Internationalization is one of the most popular strategies to cut down on the costs of a company. This makes it a major point of interest both for startups and for businesses that are already established. Today we are going to have a look at a brief definition of the process, see what are its benefits and what strategies companies use.
Also called localization enablement or translation, internationalization refers to a design process that makes sure a product (such as a software app) can be adapted to different regions and languages without changing the original structure or code. It is sometimes shortened to I18N, the number referring to the 18 letters of the word.
The enablement consists of:
- Using products that support international characters, such as web editors or authoring tools;
- Creating website graphic images or print with labels that can be translated without additional costs;
- Allowing for enough space in user interfaces for translations in other languages with more characters;
- In software, leaving enough data space for the messages to be translated in multiple-byte character codes, etc.
It’s important to keep in mind that these changes are done regardless of the adaptation process or not. They may be useful even if the maker has no intention of localization. As such, internationalization is a fundamental step in the design and development, not an after effort.
Internationalization vs Localization
Internationalization is a concept that opposes (or complements) the localization one. Localization refers to the process of adapting a certain document, app, or product to the language, culture, or other requirements of a local target market. As opposed to the abbreviation I18N, localization is shortened to l10n, following the same principle.
Internationalization Practical Examples
This process is critical for any multilingual products. If you need some more in-depth examples, here you have a brief list to show you the exact steps:
- Accommodating right-to-left languages (such as Arabic);
- Accommodating double-byte languages (such as Japanese);
- Complying to Unicode;
- Ensuring compatibility with third-party tools;
- Using in-line variables carefully;
- Minimizing concatenated text strings;
- Removing hard-coded text;
- Offering independence from a language/character set encoding or from specific cultural conventions, etc.
There are many others to consider when going global, but these are just a couple of things to check with your product or app.
Business Entry Mode Strategies
Besides internalization, businesses have some other strategies to enter global markets as well. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular ones:
1. Direct Exporting
Export is, of course, one of the easiest ways to reach foreign markets. Direct exporting refers to the companies who choose to sell the products directly into the market they have an interest in. Unlike the indirect exporting, here the company commits directly to the international market. Thus, they can control their brand and operations on the foreign market more than it would be possible through indirect exporting.
This is an internationalization strategy that gives another company the right to use the product or service of the first business within a certain time. Most of the properties that receive a license include formulae, trademarks, designs, copyrights, patents, brand names, etc. Licensing is usually adopted in the manufacturing sector, where companies have the right to use process technology in exchange for a royalty payment.
With this strategy, a single company offers other firms intangible property. This is a strategy often found in areas such as hotels, restaurant chains, or car rentals. It’s a good option for companies that have a repeatable business model, like food outlets. The important thing is that there needs to be a strong and unique brand recognition that can be adapted internationally.
- The software apps (or other products) adapt easier to various locales;
- Cutting down on the time and costs for localization;
- The maintenance process becomes simpler;
- There is just one internationalized source code for all the versions;
- Better quality and code architecture;
- Cutting down on the overall cost of ownership of different versions of the product;
- Adhering to international standards;
- Helping companies optimize factors of production, such as raw materials, energy, or manpower;
- Cutting down on the international transport costs;
- Improving stability of sales, customer proximity, as well as accessing a wider market;
- Improving your chances of obtaining financing in other countries;
- Offering your staff a continuous learning process by offering them information about different cultures and regions (in both directions);
- Diversifying the business risk of a company operating in just one market, etc.
- Timing problems – a business that is present internationally needs to deal with various time zones;
- Language barriers – you need to make sure the translation of the app is perfect, to avoid any misunderstandings;
- Currency fluctuations – international currencies can fluctuate, which may destroy all the profit plans you have;
- Local politics – as much as you’d want to, you can’t ignore the local politics. Think about the fact that some international governments can control a business if it’s best for them;
- Delivery problems – just think about the extra time you need to account for when shipping internationally. From all the checkpoints to delays and other fees you need to pay, things can get very complicated;
- Knowing the market – if you want to enter the market, you need to know it very well, which means the research process can last for months.
Naturally, there are plenty of internationalization advantages and disadvantages, but you need to think about the specifics of your own business. Some companies fit very well into the international setting, while others can’t possibly adapt their products. Moreover, you need to have well-trained managers that are flexible and have a certain vision. However, despite all the hardships, the reward of having an international company is quite big. Not only if you think about the profits, but also the satisfaction of creating a product or service that people worldwide appreciate and include it in their lives.
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