"E-mail is dead, long-live social media!" - or so some would have you believe.
While it is true that the use of e-mail for social communication has dwindled over the years, the same doesn't hold true for marketing. Many brands have invested heavily in their social media presence to promote brand image, but a study by e-commerce software firm Monetate found that 4.24% of visitors from email marketing make a purchase, compared to only 2.49% of visitors from search engines and .59% from social media. Moreover, the average order value from an e-mail visitor is three times that of a social media visitor. Proof, therefore, that e-mail is still king of the digital marketing world.
Isn't most of the internet in English anyway?
It's undeniable that English is the lingua franca of the internet, making up roughly half of all websites. In fact, no other language reaches higher than 7%. And the prevalence of English has become self-perpetuating as the globalisation of culture enabled by the internet has arguably become the greatest language-learning tool ever.
It is tempting then, when looking at the stats, to assume that in a digital sphere marketing in English will work for the majority of your (potential) customers anyway. As always, however, there are caveats to the above. While Chinese and languages of the Indian sub-continent only make up 2% and 0.1% of the internet respectively, they account for a staggering 36% of the world population. With internet penetration increasing rapidly in these countries, there are massive untapped markets for digital marketing.
Most importantly: around 55% of consumers only make purchases online when information is presented in their native language. When the consumer in question has only a limited understanding of English, this figure rises to 80%.
So how do I go about multilingual e-mail marketing?
Now we've convinced you of that e-mails are still relevant and that you need to talk to customers in their language, you may be wondering how you do it.
1. Pick your target
Multilingual e-mail marketing has fantastic potential to improve customer acquisition and sales, but you still need to be sure it's the right option for you and your company. Ask yourself if there sufficient consumer demand in your selected target markets to justify a localised marketing campaign?
One way to gauge this is using Google Analytics, which gives you a comprehensive breakdown of user behaviour and page visits based on location. High international visitor numbers suggest that an international audience is already interested in your brand and what you offer. You could also look to market data and forecasts. Ultimately, justifying the campaign is up to you.
2. Language and Content
The most obvious consideration for a multilingual campaign is, of course, the language. Google Translate is not the answer! Never settle for less than professional translation by trained linguists, machine-translations are infamously error-prone, and will nix any chance of success. Beyond translation, you will also need to localise the campaign. I snuck the word "localise" into the previous point too, so it deserves an explanation. Translation is the act of rendering text into another language. Localising, on the other hand, involves adapting the text to local socio-cultural sensitivities - a must in marketing. This often includes translation, but could also distinguish marketing between the UK and the US for example.
You should also consider how the strength of your brand in the target market might affect your message. Do you want to focus on products and converting to sales, or would you rather invest in trust-building to improve your profile? Split testing your messages can be a useful tool to figure out what works and what doesn't.
3. Other considerations
If you’re carrying out a global campaign, it's a good idea to schedule your e-mails so they are sent appropriately by time-zone. Customers are much less likely to read a marketing e-mail they received at 2AM. As well as time zones, many Muslim countries have their working week Sunday-Thursday, rather than Monday-Friday, which could have a significant impact on campaign success. Furthermore, dates of celebrations like Mother's Day are not universal if you're considering a tie-in campaign.
Multilingual email marketing is a powerful tool to access potentially massive global markets, with a more reliable ROI than most other forms of digital marketing. However, if you don’t carefully consider your local target audience, you could end up having no impact to show for your efforts.
Email marketing specialist Jordie van Rijn likes to use a culinary analogy: “be aware that regions have their own tastes, preferences and ways of working. Some national e-mail dishes are more spicy or sweet, while others prefer more subtle flavours. Know your international audience and serve your emailings accordingly, or they might not resonate.”