Billions of Chinese web messaging app WeChat users sent ‘red envelopes’ to celebrate Chinese New Year. Handing out red envelopes containing a monetary gift or “lucky money” is a Chinese custom with a long tradition. WeChat launched the Lucky Money feature during Chinese New Year 2014, resulting in more than 20 million envelopes being sent within 48 hours.
More than 650 million monthly active users use WeChat each month, the majority of which are based in China, though the service has made moves into India, Latin America and south eastern Asia with extensive advertising campaigns. Comparatively, WhatsApp has more than one billion monthly active users.
Now, whether it is Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day or Mid-Autumn Festival, another traditional Chinese holiday, Chinese people have already adopted the custom of expressing their feelings through WeChat Lucky Money. Sending WeChat Lucky Money has gradually become a new trend and a cultural phenomenon.
The number of Lucky Money being sent and received via WeChat is soaring: 16 million “red envelopes” containing lucky money were sent and received on the eve of Chinese New Year in 2014, while 1 billion such envelopes were sent and received on the same eve in 2015, followed by 500 million envelopes on Children’s Day, 1.4 billion on Chinese Valentine’s Day, more than 2.2 billion during Mid-Autumn Festival (twice as many as on New Year’s eve). 2.31 billion Lucky Money envelopes were sent and received on the last day of 2015.
TheDrum reported today that according to WeChat, owned by digital media business Tencent, 420 million people sent each other lucky money via the app’s payment service on the eve of Chinese New Year. According to WeChat, it has seen a total of 8.08 billion red envelopes sent so far for Chinese New Year, eight times more than last year.
To put this into context, according to PayPal it made 4.9 billion transactions in 2015 (half of the number of transactions made on WeChat just for Chinese New Year) and only 28 per cent were made on a mobile device.
One significant difference in the digital version of the tradition seems to be the amount being sent. The statistics revealed that the most popular amount gifted was RMB 8.88 ($1.35), (eight is a lucky number). This is a lot lower than would be gifted in envelopes in person and is likely to be a lot lower than the average transaction amount on a platform like PayPal.
Similarly, Chinese social network Weibo released figures showing that 134 million active users logged on during the eve of Chinese New Year, with 100 million receiving lucky money digital envelopes via the platform.
According to the data from Tencent, women were more generous as 56.5 per cent of senders were female.