for the interactive partnership for the 2016 Spring Festival Gala with an estimated price of RMB 269 million (USD 42 million), almost five times what WeChat paid in 2015. During the gala, Alipay engaged users with the ‘Lucky Card Collection’ game via a ‘show’ button in the app.
The ‘Lucky Card Collection’ game was launched a week before Lunar New Year Eve. By adding 10 friends in Alipay, users can get three Lucky Cards. More cards can be received by participating in the interactive games before and during the gala. Users who collect all five types of cards can split RMB 215 million (USD 32.7 million) distributed by Alibaba equally.
791,405 participants each got RMB 271.66 (USD 41) at the end of the game at 00:18 on Feb 8. But more importantly, Alipay revealed that 1.1 billion friend connections were made in its app. This means that Alipay is finally getting a chance to boost user connection in the app — though at the price of at least RMB 500 million including the advertising price for the gala and money distributed to participants.
According to a report by Chinese market research agency Analysys International, as of Q3 2015, Alipay held 44.59% of the mobile payment market, while Tencent-backed Tenpay (including WeChat Payment and QQ Wallet) held 18.63%. The third-party payment market is estimated to have hit RMB 3.39 trillion (USD 516 billion) as of Q3 2015.