If you are going to deploy your email marketing messages on a global scale, the first issue that comes to mind is difference in language. There is a lot more to international emailing than just a good translation. A uniform international audience doesn’t exist, averages do not apply. Consider the following to make your email campaigns successful in multiple countries.

Consumer Behavior and Email Tactics

Your campaigns will have varying results when compared between different countries. An average open-, click- or conversion rate can’t be taken across the border. Why? For starters, consumer email behavior isn’t the same in all countries. In part this has to do with local preferences and cultural differences in splitting work and personal email. Some tactics just work better than others in different countries, so don’t be led astray by an international benchmark. Averages don’t tell the whole story.

The 2009 Global Consumer Email Study underlines these differences. For instance a subject line with a limited-time offer is a much more compelling reason to open an email for people in Asia (48%) than in North America (36%) or Europe (31%). The study also shows large differences in desired content. Sweepstakes, for instance, are much more popular for consumers in North America (57%) than in Europe (37%).

Tip: Split your stats and use geographical tracking to see if your email campaigns are effective per region. Adjust your email tactics to the local inbox behavior.


A lot of companies have more than one signup point for their email list (recommended) and are actively trying to grow their email lists by promoting it (also recommended). The way you collect your subscribers probably differs by region. If not, test promotion types per region and observe the impact on data quality.

While channel preferences have changed over the last couple of years, the 2010 Global Perspectives Study does give us insight into the differences in sign up behavior per country. Company website registration, for instance is highest in Spain (60%) and Italy (58%), but consumers in France and the Netherlands are less likely to opt-in via the website. SMS acquisition is most prevalent in the Asia Pacific region. 21% of consumers have opted in to email via SMS, as compared to 13% of the overall global survey respondents. This behavior is highest in China (27%).

Tip: Investigate which regions are falling behind in data quality / quantity and optimize subscription methods.

It’s a Whole Different Business

Most importantly, your business is different per region. People tend to forget that your messaging echoes your company’s presence, brand and other marketing efforts that an individual consumes, and that an individual has a unique surrounding in each region. There are other competitors, other media consumption and other types of advertisement.

The 2010 Global Perspectives Study asks a very compelling question: “Have you actually bought a product in a store or by telephone after receiving a marketing email?” The differences were staggering. 35% of the respondents in the Netherlands said they did, 50% in Italy and 75% in China. Yes, that is more than double the amount of sales credited to email when comparing the Netherlands with China.

Tip: Don’t just measure your business against your most prominent competitors. Explore the local competition for your international customers.

Striking a Global vs. Local Balance

There should always be a balance to how local or how global your company operates. A larger focus on local means more fine-tuned messages and offers. This will probably give you better results in the end. But it also means more work and more costs.

The last couple of years have exhibited bigger emphasis on Return on Investment (ROI) in email marketing. This dictates that those extra costs should be in balance with the added conversions and profit you get from them. The bigger your subscriber base the easier it is to justify the extra costs.

Tip: There are no laws about going either totally global or totally local, so pick and mix, use the centralized campaigns where you can and go local where you will expect the highest impact, both in quantity and in profit margin.

Your International Kitchen

A company that bakes an international pie can get a slice of email efficiency by centralizing IT infrastructure, campaigns and designs. But be aware that different people have different tastes and preferences. Some national email dishes are spicier, some sweeter, while others prefer more subtle flavors. Know your international kitchen and serve your cakes accordingly, or they might not get eaten at all.

Next time I’ll share some tips on how to localize your campaigns and the pitfalls you should avoid.