International Business Strategies

Business Internationalization (i18n) vs Localisation: Going Global

Learn about internationalization, how it relates to localisation, and how both can help appeal to companies who want to expand into global markets.

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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. The term “i18n” is an abbreviation for “internationalization,” which is the letter “i” plus 18 letters, plus the letter “n.” 

For multilingual websites, internationalization ensures web pages are successfully localized. Software developers and engineers typically perform this task. Even if your initial product design is in English, internationalization allows you to ensure your website can support other 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 involves preemptively building a UI that can account for word growth when text is translated from one language to another. 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

There are several advantages to proactively starting with an internationalization process, followed by implementing localization. First, a business's addressable market becomes instantly bigger when expanding to new markets, so building your products and services with internationalization in mind can come in handy when you decide to expand.

Localization follows the internationalization process. After adapting a website to a specific region, the localization process highlights any words, phrases, UI, and even customer service elements that require deeper cultural understanding and adaptation. This process directly relates to translation, as well.

Translation and localization are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are significant differences. Translation is the process of converting text from one language to another, but localization takes a step further to make a product or message resonate with a target culture—as if it were created there in the first place. 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. Lastly, localizing your products and services can also help you create equal experiences for customers in different markets, which generates trust and customer satisfaction.

With localization, the target audience needs to understand and identify themselves with your message before they engage 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.

The Value of Internationalization 

Businesses looking to expand into global markets will eventually need to adapt their products and localize their content. Internationalization is necessary to ensure products are as adaptable as possible so they can be viewed, purchased, used, and enjoyed by a diverse range of audiences in different countries and with various cultural backgrounds.

When thinking about global expansion, an ideal strategy is to create a culturally neutral website through internationalization first and then complete the translation and localization company process. This means whoever engages with your business will be able to connect with it properly, even when on the other side of the world. In addition, connecting properly with your target audience will boost your brand reputation and in turn, increase sales and your overall global presence.

There are many examples of companies successfully engaging global consumers. For instance, IKEA only uses images to describe its furniture assembly documents. This gives IKEA a universal presence in more than 450 stores worldwide. Similarly, McDonald's adapts its menus globally to support cultural differences in the more than 100 countries where they do business. In India, McDonald's offers many more vegetarian options; macarons have been added to the menu in France. Their familiarity with food shows consumers that McDonald's takes time to understand their culture.

Internationalize With Professional Guidance

Internationalization, localization, and translation work together to position a business to reach a global audience. Therefore, you need a localization and translation company that understands how internationalization enhances a global marketing strategy and can implement what's necessary for a successful journey. MotionPoint gives your business the ability to have a scalable internationalization strategy and can implement that strategy through translation and localization to assist you in reaching more markets.

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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