Could bitcoin envelope overtake gold envelope?
January 28 2017 was the first day of Chinese Lunar New Year of Rooster. Hundreds of millions of Chinese travel back to their home for a family reunion. During the week-long holiday, one way of expressing their affection is to present Red Envelope, aka Hongbao, to their loved ones. The Red Envelope usually contains certain amount of money, amount of which depends on the intimacy of relations. Aside from the usual Wechat red envelope, Bixin bitcoin envelope and Wechat gold envelope are debuted in 2017 Spring Festival.
With smart phone in hand by almost every Chinese, Wechat, the dominant socializing tools in China, has become a new way of saying love by sending and receiving red envelope, a built-in feature that applies to single user and group chat. In a group chat red envelope, the sender may choose the distribution method, a fixed amount or a lucky draw. The latter usually spurs the chase for a good luck as the luckiest one gets the most share in a group chat envelope.
According to a report released by Wechat, from 27th Jan, the New Year’s Eve, to 1st Jan, a total of 46 billion of red envelopes were sent and received, an increase of 43.3% over last year. Guangdong Province residents took the lead by 5.84 billion red packets, followed by 2.93 billion of Jiangsu, 2.64 billion of Shandong and 2.42 billion of Hebei and Zhejiang each.
The proportion of red envelopes among males was 32.4%, while that among females was 25.5%. 24.6% of red envelopes were sent by male to female and 17.5% from female to male.
The Red Envelope feature is the turning point for Tencent to cut payment market share from the dominant Alipay when it was first released on 27th Jan, 2014. Alipay has lost significant market share ever since, which could be illustrated by the following table:
From 2015 to 2016 in the third quarter, Alipay’s lost nearly 18% market share, while TenPay share gain was almost in line with Alipay’s loss. In the 2015 Spring Festival, WeChat managed to have 200 million users connected with their bank accounts, which is a prerequisite for sending and receiving red envelopes. It took Alipay 8 years to achieve the same amount of users group. Tencent has done it in two with the rise of wechat red envelopes. Tenpay’s overtaking of Alipay is only a matter of time if the trend continues.
Haobtc also finds the red envelope a fast track to raise awareness of bitcoin among public. They released a messaging APP, Bixin , featuring bitcoin red envelope just several days before the Spring Festival in 2017.
The screenshot tells that the bitcoin envelope looks very much alike to the Wechat envelope. Random number of “Bits”, or 100 satoshis, are distributed to participants of a group chat.
Meanwhile, Tencent also released the beta version of Wechat gold envelope, which is partnering with ICBC bank. Users can transfer their gold to others in the form of red envelope. All real-name users are entitled to grab gold envelopes, which contains gold ranging from 0.001 to 1 gram but only invited users can send gold envelopes. The gold is purely digital with no physical delivery involved.
One thing noteworthy is that the gold envelope is an asset rather than money, which means the gold price will always be fluctuating, following the movement of the Shanghai gold exchange.
Driven by the hunger for market share, both Haobtc and Tencent want to tap into the common human desire or weakness: chasing for luck, fortune without much efforts.