Email marketing in China

China’s booming internet-enabled population is expected to surpass the 700 million mark later this year. To put it into perspective, this figure represents about one out of every four internet users in the world. If you are active in international email marketing, you most likely already have subscribers in China, or you definitely need to.                  

Get your foot in the door

After years of penetrating the market, email marketing is starting to find its place in China. Currently, China's users are gradually developing email habits and marketers are paying more and more attention to the benefits of email marketing for the Chinese market. Compared to overseas, mostly young adults or middle-aged people engage with email marketing in China.  

Study the playing field

All in all, email marketing in China is just a different ball game. For starters, Chinese tend to spend less time with emails compared to those in advanced markets like America or Japan. Aggressive spamming also makes users defensive towards promotional mails, which then affects both email open and click rates. Not to mention the difficulty, and risk, concerning complaints about spam: In comparison to its US equivalent, Chinese anti-spam legislation (“Regulations On Internet Email Services”) is by far more complex and severe. This law applies to emails sent to all Chinese residents and, at least in theory, covers users who happen to receive emails while in Chinese territory. But there is an upside, of sorts: So far, there have been no known or at least reasonably high profile cases of the actual application of the law to prosecute any offenders. In fact, the law does little to help with the major spam problem that exists today within the Chinese internet space.

Seize the moment

If done right, however, email marketing is still one of the most cost-effective and rewarding channels, even in China. Direct mail marketing has always been one of the most effective direct marketing channels in China, and it is widely used by marketers. The main appeal of email marketing is in its relative low cost combined with the ability to get your message directly to the recipient’s inbox, or smartphone, as is increasingly becoming the case. The excellent ROI and enormous reach of email campaigns are what make this channel an important component in your overall marketing strategy (provided, of course, that your email actually lands in the inbox). Connecting with over 700 million email users in China at a very low cost is undoubtedly a very attractive prospect.

Take some friendly, and expert, advice:

1. Remember that relevance is the key
Online and purchasing behavior in different cities and regions can be very different due to the diverse demographics in China. Marketers should recognize the importance of employing demographic, behavioral, lifestyle and life-stage segmentation to identify clusters of customers and launch targeted campaigns for specific regions with highly relevant information their individual customers want.

2. Support simplified Chinese in the subject line
Chinese recipients undoubtedly prefer subject lines in simplified Chinese. Before you roll out your campaign, don’t forget to check your character code in the subject line to ensure it is in either GB2312 or UTF-8. It will help you avoid low open rates due to strange symbols appearing in your subject line and sender name.

3. Add AD to the subject line
All email marketing messages must add the word AD or the Chinese equivalent in the subject line. Most countries do not require AD in the subject line, but this is not really a valid excuse, as the Chinese regulations are very clear on this requirement for each and every email to any Chinese resident.

4. Follow downloadable content requirements
If a message contains any links to external content – such as a piece of software or an app – the law requires a written guarantee that they do not contain any spyware or anything that can facilitate hackers. It is not clear, however, whether this also applies to downloadable graphics such as images or thumbnail icons.

5. Keep Article 57 in mind
Although Article 57 of the Regulations on Telecommunications stipulates what kind of topics are allowed in an email, it has been purposefully left quite vague. There are thousands of words and topics that are currently banned, but the list is very dynamic. Politically sensitive topics are the obvious ones to avoid, as well as anything that is deemed obscene or pornographic. It’s a good idea to refer to the list of blacklisted keywords before starting your email marketing campaign in China.

6. Develop an anti-spam strategy
The major internet service providers (ISPs) do not refer to any 3rd party certification organization like Return Path, or whitelists and blacklists. They all follow their own anti-spam strategies, which limit the sending volume of domain/IP and request to register sender. We are happy to support you and develop an anti-spam strategy that will follow Chinese ISPs' anti-spam rules to improve your deliverability.

7. Follow the limit of ISPs
QQ, Netease, Sina and other Chinese ISPs have multiple limits. The limit is applied on IP, domain, connection and sender.

8. Never forget mobile
More than 62% of the Internet traffic in China comes from mobile devices. Your email template should thus adapt to all of the devices. The best solution is to use a responsive design.

Source: Webpower China

So seize the moment and tap into the potential that is email marketing in China. Make sure to have a strategy in place that accounts for the very different market circumstances. Not entirely sure where to start? Want some expertise? Let’s talk and we’ll help you out.