The Difference Between Localization and Globalization
Vistatec – 25th Anniversary Celebration!
We are releasing a new series of articles, “Content With Purpose.” Twelve dedicated localization-focused articles on helping you connect and grow worldwide. Last month’s article focused on the importance of personalised content marketing. This week we gaze towards the difference between localization and globalization.
Globalization (g11n) and localization (l10n) often sound like similar concepts commonly used interchangeably. While they have some similarities, they are not entirely indistinguishable.
Leveraging the benefits of both globalization and localization is key to successfully expanding a company to different locations and ensuring that your content resonates globally. However, understanding the difference between these two significant elements is crucial.
It’s critical to understand the localization process, the globalization process, the key differences between the two strategies, and the benefits of both.
Table of Contents
What Is Localization?
Localization involves adapting a product or content to meet the demands of a specific locale. This process entails translating different aspects of your brand content to fit cultural variations. The significant elements include audio, texts, visuals, currency, etiquette, humor, etc.
Localization is a powerful tool that you can leverage when trying to target or gain a share of a specific market. It uniquely conveys information that only your target audience can understand.
Examples of Localization in Practice
A leading British online fashion and cosmetics retailer sells over 850 brands as well as its own range of clothing and accessories, and ships to 196 countries from fulfilment centres in the UK, USA and Europe features a perfectly localized e-commerce platform. As a result, the company has successfully captured the attention of numerous online shoppers across the globe, surpassing even well-known retailers.
Many can attribute this online-only retailer’s success to localization. The retailer translates its product information and website content into many languages. It also:
- Accepts 19 currencies
- Offers ten primary payment methods
- Automatically selects ideal visitors’ currency, language, and experience
- Offers unique promotions and offers for individual locations
McDonald’s is another company that highly relies on localization. It franchised and operated 40,031 restaurants worldwide in 2021. This corporation has a menu adaptable to different local customs and tastes. For example, they create McMollettes in Mexico and McSpicy Paneer for customers in India.
Localization can make your service, website, or products feel like they’re specially designed for a local customer—something you might not achieve with translation only. However, you must be willing to adapt to the culture of all your target audience.
A successful localization strategy relies on various factors, including:
Localization is way beyond the direct translation of words from one language to another. Instead, it ensures that the translation of a specific content piece is correct linguistically and resonates with the target market, including the content pop culture references, grammar, structure, slang, and more.
Often people assume localization and translation are the same. However, translation is only a fraction of localization.
The localization process also entails using comprehensible formats based on the target local audience. Common formats that you should review include:
- Telephone number format
- Time and date formats
- Keyboard formats
- System of measurements
- Currency symbols
- Symbols, punctuations, and icons
Colors, symbols, and pictures may mean something different across distinct cultures. For instance, most people in western countries dress in white when attending weddings. According to other cultures, however, white is a color of mourning.
Localization ensures that the colors and images appeal to your target market.
Typically, foreign languages expand text as opposed to English. With localization, you can easily offer the best visitor experience. This tool considers various text factors like display, font sizes, and layouts for right-to-left languages or vertical languages.
Currencies and Payment Processes
You should offer different payment methods and process various currencies to accommodate customers from distinct locations. For example, many Americans use credit cards issued by Bank of America, which is nonexistent in other regions.
Generally, localization allows companies to provide online and in-person experiences and product offerings that resonate with different local audiences.
Benefits of Localization
Tailoring your customer experience has tangible benefits that produce long-lasting effects. Typical benefits include:
A significant percentage of online buyers prefer websites that offer content in their native language. Most shoppers might not buy if the information is not available in a language they understand.
These facts are why businesses translate data into numerous languages to suit different cultures. In addition, localized websites feel and look native to specific markets and locations.
Localization allows companies to speak directly to the hearts of their target audience. For instance, adding culturally appropriate images shows that your business respects users’ culture, history, traditions, and language. In addition, localization makes a deep connection that turns new customers into regular customers.
What Is Globalization?
Globalization combines both internationalization and localization to operate in international markets and meet the demands of different cultures. It’s a framework that you can use to grow from offering products and services in a single country to running a multinational business.
With globalization, you can create content that is accessible to different cultures. For instance, think of a famous television brand. There is a high chance its manual contains similar instructions but in various languages. Therefore, a buyer will open the page that contains information in their first or familiar language. Globalization is simply selling products using strategies that consider cultural differences—or developing a product that pleases buyers effortlessly globally.
For successful globalization, you should consider:
Decide how you want your products or brand to navigate different cultures. Determining your multinational market value proposition and how it varies for different audiences is an excellent place to start.
Market Entry Strategy
You can use numerous methods to enter foreign markets, including franchising, exporting, mergers, acquisitions, partnering, licensing, etc.
Ensuring that you offer quality service in global markets is crucial. First, determine the shipping methods you will use and how international factors like trade regulations will affect these methods.
Entering new markets means adhering to new rules that impact your operations, including the hiring process and data collection. For instance, France’s right to disconnect law dictates the time and days you can email employees.
McDonald’s is a perfect example of a company that blends globalization and localization to appeal to numerous customers globally. While its menus differ, you can quickly notice that they are from one company. Various aspects like colors, font, and layouts are pretty similar, plus the «Mc» symbol is on all the menus. Additionally, all their websites have identical navigation and branding.
The company’s physical locations in different countries also offer a similar experience. No matter where customers go, it always feels like McDonald’s.
Benefits of Globalization
Globalization makes it possible for businesses to expand their customer base. This, in turn, increases revenue, enhances the global image, and strengthens brand reputation. Moreover, when facing economic challenges, your businesses can remain resilient and survive since it doesn’t rely on a single market.
However, it is essential to note that globalization is a tedious process that requires significant input. Although expanding a business is challenging, the long-term benefits are worth the effort.
Differences Between Localization and Globalization
Localization focuses on the differences between global markets, including language, imagery, cultural references, and dialects. Globalization, on the other, focuses on similarities. Although the two strategies are different, you can’t choose one and ignore the other when expanding your business. Why so? They complement each other.
Globalization can offer your company a strong foundation, mainly if you provide similar services and products in different markets. You can then use localization to change or add content that appeals to a specific local market.
Deciding which process to initiate first depends on your target audience. For instance, if you want to enter a market in a specific region, you should focus more on localization.
However, in most cases, when you want to serve international markets, you should first consider initiating the globalization process since it offers a clear base to operate before starting the localization procedures.
The significant difference between globalization and localization is the target audience. With localization, you create content that resonates with a specific audience located within a particular region. Therefore, anyone outside the locale might not relate to the information.
In contrast, globalization has no location restrictions. Therefore, individuals in different regions can consume your content in a language they understand. For example, an online user in China and another in America can browse your website and view similar information.
Unfortunately, globalization may not offer the local touch of localization; your worldwide available content might fail to reach niche audiences.
The globalization process requires you to prepare and present content in diverse formats. This allows you to incorporate various aspects that attract different audiences. For example, while most people read from left to right, some read from right to left. In addition, globalization allows you to offer website codes that are flexible enough to accommodate diverse cultures.
Your globalized website needs to be user-friendly. It should meet users’ needs from Asia, Western countries, the Middle East, and all other locations where you intend to gain a market share.
With globalized content, your information can reach a wide range of audiences since the message doesn’t target a specific group of people. Instead, it is standard and available in the language that the audience chooses to use. With this feature, you can reach a wider audience and increase your chances of selling your products or services to a larger market.
However, localization may limit the opportunity to reach more users. For example, when you target a specific market or people in a particular region, your message may not relate to individuals in a different location. And in the worst cases, people outside the locale might even be displeased by the localized content.
A Proper Localization and Globalization Strategy Is Key
Both localization and globalization strategies can help you expand your customer base, grow your brand, and increase revenue if adequately implemented. First, however, you must be willing to invest your time and resources.
Looking to venture into localization and globalization? Work with Vistatec. We create engaging globalized content and offer leading localization services. To learn more, contact us.
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At Vistatec, we have been helping some of the world’s most iconic brands to optimize their global commercial potential since 1997. Vistatec is one of the world’s leading global content solutions providers. HQ in Dublin, Ireland, with operations worldwide.