Regionalization matters

If you are in the globalization and localization industry, you are well familiar with the concepts of internationalization and localization and what the differences are. The definition of globalization seems to vary depending on which resource you look at, but it is a very familiar concept.

What’s often not talked about is the concept of regionalization. This rarely gets attention, but it’s an important topic. Why is regionalization so important? Let’s demystify these numeronyms and give a clear definition for each one.

A formula that we have been using at Pitney Bowes to drive globalization efforts is that globalization = internationalization + regionalization + localization. You can also abbreviate this as g11n = i18n + r13n + l10n.

When we talk about globalization, we try not to introduce any geopolitical context. Cultural consideration is important and certainly reflected in this formula. Sometimes globalization in a geopolitical context is not avoidable, but that is a story for another time. In our business, globalization is all about having a mindset for doing business globally and organizing our activities for engineering, sales, marketing, customer service and tech support, with all target regions in mind. It is about considering the end-to-end client experience for our global audience. In our formula, we ensure that all three elements are evaluated. Let’s look at these three elements.

Internationalization (i18n)

Internationalization is the process of designing, building and testing for an international computing environment so that it can be adapted to various languages easily, cost-effectively and most importantly, without engineering changes to the original software. This generally involves isolating the parts of a program that are dependent on language and culture. The ownership of internationalization resides with the product development teams since internationalization involves designing and coding.

Regionalization (r13n)

Regionalization is the identification of needs specific to a region or a country. Regionalization becomes necessary when specific regional needs are identified in order for a product to satisfy the market requirements. This includes adapting for country or region-specific laws and regulations. Regionalization requires domain knowledge and help from local subject matter experts. The regionalization requirement should be identified at the product definition and requirement stage. Even if the product is properly internationalized, it might not resolve regionalization needs. Regionalization requirements should also be addressed during product development.

Localization (l10n)

Localization is the process of adapting a product or solution for use in a particular language and country. It involves translation of user interfaces, error messages, images, help, installer and documentation from the source language to the target languages. If internationalization is done well, localization is a straightforward process.

Our company powers billions of transactions — physical and digital — in the connected and borderless world of commerce. We are a key enabler of global ecommerce and simplify shipping for business. In the ecommerce and shipping space, regionalization is a very important factor. As an example, what shipping company is most dominant in your country? If you live in the US, then FedEx, UPS and USPS probably come to mind. If you are living in Japan, however, you are familiar with Yamato, Sagawa and Japan Post. In Japan, getting a package to the right destination also has more options. You can have your package sent to a convenience store and you can choose the delivery time as well.

Thus, if you are developing an app for the ecommerce or shipping industry, the carrier differences play into important regionalization considerations. If your app refers to US specific carriers and services only, translation of these strings does not provide meaningful information. The product development team will need to fully customize and adopt the regional carrier information and their service offering in the code. This often requires the help from local subject matter experts.

This is not something that the localization team or localization service providers can accomplish alone. Therefore, this does not fall under localization. It’s not internationalization either, since it’s not about generalizing the code. Regionalization is about developing specific features to meet the country requirements. Everything needs to adhere to the regulatory requirements. Industries such as financial and medical also have their own regionalization challenges with local laws and regulations.

Let’s take a look at the regionalization in action. Figures 1 and 2 show examples from a Send Pro Online product.

Notice, for example, that the workflow in Figure 2 is also very different from the US version in Figure 1 due to expected shipping behavior in the UK.

Now you can add regionalization to your vocabulary!