What is Email Localization?

March 5, 2024
8 minutes
What is Email Localization?
Table of Contents

Email has been pivotal means of communication in our lives for over three decades now. Despite this, companies often overlook email localization when going global. It’s one thing to translate your website and apps. But, if you but neglect to localize your email communication, you miss out on an critical opportunity to interact directly with your international target audience(s).

In this article, we’ll show you some tips and tricks (with examples) on how to localize your email content – as they are the personal of channels.

The benefits of email localization

Have you ever noticed that when email your customers, you tend to write different messages for different groups. For example, automatic response emails are great when people change their password or place orders. Marketing emails promote products and services, and invite your customers to make purchases. Announcement emails notify others about new blog posts and downloadable material on your website. The list goes on…

What do all of the above have in common? They aim to boost to customer interaction in some way – buying goods, updating information, or reading what you’ve written. Email localization’s biggest advantage is that when you do it, you’re likely to achieve these results and more. Let’s take a look at why….

Boost how many people read your email

Boost how many people read your email

When you write the subject in your recipient’s mother tongue, you’ll overcome your first hurdle: getting your email opened. A non-native English speaker’s inbox is often filled with messages not in their native language. Communicating in their language choice shows them ate you care more about them, know their needs, and take their comfort to heart. When you do so, they’ll read you.

Boost your clickthrough rate

Boost your clickthrough rate

Clicking on a link is no different than being called to action, regardless of whether you embed a link within text or include the full URL in your email body. Effective localization increases your reader’s likelihood of doing what you want them to – i.e. click your link. The reason is super simple: they’ll spend much less effort on understanding your email, be taken over by the urge to want to see more.

(Note: Many successful companies localize their URLs and anchor text by renaming their existing pages in of the local language(s). Why? For example: Francophones are inclined to want to see “,” not “ us.” Small details are the key to building trust.

Boost your readership

Here’s the secret: If you, the user, aren’t multilingual, then naturally you’ll want to read content in your own language – things are simply easier and more enjoyable that way. When you localize your emails, you show your readership that you know, understand, and respect their market. Doing so will draw more readers to you, therefore allowing you to reach out to more potential customers.

Enhance your user experience

Enhance your user experience

When click on a link and the page it directs you to isn’t in your language (even if you speak it), you probably won’t like it. Truly localized communication should be end-to-end, from the initial web connection to detailed customer service response. If you do business in the local language, you should stick to that in all your communications in the name of a smooth customer journey. Remember: the better your experience is, the more money you’ll rake in.

The difference between email translation and email localization

Were you to try and translate an email containing a subtle albeit well-intentioned joke by an American marketer into Mandarin Chinese, you’ll likely hit a wall. First, what’s funny in one culture isn’t in another. Second, you also run the risk of running afoul of local regulations. For instance, in some countries it’s illegal to directly compare a competing product to your own. This is where translation and localization diverge. Conveying your message clearly (and legally!) goes well beyond words.

The email localization process

Email localization – like practically everything else – requires planning. Here’s an overview of the basic strategies that go into it:

Researching and getting to know your target audience

Your first mission is both super fundamental and fun: sniffing your your target market out, and learning how they think and tick. Knowing your target audience will guide you on what (and what not to) to offer them. The better you understand them, the easier it’ll be for you to come up with content that appeals to them.

Adapting content according to local preferences

Email content is more strings of words; it’s also headlines, logos, images, and even videos. Furthermore, the way people consume content (i.e. their “reading orientation”) varies across from one culture to the next. Some focus on text first, others are attracted to visuals. Learn how your target region ticks, then adapt your content accordingly.

When localizing existing emails, don’t overlook any parts of the whole. Logos, fonts, and even column widths each require localization, too!

Translating and adapting content accurately (Transcreation)

The biggest (and often most time-consuming) part of the job is actually translating the content. Hence, first of all, work with translators who’ve lived in the target country/region and know its people like the back of their hand.

This doesn’t mean giving translators too much freedom and thus losing control. Remember, your goal is to achieve your desired click and read rate quota. Simply relaying the message “precisely” won’t cut it. If maximum quality and results are what you’re after, then you need to rewrite your content for your target culture.

(Re)formatting and design

Next up is maintenance and tidying. Apply transcreation to make sure that your localized text and content flows like a river. However, pay attention: some languages take up more page space than others. Some languages are written from right to left; others go from left to right. Font size also varies: what is normal to Arab readers may be too small for European eyes.

Depending on the language, the same email subject line vary in terms of letter/character count upon translation, and thus bypass SEO limits. Therefore, you should test how your design will come across to the target audience, and then orient your search engine optimization accordingly.

‍Testing and Optimization

We repeat: localization isn’t a single act, it’s an ongoing process. Successful email localization requires you to look at and hone email opening and clickthrough rates, conversions, subscriptions, and test results dozens of times over. As you go along, you’ll then be able optimize your performance by tweaking to your emails and using A/B testing. For example, encorporating red (rather than blue) design elements might boost your click-through rates in parts of Asia. Examine your data, change, and test again, and again…

Best practices for email localization‍

Best practices for email localization‍

If you’ve made it this far without running for the hills, hang in there. Here’s a few pointers to illustrate that little touches can go a long way:

Pick an eye-catching subject title!

Here’s a great place to start. Ask yourself: “What’ll strike a chord with target culture?” Affordability? Benefit focus? Emotion? Every country is a world onto itself.  

Write an appropriate intro and closing

Addressing different groups (recipients) using honorific language is standard practice in countries like Japan and South Korea. One you learn to set just the right tone, use it in every email.

Make sure dates and times are in correct format

In some countries, nothing screams “I ain’t from these parts” more than seeing a date written in MM/DD/YYYY rather than DD/MM/YYYY, or vice versa. You may need to push your CRM system a wee bit to get the format just right, but it’s worth it in the end.

Don’t skip national holidays and cultural events

For example, Christmas is not universal. The Japanese celebrate two Valentine’s Days, each a month a part. Learn which festivities mean what to your target culture, and arrange campaigns accordingly.

Treat email localization holistically

This article may all about email localization, however try not view it as a one-shot project. You should integrate it into all of your marketing activities. Localization is like a puzzle:  treat it like and end-to-end process when communicating with your customers.

Contact us today. Reach more customers without denting your wallet.