The China Equation: Email Marketing Metrics

Email is exploding in China, judging by a new survey by Webpower. Last year, marketers sent 11.9 billion emails to Chinese domains, and 2.6 billion to foreign domains, Webpower reports. The average use of email and SMS jumped by 210%.

What’s more, these efforts generated an average open rate of 6.5%, a unique click rate of 1.02% and a click-to-open rate of 15.5% across several industries.

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? But it’s not easy to compare these rates with those in the U.S., or to assess the degree of sophistication in the country.   

“The principles of direct marketing are little understood,” said Ruth Stevens, a marketing author and educator who spent several months last year teaching in Hong Kong. “They’re reinventing the wheel and learning by the seat of their pants, and thus their efforts are sub-optimized.”

Regarding the average 6.5% open rate, Stevens observed that “if it’s existing customers, that’s low. If it’s cold prospects, that’s high.” She added that there is a certain lack of transparency about results in the country. 

The Webpower study, which is done annually, is clearly designed to provide at least some clarity. For starters, it ranks Chinese industries by email volume, and by open and click rates. The largest quantities were sent by the retail, ecommerce and IT industries. And the biggest increases in volume were in the manufacturing, airline and cross-border ecommerce sectors.

Outside of the category called “others,” the highest average open rate by industry was in financial services (10.63%), followed by online gaming (9.84%). Next was a category called “traditional industries” (9.25%). Moving down the list were airlines (7.53%), media (7.29%) and education (7.25%). Domestic ecommerce had an open rate of only 4.77%.

This may be like comparing apples and oranges, given different methodologies and countries. But MailChimp reported in February that the average ecommerce open rate in the U.S. was 16.7%. High rates were also garnered by the education and training category (22%), games (20.8%) and media and publishing (22.14%).

But enough unfair comparisons. Returning to China, the click rate lineup was a different from the open rate results. Except for “others,” online gaming was tops with 2.01%, followed by education (1.25%), airlines (1.21%), financial services (1.09%) and cross-border e-commerce (0.93%).

As for delivery, online gaming again topped the list, with a 98.96%. Education was next at 97.70%, followed by others (97.4%), domestic e-commerce 996.4) retail $96.1%) and airlines  (95.04%). financial services was way down the list, with 87.3%, trailed only by cross-border ecommerce (83.3%).

It's not clear if these rates are going up or down, or what kind of technology is driving them. 

Moving on from email, Webpower also reported that roughly 362 million SMS were sent in China last year, the highest volumes coming from financial services, online and retail. The largest increases were posted by financial services, retail and exhibitions.

The results? The average delivery time of SMS verification code was 5-10 seconds. The average SMS delivery rate was 85%-90%. And the average click rate of in-text URL was 20%-25%, according to Webpower. 

So what does Webpower, a marketing automation provider, predict about the future in China? First, that brands will “pay more attention to consumer behavior outside their own ecosystem, especially how users act on social media.” Second, that email senders will focus more on niche data to further segment their customer databases. Webpower adds that this will include response time, device and more. 

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