When a business decides to breach into a foreign market, one of the first key challenges to overcome is local audience engagement. Localization and internationalization are two great options to get your company message across, and while each one has its own strengths, there is some overlap that might cause confusion between the two. Let’s break them down so we can see which is which.
Localization is the adaptation of a product or service to meet the language and cultural requirements of a certain market. It includes (but is not limited to) adapting things like currency, dates and times, sensitive topics that could cause misunderstanding, making sure that all the legal requirements are in order, and taking care of a plethora of related areas that will allow a business to run smoothly in its new market.
Internationalization refers to restructuring the way a company and their product or service operates to allow easy implementation into a worldwide market. Everything offered is built from the ground up to be marketed in any country regardless of cultural background, or to greatly reduce the cost of any form of localization if the need arises down the line. Concepts like using images and logos instead of words is a way to create a universal brand, and a highly professional international team that can see potential barriers ahead of time will help to shape a product that intends to go global from the start.
So what is better for my business?
As a rule of thumb, if your company sees a potential market that is limited to a certain region or number of countries, localization might be the best place to start. A common example would be a food company. A lot of countries have very well established cuisines, and attempting to launch certain foods globally into markets that aren’t open to them can prove very challenging. Localizing for a small number of neighboring countries that share common ground in terms of food will often yield greater results at a lower cost.
If your company offers a universally desired product or brand that can be sold worldwide regardless of cultural background (clothing and apparel, automotive, medical, etc.), internationalization will build the foundations of your business so it can go global without having to go back to the drawing board for each new country you want to break in.