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Globalization vs Localization

Despite a seemingly interconnected world and open markets, positioning a product or brand internationally is not a simple task. Your company must be prepared to overcome the challenges of international markets. You have heard about how translation and localization can help you reach new audiences, and most likely have heard of the term “globalization” in this scenario. But is that the same as localization? Not really. In this article, we explain why and tell you how this can benefit your business.

Globalization

 

Although globalization, or “g11n”, takes different meanings depending on the context (geopolitical, economic, or marketing), it is usually considered as the process companies go through to make their products or services available in different countries or regions. As such, it uses translation and localization as part of its strategies to reach other markets and appeal to multiple audiences. However, it is not to be confused with internationalization (i18n) or localization (l10n).

Globalization focuses on moving goods, services, information, ideas, people, and capital across borders, resulting in a more integrated and connected global system. The goal is to create a more interconnected world to allow collaboration, mainly for economic growth and cultural exchange.

However, due to its generalizing approach, it tends to standardize processes, products, and services. This can result in ignoring or oversimplifying cultural differences, or not considering cultural sensitivities. For instance, globalization efforts tend to use one “international” language -mainly English-, or a set of most common languages, to maximize their reach. The problem with this is that many countries, regions, or communities might feel ignored or not identify with said product/service, and in some cases even feel offended.

Simply put: Globalization is about breaking down geographical barriers.

Localization

 

While globalization focuses on crossing international borders, localization goes a step beyond and focuses on engaging different audiences by adapting content and products to their preferences, languages, and cultures. That means that instead of making messages as general as possible, it would seek to tailor messages and products for very specific locales to create a personalized experience.

The more an audience feels the product was “made for them”, the more likely they are to buy it.  This means more in-depth research and longer-term strategies to ensure a local presence and deliver a tailored experience. A localization strategy not only involves translation, but in most cases, packaging or UI adaptation, and changing images and symbols (Source:  Smartling, Inc.).

The key to localization is then, delivering a customized experience.

Differences between Globalization and Localization

 

You might have heard the phrase “Think Global, Act Local” and that is precisely what globalization and localization are about. Where globalization deals with expanding internationally to create a connected and fluid economic and cultural understanding, localization deals with creating unique experiences for different locales (without losing the global mindset). It’s all about reaching other audiences by catering to their specific needs and preferences.

But there are other differences to consider (source: POEditor blog):

 GlobalizationLocalization
RangeIt can focus on multiple regions or countries by using one or a few main languages.It focuses on a specific audience, and therefore, language variants (adapting the global strategy to that locale.)
ProcessesIt relies on standardization to make messages and products as “global” as possible.It relies on the “individuality” of each locale to highly customize products and services, stay culturally relevant, and create a native-like experience.

Think Global, Act Local: Strategies Together for Success in New Markets

 

Together, globalization and localization help you position and maintain your products, services, and brand internationally.  For example, although McDonald’s has an established international menu and positioned its brand and products to be recognizable everywhere, it also caters to countries’ preferences and beliefs. In Mexico, for instance, you will find McMolletes (an adaptation of a traditional dish), in India you won’t find any beef on the menu, and in Ireland, you will find seasonal menus like fish during Lent and Easter.

Consider the following (source: OneSkyApp Blog):

  • Act with your consumer in mind: This will dictate what strategy to use (languages, product adaptation, etc.)
  • Research and prepare: Stay up to date with global trends to stay competitive but understand your locales to connect with your customers.
  • Create flexible products: Leave room for customization. Prepare global strategies while thinking about going deeper into different locales from the start: Will you have to use different supplies according to the region? Will UI change? How about packaging? Will you need regional manufacturers and marketers?

In summary, while globalization aims to foster greater international integration, communication, and collaboration among different regions, localization aims to provide a personalized and culturally relevant user experience within a specific country or community.

By recognizing the unique characteristics of each approach, you can develop effective strategies that balance global trends with local adaptations.

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