What is internationalization?

Internationalization is the process where a business gets more involved in international markets and increases its international reach. It is the process to design and sell services or products to meet the needs of users in other countries. In order to do it properly, it is very important to understand well how these new markets work. We will have to adapt to their culture.

Should I Internationalize my business?

Having international reach makes companies stronger and potentially more successful. This is because they have a broader client base and greater opportunities to expand, according to an article by IESE, published in Forbes. Increasing your company’s international reach requires business activity on a global scale, but even small businesses with limited resources can increase their international reach if they play their cards right.

Why do I need to Internationalize my business?

Most businesses are reactionary when it comes to increasing their international reach, according to the article by IESE. They do so to:

  • increase sales;
  • be more accessible to clients;
  • reduce production or supply costs;
  • compensate for a decrease in, or saturation of, the local market.

Nevertheless, there are other more proactive reasons that may prompt a business to internationalize, such as taking advantage of growth in other markets and cultures.

Importantly, when we aim to increase our international reach, we’ll probably need to translate our business content into the languages of the countries we want to reach. It’s crucial that we talk to customers in their own language, according to an article published in the Harvard Business Review. “There is an undeniably strong link between content in a foreign language and the likelihood of a consumer making a purchase”. This makes it imperative to know how much money we want to invest in doing this well. After endeavouring to increase a company’s international reach, it would be very disappointing if the project were unsuccessful because our potential customers can’t understand us.

What does it mean to Internationalize my business, and what is required?

First, we need to look at what products and/or services we have and how they can reach the rest of the world. If we have a blog, catalogue, brochure or digital product (website, software, app), we need to ensure that everything is adapted for those countries where we want to sell. Everything needs to be consistent, and all materials must be written in our customers’ languages.

In this post, we focus on the digital aspect of Internationalization. We’ll take a look at all the digital products for which we need to increase international reach. Digital products are understood to include software, apps, firmware and websites (ranging from product help web pages to sales and marketing web pages for a company).

Internationalization of a digital product

When we refer to the international reach of a digital product, it doesn’t necessarily mean translation. Though this could be one of the stages involved. Increasing the reach of a digital product is a development process implemented to make it suitable for use in more than one market. This probably includes translation into more than one language.

To sell a product worldwide successfully, three stages are to be taken into account:

  1. Internationalization:

This is the development process implemented for a digital product to make it suitable for use in more than one market. It probably includes translation into more than one language. The process includes:

  1. texts in a range of alphabets (Latin, Cyrillic, Chines, Korean);
  2. adaptation for the format of a particular country (dates, times, currency, addresses);
  3. confirmation that it is suitable for the culture in question (are there any technical barriers? Is there anything that could be construed as offensive in another culture? Images, colours, flags and product names all need to be considered).

Once we know the above, we can decide if we need to localize our digital products, and in which languages.

Internationalization is the first stage we need to follow to sell products or services to other markets.

  1. Can it be localized?

The second stage prior to localizing a digital product is to ensure the product can be localised from a technical point of view, without needing to change its code. If text chains are separated from the code, we need to ensure other languages can be added. This is significant if we use programs that help separate the text from the code, which are used to create translation memories and glossaries (CAT Computer Assisted Translation tools). All of this needs to be considered before developing a product, as it will save a lot of work in the long run.

  1. Localization:

This consists of adapting a digital product for the requirements of a particular market. Translating content into other languages is part of the process. We’ll also need to convert measurements, currency, date and time formats. In addition, we’ll probably have to adapt the menus and dialogues for software and apps to the size of the new texts in other languages. Translations from English can occupy up to 30% more than the source text. In this article we look at what is needed to localize software.

If we want to connect with our customers, we need to speak their language. The following article addresses this topic. There may also be legal requirements making it compulsory to translate into certain languages to sell our products in a particular market.

To complete a localization project successfully, we need to strike a balance between our available budget, the time we have and the quality we want. Managing the project is a crucial part of the process, which is why the role of project manager is vital. The project manager ensures everyone involved in the project is synchronised and in communication (translator, editor, engineer). The project manager ensures the deadlines are met within the stipulated budget. In the future, we’ll write another article about the role of Localization Project Manager. Both founding members of LocalizationLab have carried out this role, and we can provide you with lots of information.

Finally, in his article, Prof. Juan E. Ricart from IESE writes: “Increasing international reach brings about great opportunities, but it also involves taking great risks. In the long-run, though, it is probably riskier not to increase international reach at all.”

Are you thinking about increasing the international reach of your business?

We’d be delighted to provide you with consultation on language-related issues at LocalizationLab.