Email Marketing Localization: How to Optimize Your Global Email Strategy
You can reach people anywhere and everywhere with email marketing. Email knows no geographical bounds.
Still, you have to pass several hurdles to get to a conversion (think: subject line, copy, CTA, landing page, etc). Now throw a language barrier into the mix. It may be the hidden bottleneck in your conversion rates.
A survey revealed that 60% of global consumers “rarely or never” buy from English-only websites. That’s a huge revenue opportunity to leave untouched.
In the U.S. alone, multicultural consumers have an aggregated buying power of more than $4 trillion. Email localization may soon be a standard practice in everyone’s marketing strategy. Get ahead of the game and start optimizing now!
In this article, you will learn why email localization is more than just sending emails in different languages or leaving out English-specific puns. You’ll get complete training on how to apply cultural sensitivity in all your emails.
Let’s go global local!
WHY YOU NEED A LOCALIZED EMAIL STRATEGY
No matter where you launch your startup, almost all online-based products or services will eventually open up to an international audience.
Alison Coleman at Forbes states that
“Every foreign market is different in terms of tax regimes, legislation, cultures and business practices and founders have to adapt quickly. On the other hand, launching into more than one market means more early exposure to customers. For some entrepreneurs, going global from the start is the only way their businesses will survive.”
A localized email marketing strategy could be a secret weapon in your organization. Email marketing itself earns you $42 on every $1 spent. A well-thought-out localization strategy could help you boost your bottom line and enhance your brand perception everywhere.
Even if you’re new to email marketing, you probably know that the measurement of any strategy can go beyond hard numbers. Marketing campaigns often start with the assumption that the audience has the same understanding of various concepts.
For example, making a pun or a US-related joke will only evoke a response in a single segment of your global audience. People with native or near-native English will get it.
The others? They will quickly move on.
More reasons to adopt email localization:
- Get ahead of your competition in different countries
- Improve your brand perception
- Establish a global stream of revenue even as a new startup
- Demonstrate a culturally sensitive content strategy
Minor adjustments (like leaving out puns) are great, but they’re not easily trackable. You need a full-fledged email localization strategy. Read on to find out how to do that!
STRATEGIES TO CREATE LOCALIZED EMAILS
Content translation is one way to start email localization. However, an effective global email strategy requires more elements to be in place.
1. Understand email preferences in different regions
Email preferences vary around the world. Your localization strategy should include well-researched insights into the topics and email touchpoints favored by different countries.
What do they want to read about? Are they happy to get emails every week? What’s their frequency tolerance?
For example, people in Belgium or Russia are quick to hit “unsubscribe,” while Indonesian and Singaporean users are the most tolerant globally.
Find out the preferences of your customers by looking at your email performance. Most email services can provide you with data broken down by target country. Review your existing reports and establish your answers to the following questions:
|Questions||Report or metrics to look for…|
|In which countries or regions do we perform well?||Top Locations|
|Which types of emails do subscribers open the most?||Open rate|
|Which types do they dislike?||Unsubscribe rate|
|How tolerant are they to receiving multiple emails?||Unsubscribe rate (especially in email sequences)|
|How relevant are our emails?||Unsubscribe rate and Spam rate|
Finally, what do they WANT to receive? Here are quick ways to get insights from your target audience:
- Run a survey
- Post a poll on social media
- Give them the option to opt-in or opt-out of different types of communication
Tip: when running a survey, duplicate your form a few times and use each version to canvass different regions (e.g., one survey collects answers from the Americas, another from Europe, etc.). Alternatively, you can add a question into your original survey to ask about the country of residence.
This setup will help you process the answers faster.
2. Use the power of targeted communications
Once you know your audience’s preferred email content, you can start sending targeted communications to them. This strategy is called email segmentation.
How you slice and dice your data is up to you. Don’t worry; you won’t need to send a different email to each country. Instead, you should consider segmenting your users by one or more of the following criteria:
- Email engagement (how often they interact with your emails)
- Past purchases
- Time since last purchase
- Amount spent
- Time zones
Tip: if you have a smaller email list, you can experiment with sending emails straight from a Gmail account. This hack could result in higher open rates as these messages are less likely to end up in the Promotions tab. Ensure to follow anti-spam regulations with either method.
Here’s an example scenario for your email segmentation.
Let’s say your main customer base is from Canada, a country with two official languages and multiple time zones. You can target your communication to these subscribers like this:
Your main two segments are…
- English-language emails
- French-language emails
Then you can break out each group into two more sub-segments and create content for each of them.
- Engaged subscribers
- Non-engaged subscribers
This means that you’ll end up with four versions of your email:
- Engaged (English)
- Non-engaged (English)
- Engaged (French)
- Non-engaged (French)
Refrain from using Google Translate. Find a great translator to adapt your content to French. If available, use your email provider’s sending feature to schedule these four emails per time zone.
Tip: one often overlooked factor is getting the right hosting provider. This is important for segmented emails driving the user to a landing page on your website. Let’s say that most of your email audience resides in Australia. Your website hosting is in Germany. The physical distance can cause a delay in load times and hinder sales.
Consider using a CDN to bridge the problem.
3. Staying mindful of cultural differences
Multilingual emails are the basis of any localization strategy. How do you go more in-depth? Make yourself an expert in the cultural differences of your global customers.
Here’s what you do.
First, you need to carry out thorough market research. You may reveal surprising differences that could affect anything from your email design to click-through rates.
Next, learn about special days and customs.
Consumers are on their phones most of the time around the world. Still, toning down your messages in observance of special days can keep you on the subscribe list. These could include sensitive historical days (e.g., 9/11) or religious holidays (e.g., Yom Kippur).
Also, keep region-specific customs in mind (e.g., siesta time may affect your open rates) or differing seasonal events (e.g., Father’s Day is not on the same day in different regions).
Keeping up with all the relevant cultural differences is not easy. But it’s worth it. Being culturally sensitive in your email localization strategy can earn you long-lasting loyalty from your customers.
4. Understanding email etiquette in different regions
Personal email usage is different from country to country. If you want to fine-tune your strategy, then take a deep dive into the nuances of email etiquette. You can then transfer your knowledge about local email manners into email marketing.
What is email etiquette? It can mean anything from email salutations to tone and formatting.
“In some countries, emails are structured like a formal letter. Elsewhere, they may sound more like a text message to a friend,” says Elizabeth Powell, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
For example, in Europe, business emails may be used for relationship-building with a friendlier tone (think: “dear” and “yours”), while in the US, email is viewed as a quick and to-the-point communication tool.
How does this translate to marketing emails? Here are a few pointers to remember:
- Ensure you use the right salutation and sign-off: For instance, you’ll need to use Herr/Frau in Germany as a greeting
- First names and last names: Have your email signup form ask for first name and last name separately. In some countries, surnames go first, and first names go second.
- Adjust your tone: Email marketing campaigns with special messaging (e.g., apology emails) may need a double-check for tone and angle. Too casual? It may be too off-putting in certain cultures. Too long? It may not land well.
5. Knowing your competition
Keeping an eye on your competition’s email marketing tactics ensures that you remain relevant. They could have stumbled upon an undiscovered market segment or an acquisition hack. Maybe they’re getting most of their leads from Facebook ads or webinar sign-ups.
There’s only one way to find out.
First, do a quick web crawl on Google to uncover their email acquisition landing pages. Use any of the below strings (replace yourcompetitor.com with the website of your competitor):
- site:yourcompetitor.com email “sign up to”
- site:yourcompetitor.com newsletter “sign up to”
- site:yourcompetitor.com “download your”
- site:yourcompetitor.com “claim your”
- site:yourcompetitor.com “register for”
- site:yourcompetitor.com “join”
Once you’ve visited their website, you’ll likely start getting competitor ads elsewhere, too. This is how you’ll know whether they are doing remarketing.
Here’s what you do next.
- Sign up for their newsletter: Take note of their email sequences and localization efforts. If you can, sign up from different IP addresses to receive geo-specific communication.
- Make a purchase: Buying something from your competitors will place you into their customer-specific onboarding. Review their subject lines and email content to see how you can improve.
- Download an ebook: Marketers often create different communication flows for different entry points. Downloading some free material can open up the doors to your competitors’ secrets.
- Do the same but in another language: Do all of the above steps again but this time, use their Spanish/French/etc. website to review their multilingual strategy.
Finally, if you don’t have time to keep track of your competitors manually, you can check out sites like:
All of these sites keep an active curation of the most interesting emails sent by big brands.
6. Finding the best time to hit inboxes
When sending individual emails (sales or otherwise), there’s an easy way to check if someone has read your email. In email marketing, you have to find the optimal time to hit hundreds or thousands of customers’ inboxes. This is no easy feat!
Here are a few ways to research the best times to send emails.
- Evaluate your historical sending data: If you have already launched a few emails to your users, gather your data and check best-performing times.
- Check industry benchmarks: Look up how you compare to competitors on a local and global scale.
- Set up tests: Establish ongoing tests to see which times result in high open rates. Compare timings with emails similar to each other (i.e., don’t compare a transactional email with a nurture email).
Even with all this data, we don’t know what the future holds. In the US alone, 52% of people check their emails every few hours. No matter where the trends bring us, stay flexible and keep testing.
7. Staying mindful of local anti-spam regulations
You might have the best sales funnel and email marketing campaign in place, but you still need to stay mindful of the law.
The other side of email localization is your target country’s anti-spam regulations. Yes, this means complying with every country where you have users.
Sounds boring? Here’s a scary figure to get you focused.
One example is the Marriott hotel chain that inherited the systems of the Starwood Hotels Group that they purchased in 2014. They suffered a big data breach not long after. This oversight cost them a whopping $23.8 million.
How you can remain anti-spam compliant:
- Go through this GDPR checklist if you have customers in the European Union
- Check the UK GDPR if you have customers in the UK
- Compare your email marketing practices to the CAN-SPAM guide if you have customers in the US
- Read through CASL if you have customers in Canada
If your audience is based outside these countries, check the regulations by country.
Of course, the above examples were extreme violations. Still, they show that no company is too small or too big to be exempt from anti-spam regulations. Stay vigilant or hire an anti-spam expert to help you.
8. Optimizing your email’s aesthetics
Design is subjective. Still, there may be subtle things that certain cultures perceive differently in your visual communication.
Colors can represent diverse values. Pay attention to your brand colors if you’re just starting out, or consider updating your color palette if you’re already an established company.
For example, Japanese design often tends to use bright colors, brush strokes, or custom typography.
French design might require more of an artistic or pictorial approach with some unconventional imagery thrown in the mix.
Other ways to optimize your email’s aesthetics:
- Design your emails “mobile-first” for mobile-heavy markets
- Double-check for punctuation or numerical differences (including on banners)
- Experiment with no design: try plain text emails every now and then
Have you ever heard the story of the business that entered the Chinese market with chewing gum wrapped in green packaging? Product sales were terrible until they realized that green was a sacred color in China. Once they changed the branding to pink, sales increased.
The bottom line? If you’re sending emails to a region that you’re not familiar with, it’s better to check common design preferences first.
9. Providing multilingual support
Once your translated emails are on track, you can expect to receive replies from users written in their native language. Multilingual email support is another must-have for localized email marketing.
How should you handle multilingual requests?
It depends on your business structure. A lean startup will have different needs than an established company. If you have an employee or two, who speaks the language, great. Set them up for success by providing continuous learning opportunities and getting the collaboration tools they need.
If you don’t have any multilingual colleagues, try outsourcing translation needs and customer service. There are a lot of customer service agencies out there.
Don’t forget to review the full range of assistance that these agencies offer. If your budget allows, you could also sign up for live chat services, email support, and social media support.
10. Send locally relevant promotional offers
Some of the best email sequence examples contain coupons or discount codes. This is a great way to grab the attention of your users early on. Just make sure that the offers you’re sending are relevant to the location.
For example, you can issue special offers for country-specific celebrations, or if you have a brick-and-mortar location, you can send out coupons that can be redeemed at a nearby store.
How do you set up the targeting?
Some user info is usually collected during the checkout process. Ensure to flow this data into your email provider so that you can send email campaigns segmented by city.
Abandoned cart-type emails also work well if you are a location-specific company (such as a hotel).
LOCALIZE YOUR EMAILS, EXPAND YOUR BUSINESS
Email marketing localization can give your business the conversion boost it needs.
The great news is that most of the work (research, segmentation plan) won’t change for a while after the initial setup. Once your strategy is in place, making adjustments will be the easy part.
Another great thing about email localization? You’ll know if it works or not after just sending one geo-segmented email!
(it will work)
Just remember to respect anti-spam laws, segment your customers and pay attention to cultural differences.
Now go and launch your localization strategy and start making more money for your business!
Mark Quadros is a SaaS content marketer that helps brands create and distribute rad content. On a similar note, Mark loves content and contributes to several authoritative blogs like HubSpot, CoSchedule, Foundr, etc. Connect with him via LinkedIN or twitter.
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