Globalization vs. Localization: What’s the Difference?


When business owners start thinking about launching in new markets, they don't always appreciate the difference between or importance of these terminologies. So what is globalization vs. localization? And how do these terms relate to internationalization? Understanding these concepts well will help you improve your global growth strategy.

The world is more connected than ever. The last 15 years of innovation have generated many international possibilities for businesses large and small. Yet this digital development also brings a whole new collection of challenges. Among them, understanding the question of globalization vs. localization, and how these terminologies differ from internationalization. Companies must adapt their strategy to every new target market, especially when doing business in a completely different culture.  

From the market-entry strategy to building a loyal customer base, entering an emerging market is tricky. Launching your brand in regions like Asia or South America requires in-depth planning. This will help you to avoid errors and overcome language, cultural, and legal problems. The more you know about your target markets, the easier it is to choose the right tactics and implement them without damaging your brand and reputation.

Top Emerging Markets to Put on Your Growth Agenda

As you launch your business in new countries, you become part of a growing infrastructure that allows you to consolidate your brand globally and diversify your customer portfolio.

However, not all markets are a good fit for your brand. Depending on the industry and the audience, some countries could be a smarter choice than others. Analyze potential markets and select the regions where the indications look good for selling your product or service.

If you already have a small international audience, track where your current public comes from. It’s an excellent way to understand where to start expanding your business. Conduct in-depth research on each target market–build your buyer personas, analyze competitors, try to predict how cultural differences, taxes, and financial policy could influence your business.

Are You Ready to Localize for Asia?

It’s best to start with a limited number of countries. The emerging markets that capture investors’ attention look to be India, Brazil, Thailand, and China. Three of these countries are in Asia, which means you should get ready to market your product to people with different beliefs and cultural backgrounds.

You’ll need to prepare your brand and product for an audience that has little or no connection with the Western world. China, for example, is the world’s second-largest economy, and the number one trading nation.

By 2030, as much as 70 percent of the country’s population will be urban middle class–people with high purchasing power, fascinated by the Western world, but with strong roots in the local culture.

Thailand has been named the “best country to start a business in” for two years in a row, in 2016 and 2017. The local economy is on the rise, with consistent growth that’s generating low unemployment and inflation rates.

Another emerging Asian country you should consider is India. The local economy will reach $5.6 trillion by 2020. The consumer sector already has a value of $1.2 trillion which means there’s plenty of room for business growth, for companies of all sizes.

With a solid localization strategy, India could increase your revenue and consolidate your global position for good.

Expanding into any of these markets (or even in Brazil) requires a solid strategy in place. Local populations are hard to convince without consistent marketing efforts in their native languages. You need to localize your product, website, and marketing strategy to gain a decent market share.  

Globalization vs. Localization

The first step to a successful expansion into emerging markets is knowing what you’re dealing with. If you can’t make a distinction between globalization vs. localization, you’ll find it hard to build a cohesive strategy and prepare your business for multiple markets.

Expanding your business to emerging markets can create numerous growth opportunities for your company when done correctly. Here are the main differences you should consider when talking about globalization, internationalization, and localization.

Globalization (G11n)

This refers mostly to the strategy of expanding your business outside national borders. It includes the processes through which you learn about both international law and local regulations, how to build a multinational business environment, and connect with international partners to increase your chances of success.

As it refers to all the actions that you take to expand your activity, globalization includes the internationalization and localization processes.

Localization (L10n)

Localization (L10n) is the process of adapting your product to local markets by making it sound and ‘feel’ local. It goes beyond the translation of your content. You should consider aspects like culture, religion, and local preferences to create a product that can meet the locals’ expectations.

Localization means customizing many elements like currency, time format, colors, icons, and every part of your product that could make it feel foreign to your audience.

As you can see, there are significant differences between globalization, internationalization, and localization. However, each of these concepts is equally as important when you expand to emerging markets. Skipping any step could slow you down and keep you from building a stable global brand.

A Word on Internationalization (I18n)

Internationalization (I18n) is the part of your global strategy in which you create a product that can be localized. In plain English, that means you design and develop a flexible website, game, app, software, or any other product, that can be adapted to local markets.

This includes a series of technical measures that make your product easy to tailor to the tastes of a new audience.

Internationalization is an essential step that allows you to begin your localization project. For the best outcome possible, make sure to check out how an i18n manager can help you get it rolling.

Is Localizing for Asia Different from Europe?

Yes and no. Translating and localizing for Asian countries is difficult, due to the significant cultural differences between the target markets. We’re talking about nations that live by different rules that sometimes don’t make sense to Western people.

Regulations in countries like China and India are still rigid for foreign investors. That means you might need local partners to consolidate your position in the market. Moreover, adapting your product and marketing to any of these countries is challenging, as you’re addressing people with different values, beliefs, and habits of consumption.

Translating into languages like Simplified Chinese or Hindi takes more time than translating into German or Spanish. You’ll need to collaborate with local experts and linguists to make sure you send the right message without offending the local cultures.

Note that most things have different meanings in Asia, from colors and icons to symbols. Fail to adapt to the local rules, and you can say goodbye to expanding to Asia.

On the other hand, localizing for any market follows the same necessary steps. You still have to internationalize your product to achieve globalization. Whether you target Germany, Italy, or China, you still have to put together a solid plan and design a flexible product that can fit into the local markets.

Final Thoughts on Globalization vs. Localization

Understanding the difference between globalization and localization as well as their relation to internationalization puts you one step closer to forming a cohesive global strategy. Behind these long and complicated words, the idea is simple: think global, act local.

For successful localization, you should find a balance between your global brand and the local versions that you create for each target market. It’s easier when dealing with countries that share a common cultural background, and gets more complicated when you approach nations with a different vision of life.

Finding reliable partners and tools – e.g. a translation management system, among other things – to guide you through your globalization campaign can help speed up the process and increase the return on your marketing efforts.

Whether you need to localize your app, software, game, or any other product, working with experts who know the target markets well will help ensure you achieve an excellent first impression.