How to research export markets online
What you’ll learn
- where you should focus your research
- useful websites and other digital resources
- how you’d record and analyse research to make best use of it
Why it matters
Online research is crucial to your export planning, and will allow you to gather information quickly and in a cost-effective way. It can help you to:
- assess market size
- analyse customer trends and behaviour
- evaluate the competition
- determine any rules, regulations or risks
Before you start
Carefully plan how you’re going to document your findings. You might want to set up a spreadsheet so you can make clear comparisons between each market.
By researching you’ll discover some markets are easier to enter than others, and demand for your product varies across markets. It's good practice to plot this information on a graph as you go, so you can easily keep track of which markets have the best export potential.
Assess market size
To research the size of a market, focus on similar products or services to yours and look for:
- their volume and value in the market
- number of imports into the market
- the number of online searches
- regional demographics
To find market information, search on the websites of:
- the World Bank, for country briefs, regional forecasts and GDP by country
- the World Trade Organization, for economic research and statistics
- the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, for country and population statistics
- the inward investment agencies of the countries you are looking at – they provide sector-based information on doing business in that country
Analyse consumer behaviour
Understanding why consumers choose one product over another is important when assessing if a new market is suitable. Demographic, social and psychological factors all play an important part.
Start your search with the relevant trade association and look for:
- trends in sales of similar products over a number of years
- trends in consumer spending over a number of years
- customer segmentation and how it varies from your domestic market
- any focus groups or studies on similar products or services
There are also a large number of market research reports online. You may have to pay for detailed, sector-specific reports, but the more general reports are often free to download – and can be a good starting point for your research.
Look at the competition
The competitive landscape is another important factor, and knowing it will help you work out how to position your product or service. Look for:
- the big, popular brands and the smaller, niche players
- the size of their market share
- the price of their products or services
- how they approach their marketing
- why consumers buy their products or services over others
Resources to help you find this information include:
Use their membership directory to understand the competition. They will also have sector-based, country-specific information and details on events and trade shows.
Search engines and large online marketplaces
Searching for your own product is a good way to start pinpointing market competition and pricing strategies. Remember to check marketplaces which are popular in overseas markets.
Competitor websites and social channels
These are good starting points to understand a competitor’s position in the market. Are they promoting a low price? Quality experience? It could also help you understand the shipping experience which your competitors give customers, which you may need to match.
Pay attention to reviews of competitors on websites – their own and independent third party sites. What do customers like? What are the main areas of concern? Are there any recurring themes?
Look at market barriers and risks
Trading overseas will always carry some risk, and will often involve regulations you're not used to. It’s important you’re aware of potential risks, such as failing to comply with laws, regulations and customs.
Look out for:
- trade regulations and tariffs
- ease of doing business
- political stability
Online databases and reports are useful resources to help you learn about specific rules and avoid any pitfalls. Sources include: