Wei Gu
Wei Gu

Just in time for Chinese New Year Tencent launched for its social platform WeChat electronic editions of the red enveloppes or Hongbao´s, handed to relatives or friend. WSJ´s Wei Gu explains how it first into WeChat´s strategy to monetize its service at the Wall Street Journal.

Wei Gu:

The new service is the latest step by Tencent to get its popular Wechat platform ready for monetization. To lure users to spend money on its e-commerce site, it first needs them to connect the app to their bank accounts, and since there are few things more ingrained in Chinese culture than giving out New Yearhongbao, this new feature is one way to convince them to do that.

Envelopes stuffed with money are by far the most popular gift for special occasions in China such as the Lunar New Year, weddings, the birth of a child and even funerals. (In the case of a funeral, a few hundred yuan notes are put in a white envelope to show respect for the dead.)

Still, distributing cash through a smartphone app brings this gift-giving tradition to a new high, with some users taking advantage of the feature as a marketing tool to get more followers. This trick has worked because adults who are usually handing out the cash have been enjoying the fun of competing for some for themselves for a change in chat rooms. The exact amount can be randomly decided by the computer, with the sender deciding how much to give in total and to how many people but not how it is divided. This adds to the fun and caters to the gambling lovers.

Even those heading overseas during Chinese New Year may find it hard to get away from this red envelope mania; it appears the only way to escape will be to turn off the Wi-Fi in their hotel rooms.

More at the Wall Street Journal.

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