China Insights
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Same Chinese New Year, different red packets

Martin Guo

Editor-in-Chief, Kantar China Insights

Shoppers 14.02.2018 / 15:16

Kantar CNY 2 col

China’s Mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan - what you should know about Chinese New Year in these markets.

Chinese New Year is the most important festival for Chinese people. It marks the beginning of a new Lunar New Year. Before the new Year of Dog begins on February 16, Lightspeed Research launched an online survey in China’s mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan to ask panellists about their plan, attitude and behaviour during this unique festival period.

Let’s begin with the most exciting element of the Chinese New Year – red packets!

1. To give or not to give?

People might not expect this to be a question, but it indeed is. The three markets have very different traditions as on who should give red packets to whom. On the mainland, as soon as you get a job and begin to earn salary, you stop to be eligible to receive cash red packets, and instead, you need to give out to younger generations. Also, with the WeChat red packet gets increasingly popular, the action of giving/receiving red packets is no longer limited to one-on-one face-to-face scenario. WeChat users can give red packets to friends individually thousands of miles away, or send one red packets to be shared by other friends in one WeChat group.

In Hong Kong, as long as you are not married, you don’t give out red packets and you can continue to request them from other relatives and friends.

In Taiwan, giving/receiving red packets is only among close family members. For example, only your parents and their brothers and sisters can give you red packets.

Against these cultural backgrounds, the mainlanders are more likely to give red packets, with 73% said “definitely” and 25% said “maybe”. Only 2% said “no, I won’t”. In Hong Kong, 30% said they won’t. Taiwan is somewhere in the middle.



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2. How many red packets will you give?

Different cultural traditions also decide different numbers of red packets people plan to give in the three markets. On the Chinese mainland, the threshold for being a “giver” is relatively low, but the value for the red packets couldn’t be too small otherwise the receiver will feel insulted (except for casual WeChat red packets). So the number of planned red packets is neither too many nor too few: among those who said they will “definitely” or “maybe” give red packets, 33% said they will give 10 or fewer red packets, another 34% will give between 11 and 20, another 19% will give 21 to 30. Only 4% will give more than 50.

The criteria for being a “red packet giver” is rather high in Taiwan – you need to be someone’s parent or immediate uncle/aunt – so 83% of those answered “definitely” or “maybe” plan to give 10 or fewer red packets. Another 14% will give 11 – 20. Only 2% will give more than that.

In Hong Kong, in the Chinese New Year period, you are expected to hand out red packets to any acquittance who say “Happy New Year” or “Kung Hei Fat Choy” (wish you make good money) to you. Business owners also need to give all employees red packets on the first working day of the Chinese New Year. So 48% of those answered “definitely” or “maybe” plan to hand out more than 40 red packets.  



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3. How much in the red packets?

To standardize the value in red packets across the three markets, we categorize all red packet size into seven brackets (no up limit for the seventh bracket). Same level of bracket has similar money value across the three markets.

For example, the seven brackets for China’s mainland is

1) 10 yuan or below;

2) 11 – 50 yuan;

3) 51 – 100 yuan;

4) 101 – 300 yuan;

5) 301 – 600 yuan;

6) 601 – 1200 yuan;

7) 1201 yuan and above.

The majority of mainland red packets givers say their budgets fall in the middle: 84% of them range from second to fifth bracket. Only 11% said average value for each red packet is 10 yuan or lower. On the other end of the spectrum, only 5% have a per red packet budget of 601 – 1200. No one is in the seventh bracket.

Hong Kong people, who are the most active givers, have much lower per red packet budget. Nearly 80% are in second bracket (HK$16 – 80), 12% in the third bracket (HK$81 – 150). No one in the seventh bracket either.

Taiwanese give out the “most generous” red packets. One third of them plan red packet budget in the fourth bracket (NT$601 – 1,500), another one third in the fifth bracket (NT$1,501 – 3,000). Even 8% are in the highest seventh bracket (NT$6,001 and above).



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EN Red Packet Brackets

4. Red packet channels

When we asked our panellists through which channel they will give red packets, we can clearly see the overwhelming dominance of WeChat on the mainland. Face-to-face cash red packets is almost the only channel in Hong Kong (98%) and Taiwan (99%). On the mainland, 80% said they will use WeChat red packets, higher than 69% of face-to-face cash. Alipay accounted for 31%. On average, each mainland panellist will use 1.84 channels to give red packets.

5. How to buy Nian Huo?

Nian Huo means goods people usually buy for consumption or as gifts for relatives and friends during the Chinese New Year. Most common categories are food, beverage, snacks, confectionaries, etc.

Mainland panellists are not only more “digitalized” in their red packet channels, but also rely more on e-commerce when buying “Nian Huo”: 85% panellists mentioned online or e-commerce apps, only a little lower than “hypermarkets/supermarkets” (89%). In Hong Kong (88%, 22%) and Taiwan (80%, 26%), people still rely on traditional offline channels.



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6. How to communicate during Chinese New Year?

Although mainland consumers are very digitalized, they are also keen to meet relatives and friends face to face. The most mentioned Chinese New Year communications method is still “face to face” (79%), followed by “calling mobile phone” (72%), “social media” ranked only third (63%). On average, each panellist mentioned 3.27 types of communications methods.

“Face to face” (81%) is also the most popular method among Hong Kong people during the New Year. “Calling mobile phone” and “social media” tied at 42%.

Taiwanese are the same as mainlanders, the preference is “face to face” (78%), “calling mobile phone” (59%) and “social media” (53%).

Both Hong Kong people and Taiwanese mentioned fewer than 3 types of communications methods.

7. Year of the Dog Wishes

New Year festival is the season of new year resolutions or wishes. Mainlanders are most likely to have new year wishes (77%), followed by Taiwan (74%) and Taiwan (66%).

We listed health, relationship, work, financial, educational, social and general, as well as others (open question) for people to pick up to three.

Mainlanders are most keen to have better health: their preference is health (67%), financial (52%) and work (49%). Hong Kong panellists are paying more attention to their economic status: the preference is work (62%), financial (61%) and health (49%). Taiwanese mentioned financial most frequently (72%), followed by work (67%) and health (52%).

Source: Lightspeed

Editor's notes

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