Vir­tual red en­ve­lope trend grows

New hol­i­day cus­tom aims to at­tract users

Global Times - - Front Page - By Huang Ge Page Ed­i­tor: wang­cong@glob­al­

More do­mes­tic in­ter­net ti­tans have joined the trend of send­ing dig­i­tal red en­velopes, or cash gifts, ahead of this year’s Chi­nese lu­nar new year sea­son, which be­gins on Fri­day. Hand­ing out the free cash can at­tract users to on­line plat­forms and thus boost net­work flow to re­lated prod­ucts.

Alibaba Group’s on­line shop­ping plat­form Taobao said it will hand out red en­velopes and prizes worth more than 600 mil­lion yuan ($94.8 mil­lion) as part of its spon­sor­ship of the an­nual Spring Fes­ti­val Gala, which is to air on Thurs­day night.

Ali­pay, Alibaba’s third-party pay­ment tool, un­veiled on Fe­bru­ary 5 its Hap­pi­ness Cards col­lec­tion chal­lenge, of­fer­ing users a lucky draw worth 500 mil­lion yuan. It is the third year that Ali­pay has launched this ac­tiv­ity and more than 140 mil­lion users had al­ready com­pleted the col­lec­tion as of 8 pm on Tues­day.

Ten­cent Hold­ing’s QQ plat­form said that users can get red en­velopes by re­view­ing their move­ments dur­ing the hol­i­days.

More com­pa­nies, such as Sun­ing Hold­ings Group, and Amap have also joined the trend and are pro­mot­ing var­i­ous red en­ve­lope of­fer­ings this year.

Chi­nese in­ter­net firms have adopted this cus­tom in re­cent years to draw users to their on­line pay­ment plat­forms, Lu Zhen­wang, an in­de­pen­dent e-com­merce an­a­lyst, told the Global Times on Tues­day.

Ten­cent was the first com­pany to launch the red en­ve­lope pro­mo­tion ahead of Spring Fes­ti­val in 2014, with Alibaba’s Ali­pay launch­ing a sim­i­lar one in 2015.

“But this year’s red en­ve­lope war is no longer re­stricted to Ten­cent and Alibaba, and does not fo­cus merely on at­tract­ing users to mo­bile pay­ment sys­tems,” said Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMe­dia Re­search.

Zhang told the Global Times on Tues­day that “an in­creas­ing num­ber of new­com­ers want to at­tract net­work flow to their other on­line prod­ucts via this op­por­tu­nity.”

Less pop­u­lar?

“The new types of red en­ve­lope pro­mo­tions in­ter­est me and I have al­ready be­gun play­ing with my friends,” Du Gong, a res­i­dent of Zunyi, South­west China’s Guizhou Prov­ince, told the Global Times on Tues­day.

But some other users are not so en­thu­si­as­tic. “I made a great ef­fort to col­lect all the Hap­pi­ness Cards on Ali­pay last year, but only got 1.8 yuan in the end,” a 20-some­thing white-col­lar worker sur­named Guo in North China’s Tian­jin told the Global Times on Tues­day.

Part of the rea­son why users are less ex­cited about such pro­mo­tions than they were in pre­vi­ous years is be­cause the ac­tiv­i­ties are strongly com­mer­cial­ized, said Zhang, and no mat­ter how much the com­pa­nies spend on the red en­velopes, some peo­ple see them as just a gim­mick.

“What re­ally con­cerns peo­ple is that as mo­bile pay­ment tools are widely used, there is a pos­si­bil­ity that per­sonal in­for­ma­tion could be stolen by Tro­jan Horse viruses em­bed­ded into the red en­ve­lope pro­mo­tions,” Zhang said.

Dur­ing Spring Fes­ti­val in 2017, 78.5 per­cent of China’s smart­phone users par­tic­i­pated in red en­ve­lope pro­mo­tions, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by iiMe­dia.

Ten­cent’s so­cial me­dia plat­form WeChat said a to­tal of 14.2 bil­lion cy­ber red en­velopes were sent and re­ceived through the plat­form on the eve of lu­nar new year in 2017, up 75.7 per­cent year-on-year.

Ex­perts fore­cast that this year the amount will con­tinue to rise as the ac­tiv­ity has al­ready be­come a new cus­tom dur­ing the Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­days.

AI ad­vances

Apart from the pop­u­lar red en­ve­lope pro­mo­tion, Baidu Inc on Fri­day teamed up with China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion to launch an on­line sys­tem that can au­to­mat­i­cally com­pose cou­plets by us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) tech­nol­ogy.

The sys­tem can write a pair of cus­tom­ized cou­plets within sec­onds ac­cord­ing to the key words en­tered by users.

Ten­cent also launched a sim­i­lar AIbased cou­plet com­po­si­tion ser­vice on Mon­day.

The de­vel­op­ment of AI made great steps for­ward do­mes­ti­cally in 2017, and the cou­plet idea is likely to res­onate with Chi­nese peo­ple, Zhang said.

“It is a great op­por­tu­nity for these firms to dis­play their progress in re­search, de­vel­op­ment and ap­pli­ca­tion of the AI in­dus­try,” he noted.

AI tech­nol­ogy will make the ser­vices more en­ter­tain­ing and get more users in­volved, Lu said, adding that new tech­nol­ogy will con­tinue to be in­tro­duced into the hol­i­day ac­tiv­i­ties in the fu­ture.

“This year’s red en­ve­lope war is no longer re­stricted to Ten­cent and Alibaba, and does not fo­cus merely on at­tract­ing users to mo­bile pay­ment sys­tems.” Zhang Yi CEO of iiMe­dia Re­search

Photo: IC

A user tries to open a dig­i­tal red en­ve­lope on Fe­bru­ary 6.

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