Home » Deliverability in China: debunking the myths – Ofri Cohen

Deliverability in China: debunking the myths - Ofri Cohen

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Global Head of Content , Emarsys

Ofri CohenOfri Cohen
General Manager
Emarsys Beijing


Deliverability In China: Debunking The Myths

One of my best professors at the university once said:

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

Myth, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, is “a widely held but false belief or idea”. In this blog I would like to break about two widely-held ideas (or more accurately, practices), concerning email deliverability, identifying the factors that bring us all (myself included) to accept those practices, and then explain why I now believe them to be no more than myths.

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 campaigns. If you’re among this group, stop reading this and please accept my apology for taking 2 minutes of your valuable time.

Email Deliverability


Myth number 1: the practice of using two or more email providers at a time works better

As soon as I landed in China 3 years ago, had met a few dozen clients and friends, 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 usually told – “due to ISP daily volume limitation, one provider just can’t meet my sending volume needs. Having several solutions in place put me in the safe zone since I can always switch between them while facing issues with delivery.”

Sound reasonable? Personally, I think that we should take in to account the following aspects before coming to a conclusion:

1. 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

2. As discussed in my recent blog, 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, I can’t see 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 number 2: relationships with ISPs are complex

What are we talking about when we talk about the “relationship with an ISP”? I recently came across a statement saying that strong relationship with ISP enables the sender to open few channels (using multiple domains and IPs) and increase daily volume limitation. I find 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” him/her?

As a foreigner, I am aware of the cultural differences between East and West. During the last three years in China I came across, and still do, all kinds of challenges as a result of those differences. Backed by an amazing local team I came to realize the importance of “relationships” in China. By no means would I try 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 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, which I personally warmly welcome, 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 personalise 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.