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Ant Financial’s Ant Forest is more than just ecological investment

By ESC Editorial Team, over 5 years ago Business
Ant Financial’s Ant Forest is more than just ecological investment

Why does Alipay launch Ant Forest? Its product manager replied on Zhihu, a Chinese Q&A website that resembles Quora: 

“There are many problems that everyone understands, but can not do anything about, such as reducing emissions. Everyone hates smog, and most people are willing to do something to reduce it, but it's hard to insist on it. Because it is impossible for an individual to see directly, through energy-saving action, how this affects the global environment.

It is hard to insist that people do something without giving them positive feedback. Ant Forest is an attempt to influence consumer behaviour and motivate green consumption via the Internet. It seeks to constantly raise the awareness of users for the protection of the environment by setting goals (creating a virtual tree) and interacting with friends (watering each other’s trees and collecting energy.

So far, since the launch in August 2016, the performance looks good, with no advertising or promotional campaigns, according to the data collected. By the end of 2017, Ant Forest had 230 million users and planted 13.24 million real trees.

Our goal is to provide each user with a "carbon account" in order to record their daily low-carbon behaviour and thereby promote lower-carbon actions. Ant Forest is the first step in carbon accounts. In the future, it is expected to enable carbon asset trading and investment. 

We hope the form and data of Ant Forest could be an inspiration to the common good and the Internet world. In the Internet, there are ideas, traffic and products, while the area of common good has goals and needs. We expect more interaction between the two sides and more interesting ideas in the future.”

The reasons for Alipay to launch Ant Forest in the role of a product

In the PC era, search, browsers, and social platforms are all entry portals of traffic. However, it is difficult to turn a payment tool into such a portal. 

Alibaba has quickly established its users' brand recognition through Taobao and Alipay on the PC and has created a reverse entry-level effect through the monopolisation of merchants and warehouses. In fact, Alibaba is not a traffic portal. Although Alibaba’s Taobao has over 80 million unique visitors (UV) every day, there are no further state for the traffic to be directed.

1. The extension of social needs

Socialisation is a basic human need. As a product under Alibaba, Ant Forest does not set any key performance indicators (KPIs). But according to the user interaction rate on Ant Forest, it is a good and effective way to give people the thrill of social interaction.

Enable the social property of Alipay through user interaction in the open circle

1) You can see your friend’s fitness situation by reviewing his/her “walk every day”.

2) The time required for participation is low, and friends with a normal connection can interact with each other.

3) Add friends and invite them to join Ant Forest to expand the social circle of users.

4) Let users be proud to serve the public by planting real trees with unique identifiers.

5) Satisfy the users who simply want to have their own barracuda tree.

6) Accidentally cultivate in the users the habit of getting up early



Some comments from Ant Forest user

Before the launch of Ant Forest, Alipay's community of friends focused mainly on money transfers and lucky money (red package). The end of the transaction usually meant the end of interacting with the friend.

After going online, Ant Forest added the "carbon account" logo of mobile phone contacts who are not friends of Alipay to the column of friends they may know, and displayed their current energy value next to the profile image and let users to add friends to their carbon account. As new friends are added, users can pick up some of the energy in their forest.

When it comes to fetching the energy from the forest of a good friend, some Chinese users joke that Ant Forest is the touchstone of friendship.


2. The extension of the usage scenario: increasing the interaction frequency of the users

The tool features of Alipay of course let users forget to open it, unless they have the requirements and usage scenarios for monetary transactions. Therefore, Alipay urgently needs to develop the features that can enhance the user interaction frequency to extend the user's usage scenarios. According to the keyword search on Baidu and WeChat users are enthusiastic about how to get energy fast, how to plant trees quickly, and are interested in tips on how to grow energy.

Looking forward to planting a real tree from virtual saplings, Ant Forest users began to use Alipay in more scenarios, especially those mentioned in the Ant Forest energy harvest guide, such as online underground tickets, online payment and online cinema tickets, all of which can reduce carbon emissions.

3. The competitive pressure of WeChat Pay

WeChat has access to more than 12 popular countries and regions worldwide in 2016, with 1 billion active users per month in 2016 and over 800 million active users per month in WeChat Lucky Money. By comparison, in 2018 Alipay published 870 million annual active users for the first time.

It indicates that the social scenario in an application is helpful in user stickiness and user activation. For example, in everyday life, Chinese users are used to using WeChat to reach out to friends, handle communication at work, follow and share the comments of friends on Moments and so on.

Both Alipay and WeChat do promotions offline, for example they cooperate with traders to provide discount coupons on a regular basis, support the payment of bus tickets and metro cards and carry out advertising campaigns overseas. All in all, however, Alipay is less effective than WeChat.

Ant Forest combines its payment technology with green charitable projects. Perhaps one of Ant Forest’s goals is to eliminate user resistance and encourage them to actively use Alipay in various everyday scenarios. Ant Forest provides a new way for Alipay to stimulate user interaction.


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