Online companies and piles of cash turn hongbao digital
Internet companies have doubled down on their marketing budgets as sending greetings via virtual platforms has become the new normal.
Douyin, Kuaishou, Baidu and Pinduoduo launched campaigns inviting users to take part in digital hongbao (red envelope of lucky money) promotions over Chinese New Year with a combined value of more than 9 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion).
The cash handouts will peak on Thursday, the Lunar New Year's Eve.
Douyin, the official partner of this year's CCTV Spring Festival Gala, is encouraging viewers to answer trivia questions, watch short video clips and follow video creators to share the cash handouts.
The tradition began in 2015 when WeChat became an exclusive partner with CCTV — Alipay, Taobao and Pinduoduo later followed suit.
The weeklong holiday that starts tomorrow is a chance for tech giants to grab a bigger share of Internet traffic.
"Completing small tricks and playing mini games on these social sites is a common pastime, and it wouldn't hurt to earn some small red packages," said Shanghai consultant Jesse Liu, who will spend the weeklong holiday in Shanghai with family members.
YY's livestreaming users can join Baidu's holiday campaign after the search giant spent around US$3.6 billion in cash last November to acquire YY Live — a foray into the growing market of social media and video streaming.
YY Live has invited more than 100 livestreamers to showcase traditional holiday activities such as dancing, singing and variety shows, and join hands with broadcasters around the world on Chinese New Year's Eve to share specialty dishes.
Local artists have designed different versions of virtual fortune stickers on Alipay.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are also fully leveraging digital infrastructure.
Bailian Group's Shanghai No. 1 Shopping Center is offering digital vouchers on its official WeChat mini program for its Spring Festival and Valentine's Day sales campaigns.
Not everyone, however, is thrilled with all the digital holiday hullabaloo. Some have complained that complex rules have driven people to become glued to their screens instead of spending time with their families.
Sophy Jiang, who returned to her hometown in Yixing in neighboring Jiangsu Province, chose to ignore the bonanza of new promotions from social media sites to lure users.
"I've spent too much time on smartphones," she said. "I have to stay away from them for a few days during the break."