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Internationalization and Localization – What’s the Difference? 

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What do companies like Meta, Amazon and Apple have in common? If you said they’re successful, you’re absolutely right! And their success can be linked to their strong internationalization and localization strategy. 

These companies have a presence in over 58 countries and a reach of over 1.2 billion people worldwide! Their great products and services are undoubtedly a few reasons for their success. But these are only textbook names. 

Marketing strategies like internationalization and localization play a huge role in expanding your business and getting success in new locales. So before you draft your next business plan, it is important to understand these concepts. 

Let’s get started. 

What is Internationalization?

Internationalization is also called i18n because there are 18 letters in between “i” and “n” in the English word. 

i18n refers to the process of developing, designing and adapting websites, services or applications to resonate easily with global audiences

What does this mean? 

The purpose of i18n is to make companies, services and products as culturally neutral as possible so that they can be easily localized. 

For example, you want to create an e-commerce website to cater to an audience in London but in the near future, you want to expand your business to America and South Africa. 

These are all different countries with different cultures. 

Internationalization would have you take out culturally specific cultures or slang and use neutral images. For example, IKEA internationalized its assembly instructions by using only illustrations and diagrams which reduced translation hassles. 

However, internationalization goes beyond images and text. Here are 5 digital factors that need to be internationalized: 

  • User Interface (UI):

If the mobile app or software of a brand needs to be translated into distinct languages, first the user interface of the software needs to be worked on. This step will create more space for various languages in the application for the brand. 

  • Date and Time:

The date and time formats in other parts of the world differ. This fact makes it necessary for businesses to adapt to the date and time format used in other locations. Internationalization of date and time in various locations helps the target audience to have a clear picture of the products and services the brand is offering. For example, the Canadian DD/MM/YYYY system won’t be familiar to other foreign audiences. 

  • Customer Support Service: 

When selling products to a new audience, it is necessary for such a company to have multilingual customer support service. Due to the distinct time zones, the customer support service must be able to attend to audiences from other countries. This is only possible when customer service has been internationalized.   

  • Data Encoding: 

Although ASCII encoding works perfectly for European languages, it is not a good fit for other languages with the non-Latin alphabet. Languages like Hindi, Russian, Chinese, and Korean need Unicode encoding characters rather than ASCII. 

  • Hardware Support:

It is no news that certain devices may not be dominant in some specific countries. For instance, in some remote areas in India, personal computers are not prevalent. This means that brands must optimise their website and applications to suit mobile phones which is easily accessible to customers in most areas. 

Examples of Internationalization (i18n)

The Starbucks logo is a great example of internationalization. Initially, Starbucks had text on their logo. 

But eventually, they adopted an internationalization strategy to enable them to open stores across the globe. 

For this strategy to be effective, the text on the logo was removed so it could resonate with other foreign audiences that do not understand English. 

This simple strategy helped the brand cross borders globally without any hindrance. Now Starbucks has  32,000 stores in 80 countries, and they are the retailer of specialty coffee in the world.

Another example is Kentucky Fried Chicken, an American fast food restaurant. They internationalized their name and rebranded to KFC because the name would be difficult to hold in other countries where English was not dominant.

Now KFC has over 22,000 locations worldwide, and they remain a dominant player when it comes to fast food restaurants. 

These companies were built originally to cater for local customers but over time they became internationally recognized because of their internationalization strategy. 

What is Localization?

Just like i18n, localization is also tagged L10n. It refers to the practice of streamlining products, services or a website to a specific local target market

Localization modifies a service, content, application, or product to meet the cultural, regional and linguistic viewpoint of a locale. 

It is done with the people of a particular locale in mind. 

TakeMcDonald’s for example – the famous multinational fast food chain. 

With approximately 30,000+ restaurants worldwide, they still resonate with their users. Their product menu has the touch of the customs that resonate with each region’s culture. 

Localization includes the following:

  • Numeric, date and time format 
  • Currency format control 
  • Keyboard layout like the Let to Right or Right to Left layouts
  • Interpretation of signs and symbols
  • User interface translation
  • Graphics and text
  • Sorting and collation

Aside from localizing products and content like emails, newsletters, blogs, and marketing communications needs to be localized.

 Localization is necessary because it produces a strong marketing message which enhances your consumers experience. You should check out why ignoring localization could cost you time and sales 

Difference Between Internationalization and Localization

The difference between internationalization and localization lies in the process and products.

It is easy for one to confuse internationalization and localization because both strategies focus on the same goal, which is expansion. 

Despite the similarities between them, there is still some clear difference between them. 

Many experts agree that Internationalization comes before localization because i18n enables easy localization. 

They are said to be two sides of the same coin because both strategies complement each other. This corporate technique ends when the software-based products or services become easy to localize. 

Both strategies form a strong connection between brands and the target audience by adapting the contents to different languages. 

So Which Should You Use?

No doubt, both internationalization and localization are necessary for a brand to thrive in the global market.

They both play an important role in a good perpetual translation process. No matter the location, both strategies deliver a native experience to their target audience. 

When it comes to reaching African audiences, iVoiceAfrica is your best bet. We understand the African market and have locales that deliver the best language solutions to help connect you with your target audience. 

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