During my time in college I learned a lot. I was able to take to some incredible courses with some of the smartest professors around. I could easily quote them all, but there’s a particular quote from one my favorite professors who famously said:

“The sound that I like the most is the sound of a myth being broken”

Email marketing in China is a bit more complex than it is in other countries. One of the most important factors influencing this is deliverability. But, there are actually several email marketing myths that should be considered when implementing email campaigns in China.

Myth, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, is “a widely held but false belief or idea”. There are two widely popular email deliverability myths that need to be addressed. This post will identify what these factors are, while taking an in-depth look if these myths can actually hold up.

The good news, in my opinion, is that local ISPs have now set strict rules and are improving monitoring methods. As a result, some senders in China already comply with local ISP’s policies, integrating successfully with their current provider, using professional applications (if they have the resources) and are making money out of email marketing campaigns.

Let’s examine what these myths are and why they are important.

Myth #1: Using Two or More Email Providers at a Time Works Better

When I first landed in China, I had already met a few dozen clients and friends and I came to realize that the biggest pain point for Chinese clients is the ISP’s daily threshold, a result of low deliverability and reputation. The most common solution deployed by the sender, I discovered, is using more than one provider at a time and switching between them while facing deliverability issues. When I asked why they use multiple providers I was told – “due to ISP daily volume limitation, one provider can’t meet  sending volume needs. Having several solutions in place allows for a safe zone since you can always switch between them while facing issues with delivery.”

Why is This a Myth?

Sounds reasonable, right? However, there were some key factors that needed be taken into account before coming to a conclusion:

ISP Problems

The ISPs operate a policy whereby an algorithm automatically assesses the recipient’s engagement with the sender based on the open rates and complaints for each domain and IP. If the sender’s open rates and number of complaints logged are within the ISP’s tolerance levels, the sender is allowed a very high volume of outgoing correspondence. Should the sender’s open rate fall too low or the number of complaints reach a set threshold, sooner or later the ISP will either mark outgoing correspondence as spam or block it altogether.

Unstable Results

Using multiple domains and IPs in order to “fool” ISPs (especially QQ) will never bring long stable results. As local ISPs improve their monitoring methods, it is impossible to whitelist multiple domains, complete feedback loops and increase the reputation of each sender domain.

Considering these factors, it’s difficult to envision how multiple providers / platforms operating together can help the sender to improve performance and increase daily volume limitation. In essence, from the ISP point of view, using more than one email provider is no different to using multiple domains and IPs. Sooner rather than later, the targeted ISP will realize that all messages are actually coming from the same sender and the reputation of each domain will drop.

Daily volume limitation is set according to sender reputation. Using several providers / multiple domains and IPs and switching between them will not break the threshold.

Improving sender reputation by targeting members according to their email response and making sure your definition of an “active member” is similar to what the targeted ISP defines as an “active member”, will result in higher daily volume limitation. Regardless of the capabilities of our current platform in place, we shall not follow false practices and ideas / myth.

Myth #2: Relationships with ISPs Are Complex

What do I mean when I say “relationship with an ISP”? A strong relationship with ISP enables the sender to open few channels (using multiple domains and IPs) and increase daily volume limitation. However, this statement is self-contradicting. After all, by opening multiple channels for the same source of content / sender we are very much ignoring the ISP regulations and spamming their mailbox users. How can we have strong relationship with someone if we try to “fool” them?

It’s obvious that there are cultural differences across all parts of the world. I’ve been in China for a few names, yet as a foreigner, I still come across all kinds of challenges as a result of those cultural differences. Backed and supported by an amazing local team, I came to realize the importance of “relationships” in China. By no means am I trying to challenge the astonishing, complex and unique culture that attracted me to come and live in China in the first place, but on this one occasion I do ask you, the reader, to make sure we are not following false practices and mythological ideas.

When I talk about relationships with ISPs I talk about ongoing communication that helps us to understand and comply with their policy, win their trust, and increase sender reputation. Simple, straightforward, nothing else involved.

Following Chinese ISPs new regulations, email marketing can no longer be seen as an independent marketing channel. Email marketing will have to be backed up by an email response reporting (something that many in-house systems are lacking in), an analytical tool to identify the lifecycle stage of each consumer and the capability to personalize content. After all, regardless who we are and where we come from, no one likes junk information and we all have a big smile on our faces when someone delivers what we really want.

Final Thoughts

While these practices are different from what we are used to in the United States, considering the dissimilarities and altering your strategy accordingly can lead to successful results. One of the most important elements to consider is deliverability, and this is certainly something that will come into play when implementing email campaigns in China. Hopefully this has provided you with a better insight into the world of email marketing myths that surround China.

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