International Business Strategies

Business Internationalization (i18n) vs Localisation

Learn about internationalization and localisation, and how both can help you expand into global markets.

Nathan Lucas's avatar
Nathan Lucas

May 23, 2022


What is Internationalization (i18n)?

Internationalization is the process of designing and developing software or mobile apps to be adapted and localized to different cultures, regions, and languages.

Internationalization ensures that multilingual websites successfully localize web pages. Software developers and engineers typically perform this task. Even if you start with an English product design, internationalization helps your website work with different languages and cultures. However, developing multilingual websites and products requires two phases: internationalization and localization.

How Do Internationalization and Localization Relate?

From eCommerce websites like Amazon to restaurant chains like Domino’s, the most successful worldwide brands thrive due to their robust internationalization and localization strategy. Like globalization, internationalization is an overarching strategy under which localization resides. However, internationalization is a crucial step when thinking of a global expansion strategy.

Internationalization: The Foundation

Internationalization is the process of designing products that are readily adaptable to different markets. One example of internationalization is within a user interface (UI). Internationalization means creating a user experience that can handle text expansion when translating between languages.  

Of course, it has to render correctly in different languages. Still, it also has to be able to change currency signs, units of measurement, units of time, other graphics (if needed), and more. 

Technically, products are not modified for global audiences through the internationalization process itself. Instead, they're designed in such a way that they can be easily modified. The actual translation and other culturally-dependent modifications occur through the process known as localization.

Localization: The Modification

Following up internationalization with localization yields the best results. Growing into new markets increases a business's customer reach. To expand further, create products and services that cater to international customers.

Localization follows the internationalization process. Localization involves adjusting a website for a specific area. This includes focusing on words, phrases, UI, and customer service that require cultural understanding and adaptation. This process directly relates to translation, as well.

Sometimes people use translation and localization interchangeably, but there are significant differences between them. Translation changes text from one language to another.  

Localization goes further to make a product or message connect with a specific culture. It makes it seem as if the product or message belonged there originally. A successful localization approach requires close attention to cultural factors that go beyond words. 

  • Currency changes based on the country or region
  • Time and date formatting changes
  • Culturally appropriate colors, graphics layout, and visuals
  • Word direction, such as right to left in Hebrew and Arabic, and vertical in some Asian languages
  • Legal requirements

Localization also makes translation workflows easier to complete, allowing you to publish translated content faster. Localizing your products and services can create consistent experiences for customers in various markets, building trust and satisfaction.

Localization helps your audience connect with your message before they interact with your business. Therefore, you need to tailor your marketing to meet local expectations to increase engagement. This way, you will make the most of your investment and improve your chances of increasing sales and growing your business worldwide.

Benefits of an Internationalization Strategy

Businesses looking to expand into international markets will eventually need to adapt their products and localize their content. Internationalization is important to make sure products can be used by people from different countries and cultures. It helps products be adaptable and enjoyed by a wide range of audiences.

When expanding globally, it’s best to start by making a website that works for all cultures. Then, translate and adapt it for specific regions. This means whoever engages with your business will be able to connect with it properly, even when on the other side of the world. Connecting well with your audience boosts brand reputation, increases sales, and expands global presence.

Investing in internationalization services offers a multitude of benefits for companies looking to go global. Here are some key advantages: 

1. Broader Market Access 

Translating a website into multiple languages makes a company's products or services accessible to a much wider audience. This can significantly increase the potential customer base beyond those who speak the company's native language. 

2. Enhanced User Experience 

Providing content in a user's native language improves their experience on the website. This can lead to increased engagement, longer visit durations, and, ultimately, higher conversion rates. 

3. Improved Brand Perception 

Demonstrating the effort to communicate in the local language of your customers can improve brand perception. It shows respect for local cultures and a commitment to serving the needs of those markets, which can enhance brand loyalty. 

4. SEO Benefits 

Localizing website content can improve search engine rankings in different countries. Search engines favor content that matches user location and language and will prioritize those products or services in multilingual search. 

5. Legal Compliance 

Many countries have language access laws, requiring companies to provide business information in certain languages. Internationalization ensures compliance with these regulations, avoiding potential legal issues. 

6. Enhanced Global Presence 

A multilingual website projects an image of a global player. It signifies to customers, partners, and competitors that the company is serious about operating on a global scale. 

There are many global brands that have successfully interacted with foreign markets. For instance, IKEA only uses images to describe its furniture assembly documents. This gives IKEA a universal presence in more than 450 stores worldwide.  

McDonald's changes its menus in over 100 countries to fit cultural preferences around the world. In India, McDonald's offers many more vegetarian options, and they have added macarons to the menu in France. Their familiarity with food shows consumers that McDonald's takes time to understand their culture. 

What is Internationalization Technology? 

Internationalization involves using technologies and tools to make websites and digital content accessible and relevant across different cultures and languages.  

You probably don't have the internal resources to make the most of these tools. Luckily, a website localization company would be able to provide the following: 

1. Translation Management Systems (TMS)

These systems streamline the translation process by automating many steps that were traditionally manual. They often include features for managing translation memories, glossaries, and workflows to ensure consistency and efficiency. 

2. Content Management Systems (CMS) with Multilingual Support

A CMS that supports multilingual content is crucial for easily managing and publishing website content in multiple languages. These systems allow for seamless integration of translations and can automatically adjust the layout to accommodate different languages. 

3. Localization (l10n) Tools

Localization tools translate and adjust website content and design to fit the cultural context of the target market. This means adjusting how dates, money, and measurements are displayed, and ensuring that images and colors are appropriate for all cultures. 

4. Machine Translation Services

These services provide instant translations using AI and machine learning algorithms. AI translation, when combined with human editing, is ideal for cutting costs, enhancing quality, and speeding up the process. 

Internationalize With Professional Guidance

Internationalization, localization, and translation work together to position a business to reach a global audience. Only a concierge website translation partner understands how internationalization enhances a global marketing strategy and can implement what's necessary for a successful journey.  

MotionPoint helps your business grow globally by translating and adapting content, so you can reach new markets effectively. 

Last updated on May 23, 2022
Nathan Lucas's avatar

About Nathan Lucas

Nathan Lucas is a web developer who enjoys bringing to life the ideas and concepts of the marketing and sales team. If they can dream it, he can build it. When he's not working, he enjoys being a husband and father, adventures in the great outdoors, fitness, and art!

Nathan Lucas's avatar
Nathan Lucas

Digital Marketing Developer


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