Lunar New Year

Popularity of digital lai see surges in time for Lunar New Year

Three out of four mainlanders surveyed say they will send the traditional red packets electronically this year as online payments boom

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 4:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 11:04pm

Three out of every four Chinese people are planning to give digital lai see as they welcome the Year of the Rooster, a sharp increase from a year ago when under a third opted for the electronic version of the festive tradition, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The findings of the United Overseas Bank survey reflect the rapid growth in popularity of online payment services among mainlanders, according to analysts.

The survey, completed last month by 1,000 consumers in Shanghai and Beijing aged 18 to 55, found that 75 per cent of respondents planned to send their lai see - a red packet containing cash, known as hongbao on the mainland - electronically this year, up from 30 per cent in 2016.

Nearly 60 per cent of those respondents cited fun, novelty and convenience as their main reasons for choosing digital lai see.

The main recipients of digital lai see will be friends, colleagues, employees, children and relatives’ children, the report said.

Winston Lim, head of personal financial services at UOB (China), said it was not surprising that digital red packets were proving so popular given how mainlanders have become increasingly active online.

“Many Chinese prefer to do more things online – from shopping to social networking - and now even to the tradition of giving the red packets,” he said in a statement.

However, despite the rising popularity of digital lai see, it seems people are still setting aside a much greater budget for the traditional paper version of the gift. Respondents expected to allocate an average of 4,235 yuan for traditional lai see, compared with 2,860 for the digital version. The average budget for lai see rose to 5,719 yuan this year, up 8 per cent from 2016.

Lim said the bank expects to see a 20 per cent increase in the number of customers making WeChat Pay transactions during the holiday period as clients turn to the platform to send digital red packets.

Tencent Holdings started the practice of giving red packets electronically on WeChat, China’s largest social networking app, before the Lunar New Year holiday in January 2014. The idea was a hit with consumers, and other technology giants were quick to jump on board.

The services swiftly boosted Tencent’s position in the mobile payment segment as it vied for dominance with rival Alipay, owned by Alibaba Group. Alibaba also owns the South China Morning Post.

Mobile payments are gaining popularity, especially among tech-savvy young consumers in the mainland. The services offer an easy payment method in brick-and-mortar shops and for online shopping, as well as the capability to remotely transfer money to other users.

Mainland China is the global leader in the segment, with 40 per cent of consumers using mobile payment every week and 77 per cent having used it previously, according to a survey by market research firm Kantar TNS in December.

This number is highest among those aged between 16 and 35, with half of them using mobile payment on a weekly basis. Nearly 60 per cent of the group aged 45 to 65 have tried the technology, while 22 per cent of them use it at least once a week.