Smartphone users in China

731 million people. That’s the scope of internet users in China. Any company with global aspirations simply cannot afford to ignore this bustling market. But it’s also a region with significant linguistic, cultural and political diversity. The right approach to marketing is crucial. And email can play a significant role.  

Emails have never enjoyed the same status in China as in the West. The Chinese joined the internet revolution much later and the proliferation of messaging apps like WeChat offered much faster ways to communicate than emails. This, however, doesn’t mean that emails are irrelevant. Actually, quite the opposite. China email marketing has always been one of the most effective direct marketing channels and it is widely used by marketers

To tap into this vast marketing potential, we’ve put together a number of hands-on tips for you. Here are some best practices for email marketing in general and China in particular that will make your campaigns more effective.

1. Be aware of local regulations. Email marketing in China must comply with complex Chinese anti-spam regulations. Chinese law stipulates substantial penalties for unsolicited emails and non-compliance may result in your IP or domain getting blocked, making it inaccessible from the mainland indefinitely.

2. Insert brand identity in the sender bar and the email subject bar. NetEase has opened the permission of uploading the sender’s company logo and displays it in the email client.

NetEase China

3. Think local!

  • Local language: The email’s language will differ depending on a business’ target markets. For example, if the target consumer is in mainland China, the website should be in simplified Chinese; traditional Chinese should be used for Hong Kong, Taiwan or Macao markets.
  • Localization versus translation: The best emails have been truly localized by a team of native language experts. If you want to be sure your marketing message stays intact during the translation process, invest in a team with marketing knowledge that can effectively convey your brand message to the Chinese audience.

4. Think smartphones and tablets. According to China’s Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), there are 469 million mobile web users in China by end of 2016. The vast majority are using the internet on their smartphones and tablets. This means that your email design should be responsive, that is, it must function equally well across all the digital devices.

5. Color perceptions are based on cultural context. In China, red is the most popular color that signifies luck, happiness, and love; blue means high-quality and trustworthiness; yellow stands for purity and good taste. Sometimes, the original branding is somewhat compromised to suit the target market’s preferences and perceptions.

6. Follow CAN-SPAM Rules. 

  • The federal anti-spam legislation CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires a proper opt-out link to be included in a promotional mail, valid “from” email.
  • It also requires the word “Ad” to be included in the subject line for promotional emails.
  • You need to use separate sending domains & IP addresses for  for your transactional emails and promotional emails.  
  • Make sure there is no promotional content in your transactional emails.  

7. Follow the sending limit of each ISP. ISPs will review sender's sending reputation, company popularity and sending history to allocate a daily/monthly volume limit. Senders need to follow the sending limit which guarantee a better delivery performance as a permission. With good/bad reputation, it could be adjusted automatically per day or month.

8. Subject line length: The shorter the better - do not include subject lines that are longer than thirty-five characters.

9. Make it personal. Email is a great opportunity to humanize your brand. Your campaigns will perform better if they are personalized appropriately for your email list segment. So make sure to include a personalization field to be able to use the subscriber's first name or site user name in the email.

10. Minimize images: Limit your use of images to no more than 40% of your email template. Remember, images won't load in the large majority of email service providers per default.

11. Use alt and title text: Because your images may not load, be sure to apply both alt and title text behind the images so that these texts display when the images don't load. Make the text a compelling call-to-action and hyperlink the image with a link to your landing page.

12. Maximum email width of 600 pixels: Your email template should not exceed 600 pixels in width. It may not display in the email preview pane if it does.

13. Easy-to-find unsubscribe Rules: It should be easy and clear to users where to unsubscribe from your email list. If you don't make this apparent, you may be marked as spam, which could impact your ability to get delivered to the inbox in the future.

14. No CSS! Stay away from coding your html email template using CSS. Many email service providers will strip it out. Use traditional < font >and < table > tags instead.

15. Don’t use dark background colors with light font colors. Because many email service providers will strip out your background image or misread your font colors, a dark background with white or light fonts can end up looking like a white background with white fonts or a dark background with black fonts. Stick to light background colors and dark fonts and make sure whatever the picture could be showed, recipients can read your email.

16. Proof your e-mail before you send it. Make sure your spell check is running and content shows as design. 

17. Segment your list and your content. In the case of revenue-generating emails, try to segment your database by purchase history or average spend in order to put the most compelling offer or revenue-generating event in front of the most likely candidate to take advantage of it.

18. Test different offers and content: A/B testing is a common method. You should always be testing different content and offers. 

19. Evaluate your distribution list frequently. Your click through rates or open rate may have absolutely nothing to do with formatting, calls-to-action, or offers. It may simply be that you have put together a list of email addresses of individuals who are not that interested in or engaged with your product or brand. If that is the case, then you'll need to determine for yourself what the best course of action is. You can continue to email those individuals despite poor metrics. You can shift the focus of your email campaign to something more relatable to those individuals. You can re-allocate your time and effort to building a higher quality list.

Follow the list above, and you'll be able to craft successful emails! Want some expert support tapping into the Chinese email market? We’d me more than happy to have a chat and help you out.

Share articleShare