A Detailed Guide to Email Campaigns Localization

Most brands are going global. They’re targeting a global audience to sell their services and products. So are their email campaigns, with 280 million emails sent globally every single day. 

For this, they have to connect with their international users locally. This involves understanding their culture, language, traditions, buying habits, and related nuances. 

The reason being, only 25.2% of the overall Internet users are English speaking. 19.3% of users are Chinese, Spanish constitute 7.9%, and Arabic 5.2%, Statista reports. Imagine the potential audience you’re missing out on by not localizing your brand! 

A survey by Common Sense Advisory found that 72.4% of respondents are more likely to buy a product with information in their native language.


These statistics
indicate that companies who want to go global will have to focus on building
trust locally, in every new market they enter.

As users respond to companies who tailor their services according to their needs, localization is a means for building a strong connection with the market.

Table Of Contents
  • What is a localized email marketing campaign? 
    • Why localize? 
      • Cultural differences impacting the behavior of online buyers: 
        • What to localize in an email? 
          • Human versus machine translators
            • Localize to mesmerize

              What is a localized email marketing campaign? 

              Email localization is the process of adapting your email marketing (emails about your service or product) to the needs of international users, including their language and culture. 

              Before you localize your emails, see if you’re following all the email marketing best practices!

              Why localize? 

              Connecting with a multicultural
              consumer base is of vital importance to some of the largest global

              In the U.S. alone, multicultural consumers are the fastest-growing segment, with over 220 million in number and adding another 2.3 million every year, as per a Nielsen report. This includes Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian Americans who make up 38% of the total population of the U.S. 

              Out of their total buying power of $14.8 trillion, Hispanics contribute $1.5 trillion, and $2.4 trillion is the combined buying power of African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian-Americans as per Newswise. 

              Your email communication has to
              highlight authenticity, local imagery and a genuine sense of community for
              consumers having a diverse cultural background.  

              When sending emails to an international audience, nuances such as everyday communication, device usage, trust, seasonal sales, diversity, and even color perception should be taken into account. 

              Let’s take the example of the
              localization strategy employed by McDonald’s in India. 

              They don’t have beef or pork in their menu since these meats have a religious sentiment attached. The company serves burgers with ingredients sourced locally, and burgers which are spicier than usual, to appeal to the taste buds of Indian consumers. They’ve also localized the pricing model to ensure that it fits into the market segment of budget-friendly restaurants.

              From our experience of localizing emails, we realized that the ways people do business, address each other, or write, vary dramatically based on region and country.

              Cultural differences impacting the behavior of online buyers: 

              1. Everyday communication

              Germans prefer a formal tone of communication, compared to Americans who settle for a more casual approach. Your communication in German should start addressing the reader as Frau/Herr, which is the English equivalent of Ms./Mr., while greetings can be more casual for American readers. 

              2. The ability to trust data security

              The users’ feelings about sharing their sensitive and personal data while purchasing online vary country-wise.

              As Symantec’s ‘State of Privacy Report’ says, overall, 57% of Europeans feel uneasy about the safety of their data. From them, Spaniards were most concerned about their data at 78%, while the UK respondents showed the least concern at 49%. 

              Do your customers feel safe to share their email addresses and other personal data with you? You may have to go the extra mile to reassure some customers to try your solution or hit the purchase button. 

              3. Seasonal events

              Consider the seasons and holidays celebrated by the countries you’re targeting when sending occasion-based emails. 

              For example, Christmas and Hanukkah fall around the same time but Christmas is celebrated by Christians while Hanukkah is celebrated by Jews. American card-writing etiquette suggests that it’s wise to send out a ‘season’s greetings’ card rather than specifying a religious holiday that the recipient may or may not celebrate. 

              The days on which holidays are celebrated can vary for each country. Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June in India and the USA, but on the first Sunday of September in Australia. 

              4. Perception of color

              90% of snap decisions about purchasing a product are based on color alone, found researchers in a study titled ‘Impact of Color on Marketing’. Choosing the right color in your branding involves cultural and religious sensitivity. When done right, it has a positive impact on your conversions and sales. 

              Since people across the globe perceive colors differently, you would have to localize the brand colors based on the country being targeted. For example, red in the USA signifies love, in France it stands for masculinity, in Germany it represents negativity, while in China it’s considered auspicious.

              Colours in culture infographic.

              5. Device usage

              What devices are popular in the geographic locations you’re targeting? As per Macworld, in Europe, Android holds 71% of the market share, and iPhone 27.95%. In North America, both Android and iPhone hold an equal market share.

              If you’re targeting South Africa, you should focus on mobile marketing because most South Africans prefer to access their emails on their mobile devices. Research on email clients or web-based applications that are used by your subscribers.

              According to Litmus Email Analytics, 27% of subscribers use Gmail, another 10% use Outlook and 9% use Apple Mail. 30% of subscribers use Gmail on a computer, while 26% of subscribers use an iPhone to access their emails. It’s important for flawless rendering of your emails across all devices and operating systems.

              6. Cultural differences

              Cultural differences can make or break your marketing campaigns. 

              VisualDNA surveyed 20,000 consumers split equally in the U.S. and UK to find that British spenders are 3 times more careful in spending their money and less likely to purchase on credit as compared to Americans, as published on MarketingWeek.

              Customers who speak the same language may also come from different cultures. The English dialects spoken in the U.S., UK, and Canada differ. For example, in Canada, what the Americans call “College” is called “University”.

              What to localize in an email? 

              Being multilingual isn’t enough for a business looking for a global reach. For example, in India, 9 out of 10 internet users will use local languages between 2016 to 2021, as stated by a joint report by KPMG and Google. Why miss out on a large market of local internet users? Support in native languages is a defining factor in the adoption of a global product.

              For an international email marketing campaign, focus on optimizing the following elements locally:

              1. Subject line

              The Common Sense Advisory survey found a direct relation between in-language content and the buyer’s likelihood to make a purchase. More than half of the respondents from the 2,430 surveyed said they’re willing to pay more if you’re willing to give them information in their native language. 

              Localize your subject line when pitching to the consumer in their language. While the ideal subject line length is 50 characters or less in English, the same could take up more than 70 characters in French and German. Make sure your subject line is short and doesn’t get eaten up in the display. 

              This concept can be applied to preheaders too, where you should stick to 22 characters. Consult a localization specialist or an expert translator to get it right. They’ll be able to suggest the right subject line according to your target audience while keeping it concise.

              2. CTAs

              Keeping in mind the design of the email, you should tweak your email copy as well as the CTA for your subscribers around the globe. Even if you’re using a simple call-to-action of three words, it can mess with the fixed-width elements or become multiple lines when being translated. Make sure that the CTA contains words that are widely accepted by the target audience and fits in the email aesthetically.

              3. LTR and RTL script design

              Languages in the Middle-East, such as Arabic, Hebrew and Urdu are written from right to left, as opposed to English and European languages written from left to right. 

              When targeting subscribers from the Middle-East (where the Internet penetration is 67.2% among the local population), you could either mirror the design, as done by Facebook, or re-design the main tabs.

              Facebook left to right design.
              Facebook’s left to right design
              Facebook’s right to left design.
              Facebook’s right to left design

              It’s advised to not mirror the control buttons. Let’s see an example of a design template: 

              right to left design.

              From the usability perspective, when the orange button is placed to the left, it’s difficult for people to click on it with their right thumb while holding the device in their hand.

              Instead, you could consider such
              important elements to be large and placed at the center of the screen. 

              right to left cta design.

              4. Local email regulations

              Be aware of the regional laws for electronic messaging, but also be mindful of the email marketing services anti-spam and permission policies. 

              The basic rules include asking for permission to email the subscriber, giving them the option of unsubscribing, and adding your contact details in the email. 

              Additionally, some regulations require adding a prefix to the subject line and honoring the unsubscribing request within a few days.

              Some of the laws are:

              • CAN-SPAM Act for sending emails in the USA, from the US servers
              • CCPA – California Consumer Privacy Act
              • CASL for directions on asking opt-in consent from email subscribers 
              • All companies that process the personal information of the EU citizens must be GDPR compliant
              • Regulations for internet email services for China 
              • The Spam Act for Australia 

              5. Images

              If you add an image of your team relaxing with a beer in an email, it may be considered normal in some parts of the world, but it may come across as offensive in countries where alcohol is banned for religious purposes. 

              While designing localized emails, opt for neutral images and avoid photos that can generate a negative response in some countries.

              6. Prioritize the time zones

              More often than not, people check their emails in the morning and on weekdays. According to GetResponse’s Email Marketing Benchmarks, there’s hardly any difference between the open rate from Monday to Friday, but weekends are certainly not a good option to send out emails. 


              Sending emails at 10-11 am usually works well for getting higher open rates. The trial and error method is the safest bet when determining the best time and day to send emails. Your emails should land in the subscriber’s inbox in the morning according to their time zone.

              Instead of presuming that culturally similar regions respond to your emails in the same way, run multiple tests and schedule your emails at different times. Keep track of your open and click-through rates, and then optimize your send time.

              7. Humanize your brand

              The goal of localization is to build trust with customers in the language they understand, with the cultural context familiar to them. Does your voice appeal to the users in a human way? Does the tone, wit, and humor stay intact when translated into multiple languages? 

              Slack’s localized communication is
              an excellent example of keeping their core values of courtesy, empathy,
              playfulness and craftsmanship intact in multiple languages. 

              Because English is incorporated in
              everyday German vocabulary, Slack’s German version also includes English phrases.

              Slack German email.

              8. Email signature

              Depending on the country you’re sending the email to, the words used to sign off the email are as important as the content. 

              For example, an email signature with “Regards” is considered normal in the USA, while the British prefer “Kind Regards” or “Warm Regards”. 

              Ending the email with a verbal equivalent of a hug is normal in Brazil, but may seem awkward for cultures that follow more formal etiquette.

              In Nigeria, the closing of the email is more important than the opening, with sign-offs including actual prayers. Before choosing an email sign-off, research the audience’s culture and don’t leave subscribers baffled by your choice of words.

              Human versus machine translators

              Translation is one of the most crucial aspects of email localization. Carry out market research properly so that you have a clear idea about your target audience and their language preferences.  For instance, you must create emails in English and French if you’re sending emails to subscribers in Canada.

              You can translate your emails by using either an online translation tool or by hiring a professional translator.

              Let’s see the pros and cons of each.

              Online translation tools can be fast, and convenient. Also, they’re often free. But, there are bound to be mistakes in grammar, structure, and context. There’s no quality control as you can’t report these errors. If you’re using a less popular language pair like Thai to Basque, there’s a higher likelihood that it would not be as accurate as English to German translation.

              Professional translators, on the other hand, take a longer turnaround time, and using their services can be expensive if you write a lot of copy. But, they understand the grammar, culture, rules of the language and the habits of the people who speak that language. Native translators can transcreate the email by making sure that the purpose, idioms, context, and tone are preserved in the translation, but with a creative twist.

              With native translators, you can be assured that the societal norms, consumer behavior, and cultural aspects are taken care of, preventing misunderstandings. It’s not something you can achieve with a machine translator.

              Alternately, you could hire a localization agency that works with native translators, to handle the localization of your email campaigns. The agency then manages it end to end, from finding the right translators to proof-reading, and delivering the final email copy. 

              Localize to mesmerize

              Localized customer experience can increase sales, customer retention, and loyalty.

              Pay attention to the regional, cultural, and commercial preferences while targeting an international customer base. The ultimate aim of localizing an email marketing campaign is to gain people’s trust so that they engage with your brand, make a purchase, and become loyal fans of your business.

              What are your experiences with localizing campaigns? Let us know in the comments!