Internationalization vs. Globalization: Which Comes First?
Strategizing the timing for internationalization vs. globalization requires a thorough understanding of both terms.

It’s easy to confuse internationalization vs. globalization because of their tendency to be used interchangeably. While they’re parts of a similar process, they each work within two unique aspects of getting your offering ready for a worldwide audience. Globalization is the greater overall strategy, while internationalization involves preparing for a market launch.

Both these strategies are generally used when executing big picture goals rather than smaller tasks. They both typically require the collaboration of multiple departments and specialized skill sets. It’s vital to have a supportive platform to streamline these efforts and ensure a seamless rollout into new markets.

Comparing Internationalization vs. Globalization

Strategizing the timing for internationalization vs. globalization requires a thorough understanding of both terms. While they may work together, they are not interchangeable. Breaking each strategy down to its foundational tasks will help to define both words and establish a better rollout schedule.


Globalization is a very general term that refers to a company’s overarching international strategy. It is a commercial plan that incorporates tasks like:

  • Reviewing demand data in various countries.
  • Choosing locations to target.
  • Evaluating regulations in the various markets to weigh risk.
  • Considering rollout timing and whether to tackle countries as a whole or by region.

A standard mistake companies make when approaching globalization is that they put too much confidence into brand recognition and not enough into understanding the various ins and outs of the targeted market’s culture.


Internationalization applies to the product and all the steps necessary to prepare it for new markets. It’s not about adapting the product to a single market, but instead developing it in a way that makes it viable across country borders. Some common internationalization tasks include:

  • Establishing best practices for coding, including the treatment of variables, comments, and tags to ensure easy conversion to new languages.
  • Ensuring support for different types of characters, like Chinese or Arabic.
  • Evaluating color and layouts of products and websites to design a unified aesthetic.

Internationalization incorporates localization, which is the execution of all the above tasks. As a result, it requires sourcing the right talent to execute the tasks involved in expanding the product to new markets. Access to market data will be necessary to determine the best ways to seamlessly adapt products to meet demand in multilingual markets.

Using Globalization as a Lead-in to Internationalization

A globalization strategy must precede the internationalization strategy. The globalization strategy is the company’s path to new markets, while internationalization is the product’s path. The company needs to have its plan and goals laid out before considering adapting the product. Globalization requires three key components to be successful—a detailed strategy, thorough understanding of the culture, and clear competitive advantage over other options in the market.

  • Strategy: Data, not speculation, should drive strategies. A company may conduct market research to gauge product interest, but often, the derived answer isn’t entirely reliable because it’s a conjecture. Smaller pilot-level rollouts can help companies better gauge their overall market potential. Another option is using data derived from website visits or customer inquiries from different locales. This method gives companies an early understanding of areas where their offerings may perform well.
  • Culture: The strategy should incorporate a “boots on the ground approach” to immerse the brand in local markets. However, it’s essential that the market manager doesn’t redesign the product entirely. The goal of internationalization, after all, is to make a single offering work everywhere. Smaller updates that can be implemented across the board should be utilized to make the product work. An in-depth cultural understanding is also critical to properly managing a product’s introduction, like understanding how employees in that market approach work and company loyalty.
  • Competitive advantage: The competitive advantage is often where a company fails because they overestimate their recognition and influence. Leaders see companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola performing well in international markets and assume it’s easily achievable for all. However, these cases are outliers. Brands must look deeper to discover the competitive advantages of their products compared to others available in that specific locale. Ideally, they’ll be able to find a niche in the market and fulfill a unique yet that has yet to be met.

With these three components in place, it’s possible to progress toward an internationalization strategy. This is a more technical approach that will require a transparent workflow system, like a localization management platform, and a deep dive into the product’s code.

When comparing internationalization vs. globalization, it’s important to remember that one can’t exist without the other. An internationalization strategy requires a globalization plan to guide it, while internationalization executes the globalized program. The combination of both ensures a better transition into new markets to allow you to expand both your reach and consumer base.

When comparing internationalization vs. globalization, utilize Bureau Works’ collaborative, innovative platform to successfully launch your product globally. To learn more, contact our team.

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