Why email marketing needs to be multilingual

Steven Mike Voser
Looking to reach an international audience? In this article, we explore multilingual email marketing - a key tool to reaching more customers around the world.

Looking to take your company onto a global stage and maximize your potential? Then it’s time to produce multilingual content. And what better way to push out that content than email? Read on for an in-depth guide to multilingual email marketing and start winning over an international audience today.


Email is dead. You’ve probably heard that a thousand times, right? While social media is definitely making a big impact on the online marketing world, it’s not time to stop thinking about email just yet. In fact, any digital marketing expert worth their weight will be quick to support the power of email marketing. There are roughly 2.5 billion email users around the world. Those users generate an estimated 196 billion emails every day, over 55% of which are estimated to be business related. Not only is the email world alive and kicking, but it also promises to generate more conversions than other popular digital marketing channels including social media, SEO, or even your website. That’s right, email is believed to be a bigger potential source of revenue than these (and many more) online marketing channels. Compared to other popular marketing channels like social media or traditional print campaigns, email marketing can actually be much more effective at driving sales.

According to 2012 research by Monetate, a global leader in personalization software for brands like The North Face, National Geographic and Helly Hansen, 4.24% of visitors from email marketing campaigns end up converting. That’s almost double the conversion rate of search engine visitors (2.49%) and over 7 times that of visitors coming from social media (0.59%). Better yet, the power of email doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. A 2013 study by Custora, a software company from New York, found that customer acquisition via email marketing has quadrupled in the four years preceding 2013. In this study, email marketing accounted for nearly 7% of all customer acquisitions that occurred online. Just let that sink in for a minute. The digital marketing world is always changing; that’s arguably one of the things that makes it such a fascinating field to be in.
However, this constant change can have a downside: It can make us lose sight of effective marketing techniques because we’re too busy drooling over the latest trend. That’s not to say that social media or other aspects of your online presence (like your website) aren’t important. They all play vital roles in building your brand and ultimately acquiring more customers. However, just because Facebook seems like the next big marketing trend, don’t forget about the power of email.
However, just because Facebook seems like the next big marketing trend, don’t forget about the power of email.


So, we’ve made the point of why email marketing still matters. But why should you bother with marketing content in a language other than English? It’s true, English is definitely a dominating language, especially in the online world. In fact, more than half of all websites on the internet are written in English. But what about the users targeted by these websites? Well, research shows that the vast majority of internet users are actually non-native English speakers. In 2015, it was estimated that 3.2 billion people (almost half of the world population) would be online by the end of the year. When you consider there is estimated to only be 360 million native English speakers in the world, it highlights there is a much larger audience out there. Why is that important?
Well, research suggests that these users might spend up to twice as much time on a website that’s written in their native language. Plus, roughly 55% of online customers only make a purchase when they are presented with information in their native language. For users with only a minor understanding of English, this figure jumps up to 80%. This screams potential for any business that’s serious about expanding its online sales. Another serious point to consider is this: While Chinese and languages of the Indian subcontinent only make up 2% and 0.1% of the internet respectively, they account for a staggering 36% of the world population. As the internet quickly reaches more and more people, you can expect a quick uptick in non-native, English-speaking internet users over the coming years. Hence, if you’re serious about driving up your online sales, it’s high time to look beyond English as the main language of your online content. Here are some languages you may consider targeting with multilingual online content (stats as of June 2016):

  • Chinese: 751,985,224 users worldwide (20.8%).
  • Spanish: 277,125,947 users worldwide (7.7%).
  • Arabic: 168,426,690 users worldwide (4.7%).



So, you know about the power of email marketing. You also know about the importance of producing online content in languages other than English. But how can you effectively make use of both? The answer is simple: Multilingual email marketing. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating great multilingual email content:


The first thing you need to do when creating multilingual content for your email marketing campaign is to choose the right target language. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be as easy as just picking the language with the highest percentage of online users. Instead, you’ll need to run some analytics on your main landing pages to get a clear picture of the languages your customers speak. A good place to start is Google Analytics, which can give you detailed information about visitors to your site and their location. Alternatively, you can also use social media analytics like Facebook Insights to get more information about the language of your target users. A large number of international users will suggest that there’s already international interest in your brand. Even if this isn’t the case, don’t be disheartened. You can’t expect too much demand for your products or services globally if you haven’t been steadily working towards it yet.
You can't expect too much demand for your products or services globally if you haven’t been steadily working towards it yet.


So, you know which languages you’re going to target with your new multilingual email content. Now it’s time to find someone to create this content. And trust us, Google Translate isn’t the answer. Translation is a delicate process. It doesn’t boil down to simply translating swaths of text word-for-word into another language. Instead, it involves a careful understanding of what is said, how it is said and the context in which it is presented. The only people able to provide this kind of in-depth comprehension are real, human translators. Don’t get us wrong, machine translation apps like Google Translate are great in a pinch, just not for official purposes. Translation generators are helpful for informal purposes when you need a quick rendering to understand a text in another language. Want to find out how to greet someone in Russian over Skype or email? Go ahead and use Google Translate.
However, as soon as your needs get more professional, it’s time to think seriously about working with human translators. This is because machine translators do not properly account for the grammar, idioms, conventions and the context of a piece of text. Instead, they spit out mechanical and direct translations of words and phrases, which are often useless and downright confusing in an official setting. Translation isn’t that simple. It’s not a mathematical equation that you can apply to a multitude of problems; it’s a craft. And while machine translation might seem cost-effective and simple, it’s definitely not the right solution when translating the unique message of your marketing content. When you need precise, reliable translations that preserve the context of your message while taking into account international cultures, do it the right way. Hire human translators.


Once you’ve found the right language to target with your email marketing content and hired a team of expert translators, it’s time to update your email marketing strategy. You’ll have to consider a wide variety of factors, including the time of day your content is pushed out. Don’t expect to generate many conversions from your potential Chinese clients if they’re receiving your emails at 2 AM. More importantly, you’ll want to pay close attention to cultural considerations. These can include simple variables like the fact that the work week in many Islamic countries goes from Sunday to Thursday.
However, these might also include more culturally sensitive topics that’ll force you to make some big changes to your content, branding, or even your products. This process of dealing with cultural considerations in order to maximize the appeal of your brand in a foreign market is called localization. Localization is an extremely important concept and has been used by huge multinationals like McDonald’s, Nestle and Coca-Cola to ensure brand success all around the world. Whereas translation is concerned with rendering content from one language to another, localization goes much deeper: It helps optimize the appeal of your brand to consumers with unique, culturally specific needs and demands.