How to prepare for an export market research trip
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.
The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) has a local (UK-based) and global network that can help you find and verify contacts. 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 International 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