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Monday 22 December 2008

Effective Email Marketing in Asia

How to succeed with Email Marketing in Asia

Email marketing in the US and Europe is a “must have” for any serious marketer. It is one of the most cost-effective ways of establishing and maintaining a one-to-one relationship with customers that delivers serious sales. So why is it so underutilized here in Asia?

The lessons learned from other parts of the world are compelling. According to Forrester Research, people who buy consumer products that were promoted to them via email spend 138% more than other people. Similarly, 50% of consumers who open and read email marketing messages also are likely to purchase other items on impulse.

However, for Asian marketers email is more of a challenge. The key reasons there has been a lack of take-up for brands doing email marketing include having to do things in multiple languages, the cost of content creation, poor data quality and government regulation. For consumers, email isn’t as popular as instant messaging, there are language barriers, inconsistency in when emails are sent, a lack of compelling content and a hell of a lot of spam out there cluttering their inbox.

Language is a factor
The need to develop content in multiple languages is one of the key reasons that Email Marketing has been slow to take off in Asia. A lot of marketing teams tend to be lead from a Regional office, so will develop a campaign idea that may have to be implemented in 10 countries - all with different cultures and languages. This can be a daunting task that turns a simple eDM into a complex exercise where the copy has to be translated multiple times, the creative needs to be optimized for different cultures and rigorously tested to ensure the most effective results can be achieved. This can make something that seems very simple into an expensive exercise.

This is also one of the reasons that Instant Messaging (IM) and use of Mobile devices is doing incredibly well in Asia, because people can interact with their friends and community in their own language. With Instant Messaging the consumer creates their own content in their local language, so smart marketers are working with their media agencies to get their communication into IM. Combined with IM advertising, triggered email messages can be very effective.

Data vs Spam
Another barrier for marketers is the lack of good data. Consumers in Asia are wary of providing their personal information because there’s a high expectation that your inbox will instantaneously flood with 109,398,765 spam emails overnight. Marketers and brands have work to do in persuading consumers that if they hand over their valuable personal information they will not be spammed and only presented with relevant and compelling content. Consumers need brands to understand them and only send the information that they want. No one wants useless junk mail – email or otherwise.

Who’s doing it well?
The airline industry, and the low cost airlines in particular, are a great example of success. The savvy Marketing Directors are using email as a channel, promoting their lowest cost specials (e.g. the $1 airfare) exclusively through email. This drives incredible loyalty and response rates. While there are some great examples of this starting in Asia, some of the best case studies of this I’ve seen are Jetstar and Virgin Blue in Australia who use email marketing as an exclusive channel for low cost airfare deals. When compelling content (particularly when it’s exclusive deals) are sent to your inbox, you start to see open and click through rates go through the roof and massive sales start rolling in.

Email marketing is a great tool for any company interested in developing a better, more personal relationship with customers. It’s time Asian marketers looked to the success of email marketing in places like Europe, Australia and the US and adapted it for local conditions. Sure, there are challenges, but it’s hard to think of a more cost-effective tool that’s available to us today.

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