Globalization. Localization. Looking at the words alone, you might think they mean opposite things. This could be part of the reason why the terms are not often well understood. The real truth is that they work hand-in-hand. And if they’re not already working for you, it’s high time to put the wheels in motion.
Let’s look more closely at globalization vs localization—and particularly at their meaningful intersection points.
Globalization vs Localization: Why You Need Both
As a broad generalization, it can be said that globalization feeds localization. That is to say, there’s a globalization process that has to occur before you can get down to localizing. But that doesn’t mean that globalization cuts off where localization picks up. Globalization is characterized by on-going big-picture attention and troubleshooting.
1. Business preparation and strategy
An important first step toward going global is choosing your markets. This is not a matter of compiling a wish list. Rather, you need to determine where there will be a market for your product and how realistic it will be for you to meet that demand. You need to conduct real research and analysis. You need to answer big planning questions about where and what and how.
For example, if you intend to sell your product in retail outlets, you need to form partnerships with local retailers. You may need local marketing support, and you might have to provide customer support in the local language. These and similar questions have answers, and they have costs; every market is a serious commitment. You can’t put all of your eggs in every basket, so some cost analysis is in order too. Likewise, you’ll need to rank your markets by their importance or profitability for your organization and funnel your efforts in response to that data-driven research.
2. Design and development
Globalization involves designing the ideal UX for your target markets. You can’t safely assume that users in far-flung countries are ready to interact with your product exactly as users do in your original target location and language.
So, maybe your software and marketing content just need a decent-quality translation, but more likely, you’re looking at a more comprehensive and intentional strategy. You may need supplemental content, product adaptation, and new workflows to continue meeting the demands of your new markets. Once again, it’s important to be realistic about the time and resource costs as you prioritize next steps. You may find that certain markets will require too much effort and money and that it’s not practical to move on those targets at this time.
3. Creating adaptable standards
Wrapped up in globalization and localization is also internationalization. Software needs to be internationalized before it can be ready for localization. It needs to be able to handle unique conventions through translation that might not have been necessary in the original source language. For example, different countries write out dates differently—month, date, year vs date, month, year. Measurements, sizes, addresses, text direction, text expansion. It pays to anticipate and set up working systems before moving forward with translation and localization into a particular language.
Whereas globalization focuses more on big-picture plans and preparation, localization zooms in on product adaptation for very specific target locales and audiences. Localization is much more tactical because it is operationalizing your global vision. For any given market approach, you need a strategy and a tool set for smooth integration and reliable updates.
1. Close local market attention
Localization puts your global plan in motion and makes your product functional and successful in multiple markets. But this means much more than just translating words from one language to another in order for foreign markets to embrace your product.
It’s hard to get around the need for knowledgeable teams dedicated to each of your target locales. These teams become experts in your product, and at the same time, they have to be experts in the local market, the language, the cultural nuances. Don’t kid yourself that you’re going to be able to piece together translation and globalization efforts on the fly and have your product actually take off in new and unique locales. Your product deserves more careful attention than that—and so does your potential global community.
2. Cultural and linguistic adaptation of your product
Localization can be a really inspiring and illuminating adventure—if you’re willing to engage content teams who really know what they’re doing. It isn’t necessary to start from scratch with your content in order for it to be successful for a new audience. Even if you did go that route, you’d still need a sustainable system for translating updates for all target markets as your product evolves. With the right editors, linguists, and reviewers, you can develop rock-solid term bases, style guides, and (over time) translation memories that can pave the way for successful translations and updates that stay true to your brand and your product’s greatest potential. And, of course, linguists who are really tuned in can help you steer localized content in the direction that local audiences really want to go.
Just like globalization, localization is not a one-time thing. Both are journeys that keep up with evolving markets around the world. The commitment to going global is an indefinite endeavor. But it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming stretch. There is a way to start smart and then to scale as your localization strategy expands.
3. Functional and quality control through translation
Even with exceptional content localization teams, you need to know that translations are accurate and meaningful for real results. A process of quality management is critical—but more specifically, one that is not going to overwhelm your existing resources and administrative bandwidth. This is where the latest and greatest localization technology comes into play. New-generation tools can not only cover your bases for quality translations in all target markets, but they can also centralize your terminology and style standards, and they can handle the heavy lift of multimedia localization.
Localization management platforms automate these processes wherever possible, integrating with your content management systems for end-to-end localization automation. This saves the careful manual attention for where it is most needed. Your linguists are supported in developing the best possible translations for your product’s global release, and you have a transparent look at every step of the way.
Globalize and Localize Effectively
By establishing a central platform for all your translation and QA tasks, you cut back on the unnecessary time and resource spending. You’d be surprised how little management is needed with a well-oiled localization machine.
This strategy allows you more time for other tasks, ensures clear communication, and helps prepare for timely product launches. Real localization momentum is informed by up-to-date globalization strategy. And in turn, good globalization strategy accepts feedback from localization teams and constantly evolves to become a more efficient process overall.
Bureau Works provides localization services with continuous integration, human translation, and quality management processes that can be centralized by our platform to create efficient workflows with minimal management and fast delivery. Contact our team today and begin implementing a strategy for global marketing.
Written by Aaron Schliem
Aaron is the chief marketing officer for Bureau Works. He also loves to tickle the ivories and is a wiz at designing cocktails.