Maintaining a good sender reputation is not good enough. Here are tactics for improving the deliverability of your email marketing messages.
In recent years, maintaining a good sender reputation has been one solution for email marketers faced with deliverability issues. Yet, today in China, the same is not true.
Don't believe it? Go conduct some baseline tests against major Chinese ISPs such as 163.com, qq.com, and sina.com and you are very likely to find that the inbox rate could be lower than 50 percent, while global accounts like Hotmail and Yahoo are as high as up to 100 percent.
How could it be so different? What matters more is the solution to this problem.
Below are three tips on how to achieve more than 90 percent inbox rate in China today:
1. Understand Chinese ISPs' mailing policies and practices In terms of mailing policies and practices, every ISP will adopt some global standards and at the same time, will employ local ones, based on their technology and business principles. Thus, a good understanding of their policies and practices is first step to achieve good email deliverability.
For example, the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is required by 163.com and that's clearly stated in its email standard here. Thus, when you don't set up a Sender Policy Framework for the return-path domain, your emails will very likely be rejected due to policy issues by 163.com.
Below is some useful information when you need to identify reasons for being blocked:
2. Build and maintain good ISP relations
One of the most discussed topics when doing business in China is 'relations' or 'guanxi'. In this case, it means you better have some connections with people working in ISPs, especially in the mail department. The good thing about knowing someone working in ISPs is that you can better understand their policies and practices to ensure you meet the requirements and prevent deliverability issues from occurring. By doing so, you can get a quick fix in the future when you are unfortunate to encounter deliverability issues.
For example, if you have a contact in the ISP mail department, they can add your sending IPs into a white list, which is not publicly available. And when you encounter a deliverability issue, you could reach your ISP contact and have your case prioritised and fixed quickly.
3. Reputation still matters
Maintaining a good sender reputation could be cliché, yet it still makes sense to do so. Best practices from the West like building a healthy infrastructure, authenticating your mailing, checking blacklists, removing invalid email contacts, everything you need to do to achieve good results in Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail, are still necessary for the total solution.
One more thing you will want to pay attention, apart from the above three tips, is that ISPs in China change their mailing policies from time to time, and without prior notice. Therefore, constant monitoring on the deliverability performance is important and to stay alert to possible deliverability issues.
China is still an emerging market for email marketing. Therefore, it would take a while for Chinese ISPs to either develop or employ advanced technology to ensure that emails will be routed to the most appropriate folder.
However, when you follow through the above three tips, you could have most of your emails routed to the inbox. And if you find it too time consuming as you plan to expand into the China market quickly, you can also approach some email service providers that have deliverability expertise for assistance.
Do your homework either way and you will see over 90 percent of your emails in the inbox.
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Francis Kwok is the founder and CEO of Radica Systems. Radica has become a leading e-marketing solution provider in six markets in Asia Pacific under his leadership. He has worked closely with Chanel, Mercedes-Benz, Global Sources, CTrip, BenQ China, Li Ning Company, and others, and works to enable enterprises to develop highly effective e-marketing campaigns with advanced personalisation technology.
With numerous experiences in the domain, Francis is also a regular author and guest speaker in Asia. Currently, Francis holds an executive position at the Hong Kong Association of Interactive Marketing. He is also a council member of iProA (Internet Professional Association) and a business adviser of SUCCESS of Hong Kong Trade and Industry Department.
Singapore, 5-6 March
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Hong Kong, April 2015
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