Navigating International Waters With Email
The Russian parliament recently passed a bill that would require international tech companies doing business in Russia to house servers within the country's borders to service local traffic. While the local government claims this is an anti-terrorism effort, some are concerned that this violates consumer privacy rights. American tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Gmail store a great deal of personal data about their customers across the globe, wherever they do business. Americans are generally concerned about privacy and the implications of the law on their customers. However, failing to comply could result in being banished from an entire country and losing a portion of your subscriber base.
Russia is the largest country in the world by area and the ninth largest by population. Many Western companies view it as the gateway to China. Therefore, pulling business out of Russia isn't an ideal or likely situation. Assuming that Gmail and other email providers comply with Russia's new law, companies sending email to Russian consumers need to understand how the law affects their activities and content. This is also a good lesson for all marketers who have a large number of foreign subscribers or are planning an international email campaign. When sending marketing emails abroad, the marketer's checklist doesn't end with language translation.
One country's joke is another's taboo
For all marketers sending emails abroad, it's important to understand cultural differences. This isn't limited to language. It also includes humor and taboos. To use Russia as an example, the country's legislation made headlines last year in regards to gay athletes attending the Sochi Winter Games. Since Russian politics and culture suggest that homosexuality is taboo, the recent American Banana Republic ads starring Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent wouldn't go over well culturally. If Banana Republic were to send marketing emails to Russian consumers, it would need to adapt the content to Russian culture.
Do your emails warrant censorship?
An essential piece of understanding cultural differences is familiarity with local legislation, particularly as it pertains to international business and email. When adhering to local email laws such as the proposed Russian guidelines, companies should take the following steps:
- Check for deliverability. Email marketers can and should monitor where their emails end up. Tracking helps you identify problems, be they technical glitches, inaccurate information or poor content. In relation to this Russian law, marketers should track which emails land in inboxes and which ones Russian servers reject.
- Look for patterns. Monitoring emails provides data that marketers can then use to look for commonalities. This can clue them in on what gets flagged, enabling them to make necessary changes to avoid undeliverable emails.
Russia and beyond
Russia's proposed anti-terror law isn't the only example of strict email legislation abroad. Earlier this year, Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation passed with the intention to filter email from unwanted senders to Canadian consumers, resulting in more email concerns for American marketers.
Successful international email marketers are able navigate the international waters strategically. They recognize and adhere to local legislation with internal procedures for tracking email deliverability and identifying buzzwords that local governments find unacceptable.
Bob Sybydlo has been with Yesmail for over six years now and is currently the director of market intelligence and deliverability.
Related story: Gmail’s Gift to Marketers: The Unsubscribe Button