Techniques for Localizing Subject Lines for International Audiences

Created On
September 14, 2023
Techniques for localizing subject lines for international audiences

Imagine getting tons of emails every day. It's like a flood of messages in your inbox. But have you ever noticed how some emails catch your attention more than others? That's because businesses use a smart trick called localizing subject lines.

Think of it as making emails more friendly and interesting for different people all around the world. For example, you'd be more interested in an email from a nearby store than one from a store far away, right?

Now, making subject lines like this isn't easy. It's like a special recipe that combines knowing about different cultures, using the right words, and understanding how people think. In this article, we'll show you how to do it. We'll share some cool tips and tricks so that your emails can be like a magnet, attracting people from all over. So, get ready to learn the secrets of making emails that everyone loves to read!

What is Email Localization? 

Email localization is a strategic approach to personalize email subject lines and content to resonate with diverse international audiences. This process goes beyond simple translation; it involves adapting messages to suit cultural nuances, preferences, and regional sensitivities.

With approximately 4.2% increase from 2022, 347.3 billion emails are sent and received everyday globally. This shows the emails are still one of the most successful communication channels for businesses. 

And as the businesses are going global, so is their audience, subscriber lists, email localization has become a vital aspect of customer acquisition and retention. 

For example, 

  • Cultural Relevance: The subject line "Summer sale starts at midnight" can be changed to "La venta resumida comienza a medianoche" for Spanish-speaking audiences.
  • Local Events: Taking account of local events or holidays, such as "Diwali Discounts" during the Diwali festival in India, can drive more engagement.
  • Currency and Units: Adapting price and measurement units, like converting dollars to euros or kilometers to miles, is a localization tactic for international audiences.

What Does Email Localization Mean for Marketers?

Email marketers use tactics like localizing subject lines to resonate with international audiences. As business outreach is becoming more and more personalized, sending out one-size-fits-all emails simply doesn't cut it. To truly engage recipients across diverse cultures and languages, here's why email localization matters:

1. Unlocking Global Markets

According to a study by Common Sense Advisory, 75% of consumers prefer to buy products in their native language. By localizing subject lines, marketers tap into new markets and drive conversion rates higher.

2. Personalization Boosts Engagement

Personalized emails, including localized subject lines, see an average open rate increase of 26%, as reported by Experian. Customizing content to match recipients' language and culture creates a more intimate connection.

3. Avoiding Cultural Faux Pas

Without localization, marketers risk unintentional cultural insensitivity. For instance, translating a subject line verbatim can lead to misunderstandings or even offense. Localization ensures messages align with local norms and sensitivities.

4. Adapting to Local Trends

Marketers can capitalize on region-specific events, holidays, and trends. For instance, a subject line tailored to a local holiday can boost engagement, as seen with Starbucks' localized campaigns for Chinese New Year.

In essence, email localization is more than just translation; it's about understanding your audience, adapting to their preferences, and ultimately driving better results in the global marketplace. 

Mistakes to Avoid While Localizing Subject Lines for International Audiences

1. Not Attaching Sufficient Importance to Email Localization

According to a study conducted by Common Sense Advisory, 75% of consumers are more likely to buy a product if the information is in their native language. Yet, many marketers overlook the importance of localizing subject lines, focusing solely on the email content itself. This oversight can result in reduced open rates and conversions.

When you fail to attach sufficient importance to subject line localization, you risk alienating potential customers who might otherwise engage with your email. To avoid this mistake, make sure your subject lines resonate with the cultural and linguistic nuances of your target audience. Conduct thorough research and employ professional translation services when necessary.

2. Thinking a Single (English) Template Will Take Care of All Others

Assuming that a single English-language template can be used as a one-size-fits-all solution for international audiences is a common pitfall in email marketing. According to a report by CSA Research, 60% of global consumers rarely or never buy from English-only websites. This statistic underscores the need for tailoring your subject lines to different regions and languages.

Using a generic template across multiple languages can lead to awkward translations, cultural insensitivity, and miscommunication. It's crucial to invest the time and resources into creating subject lines that are specifically crafted for each target market. This approach demonstrates your commitment to providing a personalized and culturally relevant experience for your international audience.

3. Thinking That Localization Is All About Language

While language is a fundamental aspect of localization, it's far from the only consideration. Believing that localization begins and ends with language can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations. A survey by Common Sense Advisory found that 56.2% of consumers place more importance on the ability to obtain information in their own language than on price.

Localization encompasses various elements, including cultural norms, preferences, and even regional holidays. Failing to consider these factors can result in subject lines that feel out of touch or, worse, offensive to your international audience. To avoid this mistake, conduct thorough market research and collaborate with local experts who can provide insights into cultural sensitivities and preferences.

In conclusion, subject line localization is a crucial aspect of international email marketing, and avoiding these common mistakes is essential for success. By recognizing the significance of email localization, tailoring subject lines to specific audiences, and considering cultural factors beyond language, you can increase engagement, build trust, and ultimately drive better results in your international email marketing campaigns.

Tips for Localizing Subject Lines for International Audiences to Boost Email Engagement

Effective email marketing is heavily reliant on the ability to resonate with diverse international audiences. Subject lines play a pivotal role in determining whether your email gets opened. To maximize email engagement across borders, consider these data-driven tips and techniques:

1. Understand the Power of Localization

Localization is more than just translating words; it's about adapting your message to the unique cultural nuances and preferences of your target audience. According to a study by Common Sense Advisory, 72.1% of consumers are more likely to buy a product if the information is in their native language. Start by conducting thorough market research to gain insights into your international customers' needs and preferences.

2. Leverage Personalization

Personalization is a universal driver of email engagement. According to Statista, personalized emails have an open rate of 18.8%, compared to 13.1% for non-personalized emails. Incorporate recipient's names, location-specific details, or references to local events and holidays in your subject lines to create a sense of connection and relevance.

3. Utilize A/B Testing

Data-driven decision-making is paramount in email marketing. Conduct A/B tests on subject lines with different localization strategies to identify what resonates best with your international audience. Platforms like Mailchimp, HubSpot, and others offer A/B testing capabilities that allow you to optimize your email subject lines for maximum impact.

4. Mind Cultural Sensitivities

Different cultures have varying norms, values, and sensitivities. Avoid culturally insensitive content or references that could alienate your audience. A misstep in this regard can be damaging to your brand reputation. Statistically, 47% of consumers would cease buying from a brand that sent culturally insensitive marketing messages (Harvard Business Review).

5. Monitor Local Trends

Stay updated with local trends and current events in your target regions. Incorporating timely references in your subject lines can significantly boost open rates. Tools like Google Trends can help you identify popular keywords and topics relevant to specific regions.

6. Optimize for Mobile

A significant portion of email opens occurs on mobile devices. Ensure your subject lines are concise, engaging, and visually appealing on smaller screens. According to Litmus, 43% of all email opens occur on mobile devices, making mobile optimization crucial for international email engagement.

7. Embrace Data Analytics

Leverage email marketing analytics to track the performance of your subject lines across different regions. Tools like Google Analytics and email marketing platforms provide valuable insights into open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates by geography. Use this data to refine your localization strategies continuously.

8. Multivariate Testing for Precision

For a more advanced approach, consider multivariate testing. This technique allows you to test multiple elements within a subject line, such as language, emojis, and personalization, simultaneously. It provides a deeper understanding of what combination resonates best with specific international segments of your audience.

By implementing these data-driven techniques, you can enhance the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns across international boundaries. Remember that successful localization not only improves email engagement but also fosters a stronger connection between your brand and its global audience.

Techniques for localizing subject lines

1. Implementing Location-Specific Offers for Maximum Engagement

When it comes to localizing subject lines for international audiences, one powerful technique is to "Share Locally Relevant Offers." Statistics reveal that customers are significantly more inclined to engage with a business when presented with offers tailored to their specific needs and geographical location. For instance, a fitness chain spreading the word about discounts on annual memberships will see limited success when targeting individuals outside their operational areas.

Fashion giant H&M exemplifies this strategy by allowing customers to specify their country of residence and postal code during the email subscription process. By following these localized offer principles, you can boost engagement and conversions:

Send coupons that can be redeemed locally: This ensures that the offer is relevant and actionable for recipients in specific regions.

Avoid sending offers to non-serviceable areas: Save resources and enhance customer satisfaction by not promoting offerings where your business can't deliver.

Promote future events in specific locations: Tailor your messaging to those who have previously engaged with your offers in specific areas.

Share only relevant products: Avoid marketing items that don't align with the climate, culture, or needs of the recipient's location.

By incorporating these location-specific strategies, you'll not only increase engagement but also demonstrate your commitment to meeting the unique demands of your international audience.

2. Harnessing the Power of Localization in Subject Lines for Global Audiences

Crafting subject lines that resonate with international audiences is crucial, as they play a pivotal role in email open rates. In fact, a staggering 47 percent of email subscribers make their decision to open emails based on the subject line alone. To maximize engagement, consider incorporating specific geographical references such as area names, cities, or neighborhoods. This strategic localization not only captures your subscribers' attention but also sets your emails apart in the sea of messages flooding their inboxes.

3. Utilize Robust Contact Information for Seamless Localization

One key technique for localizing subject lines for international audiences is to provide contact data of local business representatives. According to statistics, personalized email signatures enhance client engagement by up to 23%. While standard email signatures are free and easy to obtain, they often limit direct communication. In contrast, advanced email signature tools like Mailbutler can empower you to create professional, information-rich signatures, including sender photos, multiple phone numbers, website links, and social media profiles. This approach maximizes contact opportunities, allowing you to share the details of your local representatives with subscribers, ensuring a seamless and localized customer experience.

4. Translate Your Copy for Global Success

In the ever-expanding landscape of international marketing, one fundamental technique stands out: translating your email copy. Why is it so crucial? Well, consider this - English may be a global language, but it's just one piece of the puzzle. Recent studies underscore the indisputable role of local language in advertising success.

Statistics reveal that campaigns delivered in the recipient's native language significantly boost engagement and conversion rates. It's a straightforward equation: when potential customers can understand your message effortlessly, they're more likely to make informed purchase decisions.

However, effective translation goes beyond mere words. To truly connect with international audiences, it's imperative to collaborate with professional translators and native speakers. Their cultural insights and linguistic precision can make or break your campaign's impact.

For efficiency in reaching diverse markets, employing copy templates for different languages is also a strategic move. This not only streamlines your email marketing efforts but also ensures consistency and relevance across borders.

5. Take Time Difference into Account

When crafting subject lines for international audiences in your email marketing campaigns, it's crucial to consider the time difference between your location and your target audience's. While there may not be a one-size-fits-all formula for determining the optimal sending time, insights from various studies can provide a valuable starting point.

Statistics reveal that certain times tend to yield better results:

10 am: This time is favored because many individuals check their emails extensively in the morning, making it an opportune moment to capture their attention.

8 pm: Evening hours are also popular, as people tend to browse their emails before bedtime, increasing the likelihood of your message being seen.

2 pm: Lunchtime can be a sweet spot for email engagement, as people often take a break to catch up on their emails during this period.

6 am: Surprisingly, some individuals begin their day by checking emails while still in bed, making the early morning a potential prime time for communication.

Remember that these times are general guidelines and may vary depending on your specific target audience and industry. By factoring in time differences and local email-checking habits, you can optimize your subject lines for international audiences, increasing your chances of a successful email marketing campaign.

Understanding the local email laws

While abiding by your email marketing service’s anti-spam policy or permission policy will usually be sufficient to keep you out of any legal trouble, it does pay to be mindful of regional differences in electronic messaging and marketing laws.

Upon gaining permission to email your subscribers, be sure that you provide a means of unsubscribing and your contact details (including a phone number) on your email. In some places, it’s also important to prefix your subject line or ensure that unsubscribe requests are honored within a set number of days.

We’ve listed links here where you can find out more about country-by-country laws. When in doubt, we recommend contacting your email marketing service or seeking advice from a marketing professional in your country of interest.

United States

The CAN-SPAM Act provides guidelines on sending into the US, from US servers.


CASL provides strict directions on gaining opt-in consent to email subscribers.

European Union

Over the past five years, the European Union has been busy working on creating new legislation to help better protect their citizens from data breaches and give them better control over how their private information was collected and used by businesses.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a joint proposal created by the European Commission, European Parliament, and the Council of the EU and is now fully enforced as of 2018.

Under this proposal, all “companies” (globally) that process an EU citizen’s personal information must follow the regulation set or risk being fined up to 4% of their annual global turnover or $22,487,060.00 (US dollars)—whichever is the larger amount.

This means that companies must:

  • Notify citizens of a data breach within 72 hours of learning of the breach
  • Request consent to use a citizen’s information, such as email address
  • Provide a simple opt-out option to revoke consent to use personal information
  • Protect consumer data


The “Regulations on Internet Email Services” have some requirements, including that subject lines have a prefixed “AD” (or their character equivalent) and links to external content come with a written guarantee that linked content isn’t malicious.


The Spam Act features a clear description of what constitutes “commercial email” and includes provisions such as identifying the correct legal name of the organization or individual sending the email, as well as an Australian Business Number (ABN), where applicable.


In conclusion, crafting subject lines that resonate with international audiences is a vital component of a comprehensive, customer-centric marketing strategy. The scenario of a Spanish-speaking subscriber receiving a Spanish-language email only to be redirected to an English landing page is a poignant reminder of the significance of seamless localization. By addressing various facets of localization, such as offering multiple language options on your website, providing multilingual product support, and creating localized content resources, marketers can significantly enhance the impact of their international email campaigns.

Statistics show that a well-executed localization strategy can yield impressive results. Research indicates that campaigns tailored to local preferences and languages experience up to a 35% increase in open rates and a remarkable 56% boost in click-through rates. Moreover, this not only translates into a substantial return on investment but also ensures that subscribers remain satisfied and engaged. By harnessing the right localization partners and keeping these considerations in mind, email marketers can streamline their international campaign creation process, driving success and fostering stronger connections with a global audience.


1. What are the localization strategies?

Localization strategies for subject lines in international email campaigns include:

  • Translation: Translate subject lines accurately, considering cultural nuances and language preferences.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Avoid culturally sensitive references or idioms that may not resonate with all audiences.
  • Geo-segmentation: Tailor subject lines based on recipients' geographic locations or time zones.
  • Personalization: Incorporate recipient's name or location for a personalized touch.
  • A/B Testing: Test different subject lines to determine what resonates best with each target audience.
  • Local Trends: Stay updated on local trends and holidays for timely and relevant subject lines.

2. What is a localization strategy in translation?

An excellent localization strategy in translation involves more than just language conversion; it focuses on adapting subject lines to resonate with the cultural nuances, preferences, and sensitivities of the target audience. This includes understanding local customs, idioms, and values to craft subject lines that feel native and compelling. Moreover, considering the target market's demographics and market trends is crucial for crafting subject lines that engage and connect with international audiences effectively.

3. How do you localize marketing content?

Localizing marketing content involves adapting your message to resonate with the cultural and linguistic preferences of your target audience. Start by conducting thorough market research to understand local customs, values, and language nuances. Translate your subject lines professionally, ensuring accuracy and cultural sensitivity. Consider using region-specific keywords, references, and idioms. A/B testing can help fine-tune your approach. Ultimately, effective localization hinges on a deep understanding of your international audience and a commitment to crafting messages that truly resonate with them.

4. What are the three types of localization?

The three primary types of localization for subject lines targeting international audiences are:

  • Language Localization: Adapting subject lines to the target language, including translation and cultural nuances.
  • Cultural Localization: Tailoring subject lines to align with the cultural norms, values, and preferences of the target audience.
  • Geographic Localization: Customizing subject lines based on geographic factors like time zones, local events, or seasonal differences to enhance relevance.

5. What is a localized international strategy? 

Localized international strategy refers to the approach of tailoring marketing and communication efforts, such as subject lines, to resonate with specific target audiences in different regions or countries. It involves adapting content, language, cultural nuances, and preferences to ensure that messages are relevant and appealing to diverse global markets. This strategy aims to enhance engagement, relevance, and ultimately, the success of marketing campaigns in an increasingly interconnected world.

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Author’s Details

Sattwik Das

Sattwik is a Digital Marketing professional at Smartlead. He is a dedicated content writer who focuses on juggling words to bring out meaningful content. He is experienced in well-researched and SEO-optimized content creation, content editing, and copywriting for various businesses throughout the globe. His expertise in SEO, SMM, and SMO with a touch of creativity helps businesses grow and maximize their credibility and sales.


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