China E-Commerce Giant Alibaba Taps Lyris for E-Mail Marketing

Lyris Technologies said China-based Alibaba will use its e-mail marketing solution to handle messaging to both Chinese and international members who use the site to import and export goods.

Alibaba, the largest e-commerce company operating in China today, will use ListManager to manage its communications with members who live in 200 countries and territories around the world, according to Lyris. The e-commerce site gets a half-million visitors per day, many of them global merchants looking to find trading partners inside China.

Emeryville, Calif.-based Lyris said it would customize its solution to work in the Chinese marketplace as well as in the international markets that Alibaba also serves.

“We are one of the few companies in China that has addressed the unique challenges of managing customer relationships globally,” said Devin Beringer, Alibaba’s Director of Customer Management. “By working with Lyris, we have been able to improve the deliverability of our messages and more importantly, transform how we communicate with our users.”

ListManager manages and tracks a wide range of customized e-mail marketing programs to deliver timely, relevant and personalized messages to millions of users in both Chinese and English.

Using Lyris ListManager, Alibaba has the ability to personalize and send communications based on a combination of user segments and behavior and then track performance, from the time the e-mail is sent to conversion to sales back on the site.

Global Presence

The analytical component was a key element for Alibaba, as was Lyris’ already strong international presence, which includes a recent expansion into the UK and experience in Australia and other markets, said Dave Dabbah, director of sales and marketing at Lyris.

“They were looking for a company that understood how e-mail works in the U.S. and the English-speaking world, as well as in its own home market,” Dabbah told the E-Commerce Times, referring to an awareness of how best to deal with governmental restrictions on e-mail, and different rules and attitudes about what constitutes spam.

In addition to driving traffic to the site through e-mail campaigns, Alibaba wants to do a better job of matching content to user. “They want to provide the right piece of content to the end user at the right time,” Dabbah explained. “That means keeping track of actions taken in e-mail campaigns and working to use the data from that to better serve customers.”

China Foothold

The deal is symbolically important because of Alibaba’s size and its hold on the Chinese Internet market, where it also operates the former Yahoo China. Lyris is also in talks with several organizations in China about establishing re-seller relationships, according to Dabbah, working with consulting firms, advertising firms and others to help establish the Lyris brand through third party relationships.

“At some point, based on how things go, we might make the decision to expand a little heavier into that market,” he added.

One solution may be for firms in China to offer a white-label version of Lyris’ e-mail management solutions, establishing hosted versions of the service. Currently, Lyris offers both an installed version and a hosted software option to its customers.

Alibaba, in which Yahoo owns a 40 percent stake it paid $1 billion for in August of 2005, becomes the latest of about 5,000 customers who use ListManager worldwide, Dabbah said.

Back in the U.S., Lyris this week released a report saying that many ISPs are falsely tagging many legitimate e-mail messages as spam, a reminder that commercial messages often face high hurdles in order to reach their targets.

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