Does email marketing even work in Malaysia, when your target group is 90-100% Malaysians? This article highlights my findings and experience on email marketing in Malaysia, and how it compares to a more international market. Let’s go through the details one by one.

How I Get My Data

Firstly, it’s important to note that when I started out in 2005 my first successful product was targeted to the Malaysian market, resulting in a list that was safe to say, 100% Malaysian. From this list I eventually branched out to a more international market and now I estimate that my email list is only 25% Malaysian although the only was I can track this is by the IP addresses captured by Aweber, my email marketing service. Not fully reliable, but it’s the only tool I have to segregate my list, any not all Internet marketers seem to be able to do this.

I also have several Malaysia-only email list including the one I am trying to build. However I cannot say for sure that they are all Malaysians as even subscribers from other countries can be included as long as they find this site, and enter their details using the optin form.

The Data I Analyzed

My Aweber account is fully capable of producing advanced reports on my mailing list data, but the only data I was concerned about was the double-optin rate and the open-rate. When someone enters an email address they are sent a verification email with a confirmation link. If they clicked on that link, it means they performed a double opt-in. This process is crucial to ensure that you build a quality list instead and stops people from abusing your service.

I compared these 2 figures, between my Malaysia-only list and my overall international list from BlogProfit, for the same 30-day period.

Diagram 1: Malaysia-only Email Marketing Subscriber Stats


Diagram 2: International Subscribers Email Marketing Stats


As you can read:

GREEN indicates total number of subscribed (and verified), BLUE indicates total number unsubscribed, and YELLOW indicates total number of subscribed but unverified.

As you can see, a vast majority of Malaysians who subscribe did not click on the confirmation email sent by Aweber.As a result, they are never really added into my system. Compare this with the international list (who may also contain Malaysians) and you’ll see the yellow bar is much, much shorter.

In fact, more than 50% of Malaysians who entered their email and name on this site did not confirm using the double optin email.

So although I am getting about 40-60 people opting-in, I get less than half those people finally, since Aweber does not add them to my list if they do not confirm. As a matter of fact I prefer not to add people to my list who did not double confirm, as I hate spamming.

But why does this happen? I attribute the situation to the following 4 factors:

  1. Low Email Literacy – I suspect most of them do not know that they have to look out for a confirmation email. By the time they get to their mail box again it may already be full with other stuff.
  2. Low Email Usage – Some Malaysians surf the web only during office hours. I know when I worked in TM that a lot of my colleagues surf the web instead of doing work, but at home and especially on weekends they are not on their computers.
  3. Email Blocking – Some email address are work emails, not personal emails.
  4. Service Providers – Many Malaysians use unknown email service providers, which I suspect either routes my emails straight to the spam folder and makes it difficult for people to find it. Even common service providers like TM Net mail and Jaring web mail is crap in my opinion. Please use Gmail.
  5. Privacy Concerns – Privacy rights is a new phenomenon in Malaysia. I just need to look at how many times my Maxis mobile provider is spamming me and my friends to understand why a lot of Malaysians have irrational fears about divulging their personal information. I see a lot of them using fake names and email address to get access to content.

Do Malaysians Get Your Email Messages?

Another concern of mine is the open rate for email messages that I send out. For this however, I see no significant difference in the percentage of my emails that get opened. However, I did notice that the response time for Malaysians is much slower that for the overall international list. It takes a longer time for Malaysians to read their emails, probably also due to the factors above.

Improving Your Email Marketing Campaigns

I think with a few changes you can easily improve the performance of your email marketing campaigns:

  • Provide Opt-in Instructions – Give better instructions to people on the sign-up page, what to do after putting in their names and email addresses, as well as where to look for the confirmation email they will receive.
  • Prevent Bad Emails – Send the download / offer to the email instead of on a web page. That way they won’t be putting in fake emails.
  • Be Choosy – Clearly indicated that you will not accept emails from certain providers that handle email very badly (MSN for example) as well as work / corporate emails

Overall, if you’re planning on doing email marketing in the long term, you need a good system like GetResponse or Aweber to handle your email management, because these services constantly monitor which ISPs are blocking emails aggressively, and try to cater to their requirements. In some cases, representatives from these companies are also involved in discussions with email providers to improve their deliverability rate.