Digital Asia News Update
To celebrate the launch of its digital wallet in Malaysia, WeChat is going with its tried and true tactic of distributing out virtual money packets to users in a week-long promotion. Each packet is filled with a random amount of money, ranging from RM3.88 ($0.95) to RM88.88 ($21.70). Users can then keep the money or send some off to friends.
The campaign appears to be quite successful:
These virtual money packets originate from the Chinese New Year tradition of handing out hongbao, or “red packets,” to friends and family members. WeChat’s introduction of the digital hongbao in January 2014 was a big part of taking the app to where it is today. During the most recent Spring Festival, nearly 800 million people used the feature.
Outside of China and Hong Kong , Malaysia is the first market to get its own digital wallet, called WeChat Pay MY. While the service does not yet offer nearly the range of functions that users in China are blessed with, users in Malaysia can still make payments and transfer money in ringgit, top-up their mobile phones, and book bus or plane tickets.
The launch marks a change in international strategy for WeChat, which has generally focused on catering to Chinese tourists traveling abroad. It’s possible that WeChat Pay could end up catching on in Malaysia, a country which boasts a large ethnic Chinese population and a high rate of smartphone ownership, but where cash remains king and where there is no dominant domestic mobile payment app.
Ironically enough, WeChat’s announcement comes right on the heels of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s trip to China during which he paid a visit to Hangzhou to meet with Alibaba founder Jack Ma.