Blurring of Globalization, Localization, Internationalization, Regionalization… Business Dilemma in Changing World…

Globalization, Localization, Internationalization, Regionalization… What’s the difference?  There are many definitions for these terms, but as a starter try these: Localization is the process of adapting a product-service and making it linguistically, culturally appropriate to the target market-locale (country, region, language…) where it will be used and sold…

Globalization is the  process of international integration and implies the opening of world markets to a broader outlook of interconnection, interdependency…

Internationalization is the process of generalizing a product-service so that it can handle multiple languages and cultural conventions without the need for re-design (i.e. language, culture neutral…)

Regionalization is tendency to form decentralized regions, and when used in opposition to globalization this often means the world is less connected with a stronger regional focus…

According to experts; internationalization and localization are subsets of globalization and localization is described as the old-fashioned way of doing things. Globalization is the new thing, which for some experts is synonymous with internationalization, but for others it’s very possible to globalize but fail to correctly internationalize…

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Traditionally, to be an international company all that was need were offices in multiple countries… however, to be truly global requires– multicultural sensitivity and consciously considering how every action — or inaction — affects all customers, suppliers, distributors, and employees, regardless of where they live… It means building awareness into the fabric of the company at every level, including; organization, process, product, documentation…

According to Jun Chen and Zhiqiang Jiao; multinational corporations (MNCs) are facing the paradox of globalization and localization in entering each new market. Generally, there are two perspectives for how a MNC configure its cross-border activities: The first is a global convergence perspective, which focuses on leveraging corporate resources and attaining global synergies. The second is international diversity perspective, which lays more emphasis on local adaptation and harnessing diversities. Both perspectives have their pros and cons, but balance between international standardization and local adaptation is vital.

Why Localize? Localization  is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific local market… In addition to translation, localization process may also include adapting images and graphics relevant to target markets, modifying content, layout and text, converting to local currencies, using of proper formats for dates, addresses, and phone numbers, addressing local regulations and more.

The goal is to provide a product with the look-and-feel of having been created for the target market to eliminate or minimize local sensitivities. There are many statistics that effectively illustrate the need to localize content for each target market, for example:

  • It would take 83 languages to reach 80% of all the people in the world, and over 7,000 languages to reach everyone…
  • 56.2% of consumers say that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price..
  • 74% of multinational enterprises believe it is either important or most important to achieve increased revenues from global operations…
  • 65% of multinational enterprises believe localization is either important or very important for achieving higher company revenues…
  • 71% of North American executives expect revenues from foreign operations, sales and/or imports to increase…
  • A critical success factor for cross border merger and acquisition deals is the ability to communicate information clearly and accurately in multiple languages.
  • 95% of Chinese online consumers indicate greater comfort level with websites in their language; only one percent of US-based online retailers offer sites specific to China…

In the article Time to Replace Globalization with Localization by Colin Hines writes: Economic globalization has a clear end goal: maximum trade and money flows for maximum profit. From this goal comes a clear set of policies and trade rules supporting this approach. The adverse effects of this economic priority have become increasingly evident and include growing global inequality, job insecurity and adverse environmental effects.

There is now growing support for a radical alternative, that of localization.  This has at its heart the protection and rebuilding of local economies rather than gearing them to ruthlessly out-compete each other internationally. Depending on the context, the ‘local’ is predominantly defined as part, region, state… within the nation, although it can be the entire nation itself or occasionally a regional grouping of nations.

Everything that can sensibly be produced within a nation or a region should be. Long-distance trade is then reduced to supplying what could not come from within one country or geographical grouping of countries; the historic role of such trade…

Localization is not about restricting the flow of information, technology, management and legal structures, but it’s about a different end goal for such activities… Localization can help ensure a more just, secure, environmentally sustainable future… The prerequisite for achieving a re-localization of the world economy is to replace globalization with a plausible alternative. The policies involved must reverse the instability and insecurity created by trade liberalization.

Their essence should be to allow nations, local governments and communities to reclaim control over their local economies; to make them as diverse as possible; and to rebuild stability into community life… This does not mean a return to overpowering state control, merely that governments provide the policy framework which allows people and businesses to re-diversify their own local economies. It would ensure a transition from the present situation to one where goods and services are provided locally wherever possible.

Reducing product or service miles is also an environmental goal. In short, there is a positive discrimination in favor of the local… Under these circumstances, ‘beggar-your-neighbor’ globalization gives way to the potentially more cooperative ‘better-your-neighbor’ localization… It’s time for a radical change…

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In the article Globalization, Localization and Internet by Ori Fishler writes: Many companies that sell products or services internationally are finding themselves in a familiar dilemma, should their web presence be global or local? While a global site is easy to control and maintain and can ensure consistency in branding and content quality, it can not address local culture, interests and variation.

According to ‘Localization Industry Standards Association’; globalization is a process with 2 parts: 1. Internationalization which is the process for defining applications and sites to work in every market, 2. Localization which is the adaptation of an international framework to local needs and process…

The challenge in this approach is that defining international requirements and anticipating all local variations is very expensive and time-consuming. So what should a company that is expanding internationally do?

Here are a few questions and guidelines to consider: Globalization is the term given to the process of making sure that an application does not contain any internal dependencies on a particular culture… Localization is a process of adapting an application and in particular the user interface, to suit a specific culture… Localization typically involves tasks such as translating strings into different natural languages, resizing user interface elements to fit on the screen, and regenerating images for specific cultures…

Although globalization has touched most populations, it has spread unevenly. Regionalization is the integration process that builds concrete patterns and networks within a regional space and creates a transition into the global market. It emerges as a response to globalization and can be mutually reinforcing… Regions throughout the world are known to be as diverse as the inhabitants that occupy them.

Technological advancement has helped regionalization by creating the ability to transport and alter goods with lower costs to different regions… By serving varying regions it’s tremendously important for companies to specialize their products for each different region: This process is better known as localization…

In the article International Business Localization by internationexpert   writes: Venturing into the international markets is about breaking down walls and barriers. These barriers can include; physical, geographic, political, cultural, economic, legal… Breaking down these barriers can enable collaboration, sharing ideas and conducting commercial business with companies, organizations, countries,  people… outside the local markets…

The more you learn about other cultures, business etiquette,  localization needs… the more likely you will succeed in establishing a base of business in your target international/global markets. Very often the biggest barrier for many is– oneself. No matter how hard many try, there is still the barrier of– Why don’t others do business the way we do? Some countries require full localization of product-services, documentation, while others do fine with partial localization…

The culture of business is about understanding how business works in different countries; and the best way to learn and understand is– to ask, but more important– to listen …

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The 21st century is an era of economic globalization with enterprises from developed countries swarming into many developing countries to ‘localize’ products-services, and particularly in China. Simultaneously, enterprises in the developing countries, including China, are also actively entering-engaging markets, both in the developed and developing countries…

According to CCID Consulting (Chinese consulting company); localization and internationalization talk about the same thing: Some people stand out of the door, while some stand inside. Those who enter it talk ‘localization’, while those who go out speak of ‘internationalization’. In fact, ‘localization’ and ‘internationalization’ mean that enterprises leave their former fertile soil to tillage a piece of new land… 

When enterprises select their strategies they face two directions: 1. Change themselves to adapt to the market… 2. Stick to their strategy and lead the market… Whatever the choice, localization does not mean; set-up local company, speak local language, provide services that are already available in the local market… In fact, localization really is a thinking model: Companies need to learn and understand the local market and even get integrated into the local culture.

This is why many multinational companies choose local people to serve as their executives for the local branches. When the management team cannot fully understand the market, failure; rather than opportunities is the only result… To learn about the thinking of localization, some indigenous methods may have to be grasped… companies need to put a mirror in the door between localization and internationalization to see whether they look more like a foreigner or local person: Make sure of it, and then march forward!

According to Jacqui Hauser; globalization is a goal for more and more companies, and the lines within companies between ‘home country’ and ‘host country’ are becoming blurred… and the need to set priorities that fit a global mobile workforce is a critical factor… Without a doubt, companies are utilizing localization– defining the word in their terms– more than ever…