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Understanding the differences between localization & globalization

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There are many people out there who are using the words localization and globalization interchangeably. But hey, I get it, terminology can get complicated — however, there is a big difference between these two concepts, and understanding this is pretty important for global success (or for showing off in general).

Therefore this article will take you through:

  • The basics of localization and globalization,
  • The differences between localization and globalization,
  • The pros and cons of localization and globalization to guide you in your international strategies. 

The basics of localization and globalization

The definition of localization

By definition, localization is the process of adapting a product or service to fit the needs and preferences of a particular locale. To make it a bit more clear, let’s say you have an ecommerce business in France but you’d like to expand your business to the US. 

Apparently, your French website, prices in Euro, and date format won’t make much sense to your new international customers. Therefore you should make adjustments such as translating your website, adapting your content, and so on for your business to function in your target market.

As you can see, localization is an imperative part of reaching an international audience. The amount of attention and work you put into your localization efforts can determine how successful your business will be in a new international market.

localization is the most personal form of customer relationship

Localization practices

Localization practices can vary depending on your business needs and limitations. You may choose to just cover the basics of localization or be very precise and comprehensive in your efforts. Nevertheless, localization best practices are guaranteed to improve your global success.

Here are some steps to take for an effective localization strategy:

  • Translating your content and targeting local keywords
  • Adapting media elements (images, videos, and graphics)
  • Converting to local currencies, formats, and measurements
  • Adhering to local regulations and legal requirements
  • Being aware of cultural preferences and sensitivities
  • And some other tricky details

Localization Examples

Given the benefits of a well-implemented localization strategy, it’s not hard to find businesses doing a great job at it. Take Airbnb that grew from nothing to a $30bn firm that operates in 220 countries in just 11 years!

screenshot of airbnb language switcher

In addition to providing 62 different language options on their website, Airbnb also translates the reviews — a crucial determinant for many users. And after booking their place, customers get localized guides and experiences depending on the location of their rental. Take note, hospitality industry! 

And don’t forget to check some of our other favorite multilingual websites for more inspiration! 

The definition of globalization

While localization is very precise and country-specific, globalization focuses more on the bigger picture of going global. The moment a company takes the decision to cross borders and do business outside of its domestic market, the process of globalization starts.

Therefore a good globalization strategy requires thorough research and planning to fit a company’s overall strategy and serve the business objectives. Globalization can mean doing business in a few international markets or all over the world depending on your goals and limitations.

Globalization practices 

Globalization requires a shift in the business perspective. Therefore, best globalization practices help a company set an international vision and mindset.

Best globalization practices include:

  • Researching and planning a long-term strategy
  • Understanding locale markets
  • Implementing an international company culture
  • Adopting global values and adaptable standards

Globalization Examples

With developments in technology, globalization became more feasible and profitable than ever. Most of the top names in the business world owe their success to well-implemented globalization strategies. 

Companies like IKEA, McDonald’s, and Netflix are known to have globalization at the core of their business strategy. This allows them to operate in many different countries and benefit from a large number of potential customers. 

The differences between localization and globalization

Despite serving the same purpose, localization and globalization are different in many aspects. For example in the Netflix example, the strategy of expanding to India and making Netflix available to the Indian audience is globalization.

On the other hand, the practice of adapting Netflix and its content to fit the needs and preferences of the Indian users, producing Indian original series, and using local celebrities for promotion is localization.

 Here are some of the main distinctions between the two concepts:

  1. Localization focuses on a specific locale, culture, and audience at a time. Globalization focuses on multiple locales, cultures, and audiences. 
  2. Localization is part of the globalization strategy. Globalization is part of the overall business strategy.
  3. Localization involves short-term action plans, whereas globalization is concerned with the long-term strategy. 

The pros and cons of localization and globalization

The pros and cons of localization

Pros of localization

  1. Facilitates entering new markets
  2. Gives a competitive advantage
  3. Improves customer experience
  4. Creates loyal customers
  5. Increases revenue

Cons of localization

  1. Requires extra time and resources
  2. Has the potential to damage the brand if done poorly

The pros and cons of globalization

Pros of globalization

  1. Improves the brand image and reputation
  2. Gives access to diverse talent 
  3. Helps companies reach wider audiences
  4. Increases revenue
  5. Decreases dependence on the domestic market

Cons of globalization

  1. Requires extra time and resources
  2. Global expansion challenges

Wrapping up

Well, if you’ve made it this far, I can count on you to never use localization and globalization interchangeably. Knowing their importance and differences will help you be more strategic and effective in your global efforts – no matter if you’re just starting or far ahead in the game.

Although they both require time and effort, you can make your job a lot easier with the help of the right tools. Weglot can take the pain out of one of the most important aspects of going global — translation and localization of your website.

Why not give it a try today? Don’t forget to benefit from a 10-day trial!

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