On Chinese New Year’s Eve, amidst all the other festivities, China’s WeChat users sent each other an astonishing 1.01 billion red envelopes (pictured above), the social media company revealed.
The virtual red envelopes stuffed with actual cash, which mirror a long-held gift-giving tradition at Chinese New Year, are a growing trend in China as people make more use of online payment methods.
The 1.01 billion tally of WeChat hong bao represents stratospheric growth from last year’s number, when WeChat users sent only 20 million to each other. This year’s total covers only transactions from 8pm on CNY Eve to 12:48am CNY, while last year’s number accrued over two days.
Tencent, the maker of WeChat, didn’t reveal how much actual money was transferred in the billion-plus red envelopes.
Why the huge growth this year? Aside from even more marketing and buzz this year related to giving such gifts online, the main driver was the way Chinese state TV’s must-watch Spring Festival Gala show – which is broadcast every Chinese New Year’s Eve – used WeChat to give away US$80 million in money packed in virtual red envelopes provided by corporate sponsors. That promotion called on viewers to shake the WeChat app on their phones at allotted times in order to have a chance of winning some of the cash. Tencent revealed today that the TV show triggered a total of 11 billion shakes, reaching a peak at 10:34pm with 810 million shakes per minute.
Judging by what I see happening in my social stream, most people were gifting a small, token amount of money, typically less than US$1, to their friends. I get the feeling that the much heftier cash giving that goes on purely among family members at Chinese New Year is still happening only offline with physical envelopes of cash.
Earlier today, Tencent rival Alibaba revealed that users of its Alipay Wallet app gifted US$642M in cash to their buddies on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Read more…