Expand Your Reach: Improve Your Strategy with Email Localization

When you think about the fact that over 330 billion emails are sent daily around the world, email might seem like the most powerful way to reach a huge audience. But what about when you consider where these emails are coming from?

In 2021, Statista reported that people in the United States sent 9.59 billion emails every single day! Following closely behind the U.S. was Germany with 8.97 billion sent emails, Austria with 8.74 billion, and China with 8.7 million… that’s a huge range of countries, cultures, and languages. 

When you consider the statistics showing how diverse the world’s email users (and senders) are, it’s no longer realistic, accurate, or sufficient for success to assume that all of your users are from the same place. 

So… what do we do?

What is Email Localization

A good place to start is by thinking about whether or not your emails and email campaigns account for the wide range of email users who get your emails. If the answer is yes, and every single one of your emails is adapted to suit your varied audience(s), then keep up the good work! If the answer is no (which it is for most people!) then it’s time to start adding email localization to the mix. 

Email localization is the process of adapting your email campaigns to be relevant to any and every subscriber. Localization includes translating your emails into different languages, accounting for different cultural perceptions of colors and symbols, or using greetings and sayings popular in your targeted country. 

If you’re ready to start properly catering to your diverse email audiences and see a boost in engagement, then read on to learn how to use localization in your email copywriting, design, and implementation.

Copywriting: Language Translation

The first step to email localization — and arguably the most important — is to account for the different languages spoken by the people you’re emailing. English might be the most spoken language in the world, but we also see huge volumes of Mandarin, Hindi, and Spanish speakers (among other languages of course), so it doesn’t make sense to only send out emails with English copy. 

But how can you accomplish this if you don’t have multilingual team members? Google translate, perhaps? We actually strongly advise against it! Google translate may work to translate a word or two, but it is not a suitable substitute for a native speaker. With that in mind, your best bet is to outsource your translation services. You can find reputable translators locally, or even online through freelance websites and service providers. A native speaker (even if that’s you!) is always your best option. 

Copywriting: Cultural Considerations

Outside of the straightforward concept of translation, there are 3 additional copywriting considerations to keep in mind with localization.

1. Messaging

Language and tone can be accidentally altered through translation. For example, emails written with a more direct tone may become passive, or a casually written email might become more formal after being translated. You must also consider cultural differences in how you speak to certain audiences, as direct messaging or certain tones may be portrayed as offensive or disrespectful (another reason why hiring a native speaker for translation is always the best option).

2. Clarity & Precision

Keeping your Subject Lines clear, precise, and straightforward is key during localization. Some language translations will result in words being added or taken away, so keeping the initial phrasing simple will be helpful here. Remember: the Subject Line needs to remain relevant and describe the contents of the email no matter what language it’s in.

3. Relevant CTAs

Much like your Subject Lines, CTAs can have words added or removed during translation. When writing your CTAs, make an effort to choose words that are globally accepted and understood (i.e. OK) so they remain the same regardless of translation language.

Design: Image and Color Selection

Alongside copywriting, your design choices and strategy also need to be evaluated when implementing a new email localization process. When considering your design process, there are two main localization concepts to keep in mind: appropriate and relevant image choice, and appropriate color choice. 

1. Appropriate & Relevant Image Choice

In the same way that words can have different meanings between cultures, images can as well. Images that may be considered appropriate to people of one background may be considered inappropriate or offensive to others. When choosing images for recipients from varying geographic locations, ask yourself: “Is this appropriate to send to an audience with culturally specific religious/cultural/spiritual (etc.) practices?” If the answer is no, change your image.

Outside of “appropriateness,” you’ll also want to consider relevance and relatability. Not everyone receiving your emails has the same climate, imagery, references, or symbols that you do. For example, think about crafting a winter campaign featuring an image of a family in the snow. Would this make sense to send to email recipients in a country that does not have snow? Definitely not. Localization allows you to keep your images culturally sensitive and appropriate while also considering audience relevance. 

2. Appropriate Color Choice

You’ll want to apply the same consideration to colors as you do to images: keep them appropriate and relevant. A good way to approach this is to think about whether or not certain colors have specific connotations to your target cultural audience. For example, according to Eriksen Translation, green is a color that varies greatly between cultures and countries. In the United States, we may associate green with the environment or money, whereas in China and Indonesia, green can represent infidelity. Mexico often considers green a patriotic color, whereas several cultures in South America consider green the color of death. 

Adding localization to your design strategy likely means adjusting images and color palettes for your emails based on your target audience, which is a small price to pay for inclusivity and avoiding offense.

Implementation: Time Zones and Send Times

The final application of email localization happens during implementation and is perhaps the easiest to adhere to — changing your send times. Your current strategy probably includes scheduling send times based on your country’s best practices and email marketing research. For example, HubSpot surveyed 300 U.S. email marketers and found that the highest email engagement was between 9 AM to 12 PM and 12 PM to 3 PM. However, according to Get Response, the best time to send an email in Central and Eastern Europe is 7 PM and 6 PM in Asia-Pacific. 

With this in mind, it no longer makes sense to have one send time for your entire audience, especially if you’re noticing that your demographics span across multiple countries and/or time zones. Simply segmenting your send times to accommodate different time zones helps you achieve the Golden Rule of email marketing — sending the right email at the right time. 

Wrap Up

A one-size-fits-all approach rarely works in any kind of marketing, and email marketing is no exception. Consider your current choices when it comes to language, messaging, colors, image, and send times, and determine whether they’re enabling you to support diverse audiences or if your choices are exclusive and isolating to people outside of your immediate region. Remember that the best way to translate and check your emails for cultural appropriateness is to defer to members of your target audience, like your translator for example. After all, you know how the saying goes about assumptions.

Email localization deserves a place in every marketing strategy. So, if you’re not already, start applying email localization to your copywriting, design, and implementation strategies. Your new strategy will allow you to maximize audience reach, improve your Open Rates and CTRs, and keep your subscribers happy with tailored content. 

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