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Internationalization vs. Globalization vs. Localization

Globalization vs. Internationalization vs. Localization

If you are preparing your business for eventual expansion into foreign markets, you need to understand the practices that will make this process more successful. The foundation of this is understanding globalization vs. localization vs. internationalization.

What Is Internationalization?

Internationalization is the set of practical steps you take to make apps, websites, content, and other public-facing elements easy to adapt to new regions and languages. Proper internationalization bridges globalization and localization in many ways.

What Is Localization?

When it comes to comparing internationalization vs. localization, it helps to see localization as the next logical step. Companies use localization when they move into foreign markets. 

This process is the actual adaptation of websites, apps, and content according to the needs and values of the new local community being targeted. These efforts are ongoing when continuous localization is implemented.

What Is Globalization?

Globalization occurs at the highest level of business strategy and planning. It encompasses the processes that are involved in structuring a business to do business globally. Internationalization is part of this. So is establishing global connections and hiring people with international business competencies.

Benefits and Use Cases

There are benefits to applying these concepts to any business that will likely expand abroad or do business in foreign markets. These include:

  • Creating a competitive advantage by entering new markets quickly
  • Understanding the needs and expectations of global customers
  • Avoiding technological roadblocks to doing international commerce
  • Building teams that are capable of operating globally
  • Increasing sales revenue

While there are differences in internationalization vs. globalization vs. localization, all three help brands communicate value to people in foreign markets.

Are these concepts useful to your business? Of course, they are if you plan to create a brick-and-mortar presence in another country. However, there are other use cases as well, including:

  • Opening operations or manufacturing facilities abroad
  • Outsourcing to contractors in other countries
  • Selling goods on foreign marketplaces 
  • Recruiting staff globally
  • Targeting foreign markets on social media
  • Engaging in eCommerce in new countries or regions

If you are unsure of your future plans to expand internationally, it is still advisable to research globalization and internationalization strategy.

Key Differences Between the Three

How do you know if a particular action is globalization, internationalization, or localization? Let’s look at the most important differences to keep in mind.

Differences Between Globalization and Internationalization

Imagine that you are starting a corporation that will operate globally. If that’s the case, you will incorporate this goal into every task you complete. 

You will create your corporate structure, write your business plan, build relationships with investors, engage in financial planning, hire staff, and seek legal advice, all with the goals of building a global business.

What you won’t do as part of globalization is to focus on specific products, services, technologies, or countries. These items fall under the umbrella of internationalization. 

Building on the example of starting a global corporation, you will create and execute an internationalization strategy that capitalizes on the work you have done via globalization. The process may look something like this:

Globalization: Taking steps to ensure you can hire web developers with multinational experience

Internationalization: Hiring those web developers to ensure your website and apps are adaptable for global expansion and then executing the steps to do that. 

Differences Between Internationalization and Localization

It’s easy to confuse internationalization with localization. These things both intersect with one another. Additionally, both focus on technology, content, product and package design, and other minutiae. The following example should illustrate the difference between the two.

You want your company to be able to sell products, engage with customers, or employ people in other countries. However, you are not currently operating your business outside of your home country. Right now, you simply want to be prepared if the opportunity for expansion presents itself. So you take the following steps:

  • Engaging in future planning when developing content to make it globally relevant
  • Developing apps and websites to display properly in different languages
  • Avoiding hard-coding app and web designs
  • Ensuring that it will be easy to display international dates and currencies
  • Testing websites and apps using pseudo-localization

Essentially, you have established a framework that will allow you to successfully sell products and build relationships with customers, employees, and associates when you do move into other markets abroad.

What you won’t do as part of internationalization is take steps to modify content, apps, web pages, packaging, or advertising to meet the needs of an audience in a specific country. Those activities are part of localization.

Common Challenges

If your business is at the globalization stage, you may struggle with fully understanding what needs to be done to create a business that can operate internationally. You may need to tap into a variety of external resources to ensure that nothing is missed.

When it comes to internationalization, one of the biggest challenges you will face is auditing and reengineering existing web pages, apps, and content for future expansion. This oversight can be considerable if plans to operate in foreign markets aren’t made until after you have structured these things for domestic purposes only.

Finally, the process of localization can be challenging even if you have taken steps to prepare for it. Each time you enter a new market, you must develop cultural understanding, translate and localize content, update files, test apps and websites, and more. 

This process may look very different from one region to the next as local cultural norms may be starkly different.

Knowing the Right Approach for Your Business

The sooner you begin planning for globalization, localization, and internationalization, the better. The processes involved in this are going to be easier to execute when they are embedded in your business strategy at every level. 

Consider your business goals for the immediate term, a year from now and five years from now. How likely is it that you will do business in other countries? Do you have the resources to make these moves now? What will you need to do to operate globally in the future?

Additional Info on Internationalization vs. Globalization vs. Localization

These are all complex topics on their own. However, you must also understand how each of these three concepts relates to one another. 

Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you bridge any knowledge gaps you may be facing. This global strategy playbook details how many leading brands have successfully built and executed strategies to operate globally.

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