The Best Ways to Address Email Localization Challenges

A guide to localizing email at scale and a story about a Fortune 500 company with 127 locales that improved their time to market by 250%.


According to CSA Research “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy,” 65% of global consumers answered that they prefer content in their native language even if it’s poor quality, and 40% said they would not make a purchase online in different languages.

Without a doubt, companies trying to expand into the global market need to prioritize investing in content localization. And it is also no surprise that email is an effective way to introduce customers in new markets to your brand and even develop a trust-based relationship with customers.

The companies that understand the value in content localization and email marketing also understand the need to invest in email localization.

Your motivation to localize your emails may be to increase ROI. But also think about it from the accessibility perspective. If you want to make your product or service available to your global audience whose preferred language is not American English, you should invest in optimizing your email localization strategy.

There are enough challenges associated with managing email marketing even in just one language. For example, how will you ensure your email campaigns resonate with your target audience in many different locales? How will all those emails be deployed on time, on brand, fully tested, and responsive?

Take this company as an example: A Fortune 500 company that is a recognized household name worldwide with annual revenue of 11 billion USD and a best-in-industry email team struggled with email localization. While they were localizing emails, their localization workflow was highly complex and error-prone.

For this company, it was impossible to ensure the highest level of quality and customer experience. Due to their complicated localization workflow, their time to market was too slow.

Every expansion of the business into a newly localized market slowed down the process even further, as they had to create a whole new version of all their email templates to serve that locale. Every time there was an update in the email template, they had to resend the content to be translated, which was costly.

(Here is a spoiler: Fast forward to today - This company with 127 locales improved their time to market by 250% through an optimized email localization strategy.)

But why does email localization have to be so difficult?

Inherent and Common Challenges in Localizing Email

  • More languages/locales = higher level of complexity
  • Insufficient quality controls process
  • Unclear analytics and ROI
  • Manual content management with spreadsheets and templates
  • Inconsistency in voice/tone, terminology, branding strategy, design, cultural nuance, and more
  • Reliance on agencies resulting in high cost and slow turnaround
  • Challenges of aligning communication between stakeholders
  • Issues around design, including the inability to consider character count, right-to-left (RTL) or left-to-right (LTR) reading, etc.

That’s a lot of requirements to fulfill. On top of that, when companies attempt to approach email localization using the traditional, manual process, here is what happens:

  • For accurate translation, there are multiple stakeholders in the workflow reviewing and approving the content. So someone is always chasing someone down to get the process moving.
  • All the translations are stored in a spreadsheet, resulting in files getting mixed up, duplicate copies, overwriting, etc.
  • There is a template for each locale your company supports. The stakeholders are manually reviewing, revising, re-translating, and testing each locale when there are even small changes to be made.
  • Manual translation management is slow, and with unexpected delays added to the localization process, the timeline to market becomes slow and unpredictable.

The Solution to Email Localization Challenges

The issues we discussed above can cause setbacks to a business’s localization and internationalization strategy and add extra cost. So here is Smartling’s solution for localizing email content at scale: AI-Powered Translation Management System.

Dynamic Workflows

Translation management systems powered by artificial intelligence enable automating everything surrounding the translation process. Automation is a powerful tool that can simplify workflows, allowing your team to save time to better utilize it on other priorities. Smartling’s Dynamic Workflows tool automatically handles repetitive tasks such as assigning jobs, quality assurance, notifying stakeholders, revising content, submitting content, and more, helping you remove manual involvement from the process. You have the freedom to customize the workflow, where the Dynamic Workflows will make the decisions for you based on your configuration.

Quality Assurance

The manual quality assurance process has been highly time-consuming and costly in the past. With Smartling, automated programmatic quality check procedures became a reality. In Smartling, the built-in QA tools run automatically to detect errors and even block a translator from submitting the translation if there are unaddressed errors still in your email templates and translations.

CAT Tool

Visual Context in Smartling provides the real-time visualization of the content that is being translated. When translators can see how words will display on the email template as they translate, they can make accurate and fast linguistic decisions, resulting in reduced review time, cost, and time to market.

In addition, translators also have direct access to your brand’s glossary terms, style guides, and translation memory within Smartling CAT tool. You can configure the processes as you prefer and customize your brand guidelines, information about source content, terminology in your term base, etc., so all your past and future translations can be up-to-date even when changes have been made. This ensures that your brand is captured in your messaging at all times, the translators create high-quality content, and your brand offers your end customers the level of user experience you expect.

All these automated processes empower human translators to leverage machine translation and boost the velocity of the translation process.

Machine Translation + Human Translation

Although today’s technology enables high-quality translations from machine translation, email is an area where we highly recommend the involvement of human translation. Unlike websites that can be revised when an error is introduced, emails cannot be taken back once deployed. With both machine translation and human translation services built-in in Smartling, you can customize your workflow using the Dynamic Workflows tool.

Smartling’s advanced workflow engine identifies what content has been previously translated by humans. It assesses how much human translation is needed to get it to a professional level, and all of this can be custom-configured to the setting that works best for your team.

Whether you’re localizing your email templates into Spanish, Italian, French, Japanese, German, Arabic, or another, there is no more need to juggle multiple files, back-and-forth emails with stakeholders, and tedious copy-and-paste jobs into spreadsheets. Instead, Smartling’s AI-powered software automation with integrated human translation is the most cost-effective and the fastest way to deploy high-quality localized content to your various locales around the world.

Smartling co-hosted a webinar co-hosted with Dyspatch, where we dig into the current state of email localizations, ways to address common challenges, and more.