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Translation and localisation of system emails for an international customer

Well-managed email marketing is a powerful tool in building relations with customers. It makes it possible to learn their needs, expectations and to obtain feedback, but most of all – to sell a product or service. However, the strategy of creating relations that works well on a local market, may turn out useless in global communication. Why is that? Because only speaking in a given customer’s language will guarantee the possibility of contacting them.

Will translation of an email to English be enough?

Not necessarily. First of all, you will need to specify the details of what foreign language you should be dealing with because not everyone speaks English. It may be Russian, French or German. But if you look at the target group closely, it may turn out that you will have to choose between British English or American English, or Catalan will be the best choice, rather than Spanish.

Another step will be to closely analyse your database of contacts. Is this just a single list including all email addresses of your customers? Perhaps it is divided according to countries and languages? The second option is definitely desired. If the situation refers to the first case, you will have to put the database in order and prepare a strategy for acquiring addresses of new subscribers (e.g. in a newsletter subscription form you can add a separate field for entering the country/city or create separate subscription forms on foreign-language websites).

So I know who I’m sending the email to. What’s next?

Another step is localisation, which means adapting the translation in terms of cultural differences of your recipients. It can be observed in terms of four aspects of marketing (“Four Ps”: product, placement, price, and promotion) but also in other elements typical for electronic correspondence.

Hence, you should take the following aspects into account in the process of localisation:

  • How to address the recipient (typically for a given language and country, direct form, personalisation, first name or surname, etc.);
  • Content translated into a given language (it is worth considering whether you want to offer the same products to all customers, etc.);
  • Images/videos (they will attract attention in a great way but they have to be in the same language as the message in order to be understandable; they should not present content that may be controversial in a given culture);
  • Links to the social media or website (in the same language; you should never refer the customer to the general English website or profile);
  • Calls to action (they are also subject to localisation, especially if they are a form of a joke or wordplay);
  • Type and colour of the message template (to retain image consistency if you use different templates on your multi-language websites);
  • Information regarding the data protection policies and possibility of cancelling a newsletter subscription (according to policies applicable in a given country).

Do I have to prepare all emails in different languages, or just the key messages?

It would be best to translate them all. Building an image and good relations with customer should be consistent. If your recipients are used to receiving emails in German, don’t start sending them messages in English. Even if you have little time and a certain message applies to customers from all countries – this type of activity may end in losing subscribers.

Don’t forget that the above strategy should apply to all messages – not only those that inform customers about a new product or service but also automated notifications about signing up to a newsletter or acceptance of an order.

What else should you keep in mind? Before sending a message, try out a test version and send it to yourself or people preparing the mailings. Check whether all links work correctly, all graphics are displayed and the personalisation matches the appropriate recipient. The most important thing is to check whether the message was written correctly without and typos and other errors.

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