Executing Email Localization With a Global-Centric Mindset

Smartling Email Localization

A few weeks ago we received a compelling question from one of our customers about email localization and felt this was a good venue to share a few of our thoughts.

“I’m a CRM Manager who manages our international email program and strategy. We’ve built out an email program for our EU market, and I’ve worked on adding some efficiencies to our processes and tracking. However, we think we’ve been doing this with a US-first mindset. How could we accomplish multi-language communications, prioritize different markets, and track performance in all markets in different locales? What are some ways companies are running their international programs successfully?”

We just love these layered and honest questions. The nuance and nature of how each company works add to the fun. But if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that approaching localization without considering the preferences of your global audience leaves room for the end-user to consider alternatives — ones that may feel more familiar and local to them. 

So here is how we answered these questions and helped our customer think differently about how to localize their email content with a global-first mentality. 

In Their Shoes: Multicultural Communication

We believe what matters the most in global expansion is that the brand feels native to the locale. If you are serious about serving a particular global market, your first step should be to take off your “American hat” and put on the “local hat.”

That means thinking about how the readers in different countries will feel about your message. Is it culturally appropriate that your content will resonate with your audience as intended? Will they find your message funny as you intended, or will they feel offended? Do your puns, wordplays, or idioms make sense to people in your market? 

Learning about the way people around the globe feel differently about one thing can be a fascinating topic to some. To those in localization, though, cultural difference is something we need to get absolutely right, or we run the risk of representing our brand the wrong way. 

Enter transcreation — a powerful tool for global marketers that transfers the meaning, style, tone, cultural context, and intention of the source text into the translations. You know your emails are localized correctly if the same emotional impact from the source text has been carried over to the translated text. 

How to Prioritize Different Markets

During global expansion, brands will naturally experience that some markets perform better and generate more revenue than others. And deciding how much effort to put into localizing content for the “second-tier” markets can be a challenge. 

In that case, A/B testing is a simple but effective way to test the performance of your emails for multiple markets without going “all in.”

For example, if your focus is on the European market, you could still meet your goals with some content left in English, depending on your audience. So in your A/B testing, you could try deploying an English version and a translated version of your content and see which performs better in that market. Analyze the open rates, click-through rates, how the customers are engaging with your brand, etc., then use these insights to create a business case. This will help you justify the budget used to translate for this market or decide to pull out.

In short, continue prioritizing translating for the first-tier markets that you know are generating returns. And test the cases for the secondary locales and decide whether to invest more into localizing for that market or not. 

Building Trust: Choose the Right Payment Technology

One of the most critical moments of the customer lifecycle is the purchasing process. It’s at this point you’ve earned enough trust from the customer that they’re willing to buy, but it can all fall apart at the paywall if the experience is overlooked.

The cultural nuances for online payment are different from one country to the next. In the US, many people are okay with saving their personal information on their online profiles for convenience. The adoption of online payments in Germany, for example, has been slow due to their traditionally strong preference toward cash payment.

Choose your transaction methods carefully to help customers in the target market feel comfortable with purchasing on your platform. There are often a number of payment portals that the people in the market will inherently trust because they’ve used them before or they are reputable in that locale. Additionally, consider providing resources (translated in their language!) that cover your company’s data security policy to assure that their information will be safe.

Common Localization Mistakes to Avoid

Thinking through the entire user journey is vital for successful localization. Here are a few common mistakes that companies make during their email localization process.

  • Introducing incomplete localized experiences: Your brand’s marketing effort will always involve many different touchpoints for your prospects and customers. When translations are introduced, it’s a common pitfall for companies to present incomplete customer journey experiences. Here is a quick example: Let’s say you are sending out an email that’s been translated into Italian. The email includes a call-to-action for the readers to read an article on your website. The reader opens the article, and it’s in English. This mistake will deliver a broken user experience, and their ability to comprehend and trust your brand will be in jeopardy. 
  • Not translating the fine print: Forgetting to translate fine print such as terms and conditions, disclosures, policies, etc. is providing an incomplete localized experience, as we discussed above. For example, a company offers payment portal choices for their customers, but they can’t read the terms and conditions because it has not been translated. Customers don’t buy if they don’t feel safe making a purchase on a website new to them. And depending on where you are, not providing policy statements in your user’s language could be illegal
  • Not considering design early in the process: Design is a critical part of user experience. One of the common mistakes companies make is not incorporating the design process simultaneously with the translation process. Why is that necessary? When you’re doing creative work, you have to consider translation at the very beginning of your design stage because it will help you understand how the text length for different languages impacts design and user experience. 

Let’s say you have a button on your email that says “Click for Your Free Trial.” Translate this into German and now you have “Klicken Sie hier für Ihre kostenlose Testversion.” Considering design early in the process will help you avoid costly changes to your design when translated content doesn’t fit the way you had hoped. Additionally, doing so accelerates the translation process by completing translation work early in the process.

Communicating Market By Market 

To connect with your global customers on a deeper level, your team needs to have a thorough understanding of your brand. But that’s hardly news. What’s really important is that your translations reflect your brand appropriately for each locale

When everyone on your localization team is on the same page with their understanding of your brand, products, and content from a perspective centered around the specific market, your brand can be reflected more accurately and the translations will have much higher quality.

Take your existing glossary, style guide, brand guideline, and translation memory, and build out unique versions of each for all the different regions your organization serves. How should your brand be voiced differently in Locale A and Locale B? If your company can do this, now you have translators on your team who are also skilled marketers. 

Additionally, ensure that your content team is readily available to respond to translators when they have questions or concerns. Those come up all the time, and if the translators are waiting for days or weeks before they can move forward, your time to market will be much slower. 

The more access your translators have to your brand’s tools and intelligence, the more likely you will reach your global customers quickly and with high-quality content. 

Smartling is here to help scale and advance your localization initiatives forward. Contact us to learn more, or click here for a one-page “9 Mistakes to Avoid for Your Next-Level Localization.”