Where does this tradition come from?
Historically, Chinese people would thread coins on a string in order to ward off evil spirits. Indeed, the goal was to protect the next generation from sickness or death. This custom was then replaced by the red envelope. People would write blessings to give to their loved ones for special events like the birth of baby, a wedding, summer holidays, etc..
Today, this tradition is taking another dimension, and a new trend was exploding in the digital universe as we switched to the Year of the Monkey (2016).
Tradition become digital phenomenon in China:
Nowadays, this tradition has become connected with Hongbaos which are sent for the Spring Festival. Chinese people are using Hongbaos to send their wishes to relatives and friends, this practice has now become digital.
The Chinese population can send a Hongbao via their smartphone: the ancestral tradition is respected and it is inconceivable not to send a “digital red envelope”.
Today, the country’s three biggest internet companies Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are offering their own version of online red envelopes and dressing up the custom with games and giveaways.
Red envelopes can be sent by Wechat service too. In order to send gift money on WeChat, users need to click on a “red envelop” button in the main menu, then choose an amount and enter a gift message. Depositing money into each other’s WeChat pay accounts is quick and more convenient than withdrawing cash. A huge advantage is that several people can receive your red envelopes at the same time.
E-Hongbaos : a positive impact on the economy:
Since the start of this e-Hongbao trend, all of the biggest platforms in China (such as Alibaba or Wechat) are fighting each other to win the e-Hongbao market. This new kind of payment has huge potential with the opportunity to develop money games, e-commerce promotions or personalized content when people receive money. In addition, e-Hongbao is a new platform for advertisement: people could even be exposed to targeting ads via a Hongbao.
The e-Hongbao will never ultimately replace the traditional red envelope but it does offer a fantastic opportunity for savy marketers to target consumers via this medium.
Benji lives in Shanghai, China and specializes in digital marketing, e-commerce and social networking in the mysterious orient, for more information see his blog and website here.