Alibaba’s Alipay released an update to its app last Thursday, combining lucky money with Pokémon GO-inspired features. The release by Alipay, which has 450 million registered users, is launched for the upcoming 2017 Spring Festival in late January. It is a Spring Festival tradition for families and friends in China to give and receive lucky money or red packets as a wish for good luck.

The update provides a new function, or “AR Red Envelope” as named by Alibaba, which is based on location-based service (LBS) and image recognition, creating the fun reminiscent of childhood hidden object games.

How to receive and send lucky money

Launch the Alipay app and click “Lucky Money”. Apart from its usual individual and group red envelope offerings, it now also includes the AR Red Envelope.

AR Red Envelope allows users to receive and send red envelopes.

To receive lucky money, click on one red envelope among several displayed on the screen map. Then a photo clue will pop up. With the guide of the clue, you will need to find the place in the real world to scan and receive lucky money.

Alipay's new feature displays nearby red packets .
Alipay’s new feature displays nearby red packets.

For lucky money senders, hold the phone over a specific place for several seconds, set the total amount of money and number of red envelopes you would like to send, and indicate if you want to send the envelope to only friends or everyone.

What’s in it for Alipay?

This new function will help Alipay promote itself among users with potential sponsorship from offline stores and restaurants, as well as brands that hope to interact and engage with consumers.

AR red envelopes from stores and brands are scheduled to be available on Jan. 1, according to the description on Alipay.

The first batch of brands participating in the AR Red Packet include Coca Cola, P&G, and Japanese clothing company Uniqlo,reported Chinese news portal Sohu.

Aside from consumer engagement, the function will benefit Alipay’s relentless endeavor to include socialization elements in its services, as this game will be fun to play among friends.

Late last month, Alipay launched a socializing feature, Life Circle, in an effort to enhance its power in online social networks. The feature allows users to socialize with strangers based on gender, location, interests, and so on.

What about Tencent?

In the mobile payment field, Alibaba competes with its rival Tencent.

Tencent’s WeChat, the most popular messaging app in China, first introduced digital red envelopes in 2014, moving a traditional Chinese custom onto online screens. On the first day of Lunar New Year earlier this year, Chinese users sent out 8.08 billion red envelopes on WeChat.

WeChat has 806 million monthly active users, according to its Q2 2016 report. So far, it has not announced plans for AR red envelopes.

However, Tencent’s other widely used social networking app QQ officially stated on Friday that it will release its LBS+AR red envelope on January 2017.

(Top photo from Pixabay.com)

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Heather Wang
Heather is a writer at ACT. She is passionate about literature, photography and technology. She graduated from Shanghai University of International Business and Economics with a Master's Degree. Write to her: heather[at]allchinatech.com

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