Globalization vs. Localization - What is the difference

globalization vs localization

Do you know what is meant by globalization versus localization? From the outside, these two terms could appear like complete opposites of each other. However, that is not quite the case, and they actually go hand-in-hand, which is often where the confusion arises.

To help you understand the differences between globalization versus localization, we were thinking we could take a closer look at what they mean and why they are important.

What is globalization?

Before looking at the differences between the two, it is essential to understand what each term means. Globalization is often the process that needs to happen before content can be localized, although the process does not stop once localization begins.

Globalization is the process of adapting resources to ensure that they are able to meet the demands of various cultures. This ensures that the content is able to be easily accessed and used worldwide, and this can be done through multiple methods:

Language

One of the core aspects of globalization is ensuring that the language is suitable to meet multiple markets. While this is also an important aspect of localization, it requires a different approach. Globalization requires translating existing content to ensure that it can be read and accessed to multiple audiences in new localities.

Content

Alongside ensuring the language is suitable for multiple viewers, globalization also examines the content being used. This requires thinking about every aspect of the design and style, ensuring that it is as appealing as possible to your target audience, no matter where they are based.

This can be a challenge; for example, while users read from left to right in the West, in East Asia and the Middle East, they tend to read from right to left. This often requires unique coding that allows websites to be more flexible to allow content to be adapted and ensuring the pages can support time, date, and number formats most commonly used in the reader’s location.

Globalization is all about thinking of the bigger picture and how customers around the world will be able to interact and engage with your content.

Also watch this interesting video from financial times Video: Globalisation to Localisation

What is localization?

When it comes to understanding globalization versus localization, knowing the differences between the two is crucial. While globalization is the process of ensuring the content can meet multiple markets, localization is the process of guaranteeing your resources are focused on the requirements of one specific audience.

Effective localization requires multiple factors, including:

Translations

Just like globalization, one of the most important factors of localization is the language and translations you are using. For example, do you know the difference between localisation and localization? The former is how people in the United Kingdom would spell it, while the latter is how people across the Atlantic would.

While this might seem like a minor difference, it is these small nuances that can transform a customer’s perception of your brand. Of course, when it comes to translation, sometimes a literal interpretation might not always make sense. That is why you need to ensure that when converting content into a new language, you make sure the meaning remains the same.

Utilize the right formats

Another important aspect of localization is ensuring that you are using the right format for things such as:

  • Date and time
  • Measurements
  • Currency
  • Telephone number formats
  • Keyboard formats
  • Punctuations and symbols.

Consider the design

The design and style are also a very important part of the localization process. This requires ensuring that the visuals match with the requirements of your target audience. This includes everything from the photography and layout of the site to the colors and tone of the writing.

Globalization versus localization, what comes first?

When it comes to understanding what is meant by globalization versus localization, you should now have a clearer idea of what both terms mean. However, which one should you focus on first? While both options can help you to create a more inclusive and engaging piece of content, no matter whether it is a website, manual, or marketing material.

Deciding which stage to focus on first will depend on who your target audience is. If you are solely looking to focus on one specific region, then opting just for localization can be the better option. However, typically, globalization is the first process to undertake as this will give you a clear and strong base to work from when you begin the localization process.

When it comes to looking at the differences between the two, there are three key factors to remember:

1 - Localization is the process of focusing on a specific culture, location, or audience. Globalization is the process of looking at multiple cultures, locations, or audiences.

2 - Localization is a part of the wider globalization process, whereas globalization forms part of your overall business strategy.

3 - Globalization is often part of a larger long-term business strategy, while localization is often used for more short-term actions.

The pros and cons of globalization versus localization

Both the globalization or localization strategy can be a complex process, but they are an essential part of any customer service strategy for your business. Both options are able to provide companies with a wide range of benefits, but they do also have some drawbacks.

Pros and cons of globalization

Globalization is able to provide businesses with a wide range of benefits, helping them to reach a far greater audience. Not only can this help to increase revenue by expanding your customer base, but it is also able to significantly enhance your overall brand reputation and global image. This, in turn, can help to decrease dependence on a single market, ensuring your business is more resilient in the face of economic challenges.

However, globalization can be a very time-consuming process and does require additional resources alongside the many challenges of expanding a business.

Pros and cons of localization

If you are looking to enter specific new markets, then localization is essential in helping to facilitate this. It can help to create significant brand loyalty from customers, improving their overall experience with your company. By building loyal customers, you will be able to increase revenue and secure a more competitive advantage in that market.

Of course, just like globalization, localization does require significant investment in terms of time and resources. If not done correctly, it can also have a negative impact on your brand image, so it is always recommended you work with a professional partner who can help you.

So which is right for you?

When it comes to globalization versus localization, both strategies can help you to transform your business. While they might sound like two completely different methods, globalization and localization can work in tandem to help you successfully branch out into new markets and increase your revenue.

Knowing which option will be right for you will depend on the overall strategy and the audience you are looking to reach. Whichever you choose, partnering with a professional translation and localization team from a translation management platform will help ensure that it is completed to the highest standards alongside reducing the time and resource investment that you need to make.

Further to read (examples)

If you want to read about real-world i18n localization examples from our client cases, check out our recent blog post on website localization.

Read more about how software is affected from globalization and localization and what potential localization of software has in the "what is software localization" blog post.

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