Your Essential Introduction to Email Localization

Yauhen Zaremba
October 20, 2022
8 min read

In an increasingly global online marketplace, adapting your content for different cultures is a must. In English-speaking countries, we tend to think of English as the language of business. Yet, only around 20% of the world’s population speaks it, which is why email localization, and localization, in general, are things worth considering.

After all, there are a lot of potential customers out there that will be alienated by English-only content. Customers are more likely to interact with content and make purchases in their native language.

Localizing your content according to the language and culture of the target market is a great way of expanding your business. We’re going to focus on a form of marketing localization that every business can make use of: email localization.

What Does Email Localization Mean?

Email localization is the process of adjusting your email marketing for different cultures and languages. Much like brand localization, it’s not as simple as translating the text – there are cultural differences to account for as well.

For instance, if you’re converting an English email into Arabic, you’re going to have to change the entire layout to allow for text that reads right to left. If you have images with currency included, you’ll need to update them to be accurate. It’s not just the content of the text – it’s everything.

This will often mean working with a localization partner. Ideally, they will be a local business or one that understands the local culture deeply.

Why Localization Matters

The main reason for localization is to break down the language barriers you face when entering a new region. Different audiences also have different preferences, though. Understanding the local culture is the key to targeting audiences in different countries.

According to recent studies, 76% of the global audience is more likely to buy from a site in their native language.

Localization ROI

Given that almost half of all Google searches are made in languages other than English, that’s a lot of traffic. It’s also not something a quick attempt with Google Translate can help with. In order to really convert customers, you need to account for the cultural nuances in different regions

Consider that not all audiences respond to the same tone of voice and visuals in the same way. Some cultures naturally use a more formal tone, some have different associations with color. There are a lot of variances to account for when it comes to a global audience.

Marketing ROI

Marketers agree that localization helps maximize ROI on advertising spent. Compared with creating content, localization is a cost-effective process. When you localize for different markets, you reuse content in new ways, bringing in more revenue from the same materials.

Open rates for marketing emails will go up just by appearing in the user’s native language. Localizing the advertising content within the emails can increase click-through rates by 42% and conversion rates by 22%.

Localization VS Translation

We’ve talked a little about the difference between translating content and localizing it. It’s important that you fully understand this difference. Translating the menus in your call center software is not the same as localizing marketing material.

Translating content takes words and makes them understandable in another language. Localization is about preserving the meaning of the content. Translating your content’s message is a part of localization. Localization means adapting the entire experience.

For a really simple example, think of the cultural differences between two English-speaking nations, the USA and the UK. If you are sending order invoices to US customers, they would expect imperial weights and US date formatting.

Your UK customers would expect metric weights, and you’d be writing the dates in a different format. So 10lbs of cheese on 07/06/22 in the US would be 4.5Kgs of cheese on 06/07/22 in the UK.

Even small differences like this can mean a lot to your customers. That’s between two countries with the same language, so you can see why localization is even more important in unfamiliar territories.

Content Localization Focus Points

To localize your emails effectively, you need to look at all aspects of your email content. These are the key areas you don’t want to miss when tackling localization.

Copy: Tone & Message

Start with the written content of your email. This will include greetings and email signatures.  Maintaining the tone of your greetings and sign-offs requires more than translating them directly. Your language has to be culturally appropriate. Search online for email writing tips if you’re not sure of the best greetings to use in each of your emails.

Honorifics on names can be important in some cultures, denoting the relationship between the sender and recipient. These kinds of small differences can affect the whole tone of your email.

Personalized marketing content is an avenue many marketers are currently pursuing. Localization can work together with personalized content to deliver personally-relevant advertising across cultures.

Take the example of Spotify. Personalization is key to the music experience in their app. They also take this into their marketing, and localization plays a big part. Recent ad campaigns from their entry into the Indian market had messaging referencing local life and neighborhoods.

Formatting for Devices

With different languages, formatting can be very different. A simple phrase in English might be too many characters in another language to fit a call to action button, for example. Consider the range of mobile devices your customers are using, too.

When you’re adapting content for new languages, formatting is something you can’t forget. Making sure your copy works across all languages on desktop and mobile will avoid unprofessional-looking email content.

Visual Design

The visual design of content is often overlooked in localization, but it can be important. Colors have different symbolic meanings in some cultures. Red is a sign of luck and prosperity in East Asian markets but is often used as a warning symbol in European countries.

The connotations of the color are different, which can send mixed messages in your branding. Rebranding for different territories isn’t the only way to approach this issue, though. Using color schemes that work both in your home country and overseas can be more cost-effective.

The visuals you choose should also be representative of the culture you market to. Representing local ethnic groups in your marketing can make your visual material more relevant to overseas users.

Video Localization

Email localization isn’t just about adapting text and colors. Many marketers use video content in their emails. That, or they link to video content externally.

It’s important to consider video content in the same way as copy when you’re localizing. Translating the original script word for word might not be the best method.

There are more creative ways to approach this with the help of video editing software. Creating stories, similar to Instagram reels, with a script in the target language can help you refresh video content for new audiences.

Local Legal Considerations

Different territories have different rules around advertising. It’s important to always be aware of what the local legal framework says regarding marketing activities.

Territories like the EU and the US have different data protection laws. These affect how contact details can be obtained and used. The GDPR act means that EU citizens have to give consent for their email addresses to be used for marketing contacts.

If you’re unsure of the conventions in a new market, check with your email service provider. They will have all the legal information on how data protection laws will affect your email marketing services.

Selecting Localization Partners

If you don’t have the internal skills for localization, then you’ll need a localization partner. Building a multilingual team that can handle localization takes a lot of time and resources. Even big businesses often turn to partners for marketing localization.

Developing a relationship with a localization partner is key. The partner business needs to understand your brand and the tone of your marketing. This knowledge takes time to embed, so keeping a consistent partner is your best option.

Many third-party localization businesses use wide pools of translators across the globe. Using an intermediary like this avoids complex three-way partnerships that require a three party agreement template.

Localization Software & Machine-Assisted Translation

Using a localization platform helps coordinate your work with your localization partner. These software platforms are online collaboration tools that facilitate back-and-forth communication on localization projects.

These software options make use of hybrid integration platform technology. This opens integrations with machine translation software and other tools. With tools like Google translate or Microsoft translator, machine translation can handle the bulk of translation tasks.

Machine Translation

However, fully automating the translation process isn’t a great idea. Even AI-assisted software has difficulties with cultural nuance. That’s why using machine translation tools alongside your localization specialists is the best combination.

Final Thoughts

Localization doesn’t just work for emails. You can use it to optimize content across all your marketing material. If you want to boost your affiliate program, localize your affiliate marketing template. If you want to drive international traffic to your website, localize your web content.

In short, if you’re not taking advantage of content localization, you’re alienating a huge proportion of your global audience.



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Yauhen Zaremba
Yauhen is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc, all-in-one document management tool for almost all types of documents. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year. 
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