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In this post, we follow Michael Tsui’s excellent insights on understanding email marketing in China.
The rapid development of the Chinese Internet and enormous number of Internet users (over 400 million) offer great opportunity for market growth. As often, standard rules just don’t apply in China and localization remains a mandatory step for success in this sphere.
In short, China has less developed anti-spam technologies, greater volume of mailboxes, different tech specs, more involved parties (consumers, ISPs, and the government), strict advertising rules, and culturally-sensitive content-related issues.
To help you on your way – invest in relationships. Make time to meet and develop good personal relationships with leading ISPs (mailbox partners) like Tencent QQ and Sohu. Nothing happens in China without personal trust, so it is really important to build relationships with business partners. If you don’t have an internal source who can help build relationships, use a third-party mediator with knowledge of the Chinese market.
Don’t stop at localising your email marketing materials; make sure your website, landing pages and any other links you use are also in local language. Using a localiser from Mainland China (not Hong Kong or Taiwan) will help you be culturally sensitive and increase your chance at success. Localisers will vet your email content and help ensure it is appropriate – that you haven’t picked a date when everyone is on holiday, or that your colour scheme, use of numbers (lucky and unlucky), symbols, etc. is culturally appropriate and will not inadvertently affect you negatively – with lasting repercussions.
To develop successful, local campaigns you’ll need to be more creative in reaching your customers – i.e., via SMS and IM, which is wildly more important than in the U.S. or the EU. You also will need to make some technical adjustments, like setting up your email servers in China, so you don’t have to go through an international gateway, and following local anti-spam and advertising legislation.
Once you have your infrastructure set up, and your campaigns designed and ready to go, remember that in China more than anywhere else, relationships matter.
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