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Market research:How to prepare for an export market research trip

View transcript for Episode 03 - In-market research recording
Once you’ve completed your market research online and identified a market, you’ll need to do in-market research. This means going to the country of choice and identifying key things to help you make your export plan a success.

Before you set-off, it’s important to plan an itinerary and have your contacts lined up and ready to meet, to get the best value out of the trip.

You should have identified potential buyers, any distributors or agents you may wish to use, and regulatory advisers. All of whom will help you build a picture of the best ways to enter and operate within the market.

Trade shows are extremely useful in helping you to build contacts quickly, test buyer response and investigate competitor offerings. You do not always need to exhibit your products or services. Research opportunities can be gained just by visiting. Be aware that smaller specialist shows can sometimes open up more opportunities than large higher-profile ones.

Your in-market research should provide you with clear knowledge on your competitors.

What you’ll learn

  • how to prepare for a visit to your target market
  • what customer behaviour you should observe
  • where you'd go if you needed help with in-market research

Preparation and timing

Do in-market research after you’ve completed online research and identified a target market (or markets).

If you have a number of potential markets, choose only the strongest one or two to visit. You’ll have more time to plan the work properly and get valuable information from it.

Preparation means more than general background research. You’ll need a clear itinerary for your visit, with contacts lined up to speak to.

Try to time your visit so you get a feel for business as usual in the market – unless you're researching a specific time of year. If you visit somewhere during a cultural or religious festival, for example, you may not get a typical picture of how customers behave.

Research topics and activity

Find the right contacts

These can be potential buyers, intermediaries like distributors and agents, or regulatory advisers. They can help you understand the best ways to enter the market, to transport your goods, stay legal and connect with customers. Bring information, presentations and examples of your product or service to any meetings you set up in the market.

Specialist export consultants can also help you find contacts – find them via Google or LinkedIn.

Using trade shows and trade missions

These can be great places to make contacts and meet buyers, and to research new competitor offerings. Some trade show visits and exporter missions are set up and part-funded by DIT.

Often, the smaller, specialist trade shows can offer up more valuable results than the larger, higher-profile gatherings. If you’re researching, you’ll probably learn more as a visitor, walking the floor of the show, than as an exhibitor.


Take time to find out everything you can about competitors and how they’re representing themselves in the market. What can you learn from them? What might you be able to do differently, or better?

Customer behaviour, motivations and preferences

Where do your buyers gather and buy? Go there too and watch what they do, or don’t do. How are people using products similar to yours? In the same ways as UK customers, or very differently? Does it look as though there could be a demand for your product? If possible, arrange to speak to potential customers to find out more.

The best routes to market

Find out which ways into your market are accepted, and which aren't. Who are the best companies to speak to, for distribution, agency representation, even possible partnerships? Are there any barriers to entry, or clear advantages to certain ways of selling which weren’t obvious from your desk research?

Get in-market research help

The following support services are only as good as the brief they’re given. Be clear on what you want before you commission them and agree a price.

Overseas Market Introduction Services (OMIS)

OMIS is a chargeable service offered by the Department for Business and Trade. OMIS can provide reports on the potential for your product in certain markets, or a range of options to help you get the most from your own market visit. This includes introductions to buyers and intermediaries.


Appointing an agency to carry out in-market research for you can be expensive, but their results should be thorough and objective. Make sure their proposal includes:

  • what they’re researching and how
  • a breakdown of costs and expenses
  • timescales and the report format
  • a confidentiality agreement

Start researching as early as you can. A research visit can help you discover early on that somewhere is not right for you, or it can really motivate you to be bold and go for it

International trade adviser

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