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Research countries and choose destination markets

Adapting your product or service for export

What you’ll learn

  • the types of adaptation a country may need
  • how changes can be made to your products and services
  • ways to adapt your exports to give them an edge in a target market

Tailored for success

Although globalisation is a well-known idea, most companies looking to expand their brand into new markets actually do so by “glocalisation” — adapting their products and services to give them a local flavour that suits customer tastes.

Adapting a product or service that suits one market into something that will succeed in another can involve a lot of research and cost.

Types of adaptation

There are 2 types of adaptation: mandatory and non-mandatory.


Mandatory means conforming to the laws and regulations of the country you’re exporting to. For example, cars may need the steering wheel on the other side, or need a different engine to suit different emissions laws.

Food or drink exports may need to change certain ingredients, packaging and labelling.

Packaging and labelling adaptation is so important that a specific lesson has been devoted to it.


Non-mandatory adaptation is anything you choose to change that will give you an edge in the new market. It could reflect local:

  • culture, language or faith
  • climate
  • tastes
  • power supply
  • physical environment
  • market competitiveness 
  • country development level

Choose why and how to adapt

Think about why you’re exporting in the first place before choosing how to adapt your product.

Some companies just need to sell excess stock, perhaps because their own market is very competitive. In this case, you might only want to make small product adaptations and find a distributor. So this could be your focus when you look for potential markets.

For companies that want to grow beyond their home market, the starting point is understanding other markets and how best to succeed in them. You need to know your customer, their culture and their preferences, as these all affect the product.

Research your target market as thoroughly as your budget allows. Think PEST: political, economic, social and technological research.

See what other companies offer and how they’ve adapted their products, and look at what is produced locally.

You can visit:

  1. supermarkets or showrooms
  2. local trade shows when possible — as an exhibitor or visitor
  3. virtual trade shows online — they also publish sector data you can learn from
  4. trade webinars that often allow participant Q and As


  • Expands your market
  • Boosts growth potential
  • Edge on the competition
  • Another version of your product in the existing market


  • Adapting a product feature may lose your advantage
  • Adapting the brand may lose its advantage
  • Upfront costs might not lead to sales
  • Market or regulations may change unexpectedly

Any exporter should consider adapting before starting to export; it’s a very wise thing. Research, research, research is the message that I need to put across.

International trade adviser

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