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Speaking with customers in their language is one of the cornerstones of proper personalization.

Why, exactly? Look at the stats:

  • One in five Americans doesn't speak English, meaning you cannot reach all US customers with English alone.
  • Six countries in the world, including Canada and Belgium, have at least two official languages.
  • 56.2% of customers say they prefer content in their language over a lower price.
  • 40% of responders to a 2020 survey said that they would not buy in a language other than their own.

Translating emails into different languages, however, is just the tip of the iceberg (it takes just 20% of your time). To truly make emails relevant to your customers, you need to localize them.

What Is Localization?

Translation and localization are related yet different processes in adapting language.

Translation involves converting text from one language to another while maintaining the same meaning. The focus is on the accurate reproduction of the original message.

Localization goes beyond literal translation, adjusting content to make it culturally appropriate and relevant for a specific region or audience. That process includes translating text, but it also adapts nontextual elements—such as images, colors, formats of dates and currencies, units of measurement, and social norms—ensuring they resonate with the target culture.

Why Is Email Localization Important?

Even if your customers all speak English, creating one email for them might not be a good idea.

For example, holidays have different dates and different origins. US Thanksgiving celebrates a Pilgrim-Wampanoag feast, symbolizing peace and sharing. Canadian Thanksgiving marks explorer Martin Frobisher's safe arrival in the New World and aligns with European traditions of celebrating the end of the harvest season. One email for both countries will not do.

It's also paramount to stay aware of the prevailing circumstances in your recipients' countries. Sending promotional or gamified emails in the aftermath of a significant event, such as an earthquake in Turkey and Syria, the war in Ukraine, or riots in France, may be viewed as insensitive.

To effectively personalize your emails, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Customs and traditions are specific to your recipients' countries.
  • Date formats. Consider converting dates or adhering to a universal format—e.g., Thu 24 August 2023.
  • Units of measurement. Convert or specify weights and dimensions in both metric and imperial systems.
  • Currency conversions. Note that the use of commas varies. In the US, commas separate number groups ($1,234,567), whereas in some other countries they denote decimal points (23,15).
  • Technical compatibility, including right-to-left (RTL) and left-to-right (LTR) scripts.
  • Current events. You may need to postpone or cancel promotions for specific countries or launch individual ones for special occasions, such as congratulating a country on winning the Euro Cup.
  • Time zones. Be aware of your customers' locations to avoid reaching out during inappropriate hours. Also, accurately convert time zones for, for instance, invitation emails.
  • Legal and regulatory compliance. Maintain a glossary of words and terms to avoid for each country. And pay attention to things such as double opt-ins' being optional in the US but mandatory in the EU.

Challenges in Transitioning to Multilingual Email Marketing

Even if you follow all the above recommendations and do everything correctly, you might still encounter some issues, such as...

  1. Incorrect use of personalization merge tags: The email is in English but the recipient's name is in their native language.
  2. Difficulty translating text over images: This can occur if you translate emails through scripting or dynamic content.
  3. Formatting/word length: Translated words may have different numbers of characters, potentially affecting email design.
  4. A/B-testing: The main challenge with A/B testing in multilingual email marketing is that language and cultural differences can skew results.
  5. Deliverability: Many factors, including variations in spam filters and local ISPs, can affect deliverability.
  6. Dynamic content: In triggered emails, we use dynamic content but cannot control how it's being translated.

There are no robust solutions to those challenges—yet. However, we expect them to emerge in the future.

* * *

Using multilingual email marketing that includes localization as well as translation acknowledges and respects customer diversity, nurtures strong relationships, builds trust, and propels business success.

More Resources on Multilingual Email and Personalization

Four Steps for a Successful Multilingual Marketing Campaign

How Hyper-Personalization and Localization Can Give You a Competitive Edge [Infographic]

Most Global Marketers Lack Multilingual Content Strategy

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image of Dmytro Kudrenko

Dmytro Kudrenko is the founder and CEO of Stripo, an email template builder.

LinkedIn: Dmytro Kudrenko