A Marketer’s Field Guide to Tencent QQ

Posted by Dana Huten on

Similar to other Chinese Internet giants, Tencent got its start as an online portal and today competes with Netease as one of the top Chinese internet brands offered. Tencent’s instant messaging platform, QQ, was released in 1999 and becoming wildly popular, and in 2005 they added on their email service, QQMail. Today they have more than 500 million QQMail users and rank second among consumers (sometimes first depending on the email database). By far, their most popular consumer app is the messaging app Wechat, with over 1 billion accounts created and 600 million monthly active users.

Globally focused businesses have taken note of the potential in the Chinese market over the past decade, but developments like smartphones, better mobile rendering, and social media have taken the game to a whole new level. As the recent “Singles Day” demonstrated, the Chinese are prolific online shoppers and the local mail box providers are providing the infrastructure to make it all work. Understandably, more and more email marketers are being asked to target this market.

In a more simple world, that would be the end of the story; marketers use the same trusted techniques and practices that work at say Gmail or Outlook, send millions of emails to their millions of Chinese customers, generate lots of clicks and conversions, and… everyone goes home happy. The reality is, however, a little different. More than a few marketers have learned that the old poker idiom “a slow boat to China” takes on a new and apt meaning when it comes to getting mail delivered to the inbox in at QQ.

Getting started
The first thing a marketer needs to know about sending to QQ is that the same best practices that you use in the US and Europe still apply, they should be considered the “very least that you can do” and as the non-negotiable foundation of your email program.

QQ anti-spam filter technology is home-built. They enforce a daily limit based on your volume and IP reputation over the past sixty days. Regardless of how many domains you have, QQ can apply daily limits across all of them, based on your reputation as the entity behind all of your domains.

Bulk sending guidelines
QQ Mail largely relies on user reports to fuel and direct their filtering decisions. Any messages sent without the recipient's consent or that they simply didn’t want to receive are defined as spam. Read the full list of bulk sender guidelines here, you’ll need to use a translation tool.

At message deployment, senders should:

  • Segment mail streams onto different IP addresses, such as transnational and marketing mail.
  • Segment mail streams onto different From addresses, such as transnational and marketing mail.
  • Remain consistent with the IP addresses and From addresses for email with similar content and message type (transactional/marketing).
  • QQMail uses user complaints, read rates, delete rates, and other engagement metrics to determine if a user wants to receive mail. Due to this, if a sender’s email is sent to spam, it is likely due to the customer not wanting to receive the message.

We recommend that you use a consistent IP address or IP block and a consistent sending address; do not arbitrarily change it. Signing with DKIM is also recommended. While QQ has not implemented DMARC on the inbound yet, they are expected to. So, similar to Netease, senders should consider implementing DMARC if they are serious about success in the the Chinese market. Every IP address must resolve, every domain must have a valid SPF record and the “Envelope From” and “Header From” of messages must comply with the RFC 2821 specification protocol.

Connection & throughput
For senders just getting started in the market, we recommend that you send no more than 500 mails a day and no more than 150 messages per hour. As you build a positive reputation, you can eventually increase up to around 4,000 mails per day and up to 600 messages per hour. Keep in mind that this is a general guideline. Ultimately your sending limit will be very specific to you and your reputation which will be based on read, delete with out reading, and complaint rates. While their postmaster and monitoring tool pages are in Chinese and the set-up process can seem complex, Return Path account managers have been trained in how to get set-up and can assist you.

Monitoring campaign performance
The QQ monitoring tool is similar to Outlook’s SNDS. In addition to allowing you to monitor your inbox placement, including bulked and rejected mail. Official regulations require that all bulk mailings to China should include the abbreviation “AD” in the subject line. This indicates that the mail is promotional. Nevertheless, QQ’s focus remains on the user experience more than strict adherence to this regulation. In an effort to encourage senders to stay on top of engagement and complaints, they launched a feedback loop in 2012. Contact your account manager for instructions on how to get set up.

Engagement
QQ has built a system that reflects their desire to really understand the user’s preferences. This makes it obvious that if a sender wants to increase delivery to the inbox, the best way to do so is to send content that the users are interested in and actually want.

Content is hugely important to delivering mail into QQ. Most mailbox providers will spam folder mail with low engagement metrics and high complaints. QQ instead will block the mail or greatly limit through daily allowed quotas.

Troubleshooting
If you’re bulking at QQ, it is probably due to complaints. User feedback is the number one metric governing inbox placement at QQ. Senders who wish to increase delivery volume should ensure that messages are of interest to the end-user by tracking complaints via the FBL and practicing targeted campaigning and list hygiene.If you are bouncing and curious as to the cause behind it, you can view the bounce codes here. If you need to contact the postmaster, QQ has a public escalation web form here.

Whitelisting
QQ is a Return Path partner and uses our whitelist. For more information on our certification program, contact us here. Additionally, QQ has an internal whitelist that requires setup on their monitoring tools. If senders register for the monitoring tools, they may also require an escalation for manual registration by the Postmaster team since it does not ensure an automatic add to the internal whitelist.

Like many MBPs, QQ has an internal whitelist. Senders are encouraged to register on their postmaster pages for use of the monitoring tools and FBL, which may provide some benefits. However, if a sender wants to get on their internal whitelist, an escalation directly to QQ is required. For assistance with this, please contact your Return Path Account Manager.

 


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About Dana Huten

Dana Huten is an Anti-Spam and Security Consultant in the Email Intelligence Team of Return Path. With 15 years in the European telecommunications and internet industry, Dana has a broad spectrum of knowledge. She has experience working in mobile, internet and email marketing as well as in IT and internet security.

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