A Guide to Internationalization

Given today’s economy, many business leaders realize that their ability to grow and remain competitive hinges on reaching global audiences. 

To do this, companies must be able to quickly and effectively make the adjustments needed to do business in or with other countries. The best way to approach this is through the internationalization process.

So what is internationalization? This guide will cover the definition of internationalization, its benefits, and the tools you can use during the internationalization process. You’ll also see some real-world examples of internationalization.

What Is Internationalization?

Internationalization, or i18n, is a process that organizations go through to ensure they can operate in the global market. This process impacts:

Internationalization aims to make it as easy as possible to convert existing assets and processes worldwide.

Localization vs. Globalization vs. Internationalization

Localization, globalization, and internationalization are all related but not the same. This example should demonstrate the difference: 

Imagine that you start a company with plans to go global in the future. You instruct app developers to ensure they leave enough space in user interfaces to provide room for future translations. This approach is internationalization. 

Now, you’ve expanded your business into another country. You hire a professional to take your app and change the content and images used to make them meaningful to the customers in that country. This work is localization.

Finally, you have customers and employees in more than one country. You want to create a business strategy that ensures everybody in your business can communicate effectively and that your processes work well globally. This undertaking is globalization.

Why Do Companies Internationalize?

Companies internationalize to save money and time on future moves into foreign markets. When internationalization is prioritized from the beginning, it is much easier for translation and localization professionals to do their work. On the technical side, internationalization helps to automate or nearly automate the move into other countries. 

What Are the Benefits of Internationalization?

Any business leader who wants to expand into other countries should consider internationalization. When they do, they will realize at least some of these benefits:

Reaching International Customers

Thanks to eCommerce, your business doesn’t have to build a plant or store in another country to go global. Instead, you simply have to ensure that anybody worldwide can find and buy your products. Internationalization sets the foundation for that discovery.

Add a Competitive Advantage

Sometimes, the best way to compete in a particular industry is to be able to move quickly into other countries. For example, you may be able to establish yourself as the first in your niche in a region. But unfortunately, that creates a barrier to entry for your competition.

Financial Incentives

There are governments around the world that want to attract global businesses. They may even offer financial incentives such as tax breaks for you to do business there. Internationalization helps you to move on to those opportunities quickly.

What Are the Challenges of Internationalization?

Internationalization isn’t easy. It can add significant work to the front end of business development. Internationalization must be considered every step of the way, and it can add complexity to every decision. Making mistakes can set back the process.

Remember, there is no single approach to this, so it can be an iterative process until you create some internationalization best practices for your company.

How to Overcome the Challenges of Internationalization

The best way to execute an i18n strategy is to become as educated as possible and follow proven tips for internationalization. Make plans to review your efforts frequently and make changes along the way. Finally, investing in professional services can help ensure you get the best start.

Real-World Examples

Here are some real-world examples of internationalization:

IKEA

IKEA only uses images and diagrams in its furniture assembly instructions. This approach removes any language barriers and increases accessibility.

McDonald’s

If you go to a McDonald’s in another country, you will find different menu items. This variety ensures that the food served is appealing to local customers and culturally appropriate. 

McDonald’s can do this because its international business processes allow for that kind of adaptability. Without internationalization, it would be a struggle to implement those menu changes.

Tools Software and Other Internationalization Solutions

Fortunately, various tools can help the internationalization process:

  • Language dictionaries
  • APIs
  • Webhooks

These tools and others help make software and other technology easier to adapt.

Understanding the Internationalization Process

Internationalization can genuinely create a foundation for global expansion. That can improve business viability, ensure that you can remain competitive, and increase revenue. You can learn more with this excellent overview of internationalization (i18n) planning.

For more than 20 years, Lingoport has been helping companies with the internationalization and localization of their software. We specialize in solving the development challenges of i18n, L10n, and QA – all while keeping up with the fast pace of agile development. 

Let Lingoport help you and your developers with our continuous globalization technology and expertise; we can help you globalize at the speed of development. With Lingoport’s solutions, identify i18n issues upstream, automate the process, and take control of the quality of your global software.

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